Ontario's top doctor calling for restrictions on legal substances, decriminalization

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ontario’s top doctor is calling on the provincial government to immediately enact policy that will restrict access to alcohol, vapes and cannabis as the number of people who have died or visited a hospital due to using multiple substances has spiked in recent years.

But Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, also says he recommends Ontario decriminalize simple possession of unregulated drugs for personal use and make safer supply accessible so thousands of people in the province don’t continue dying from preventable opioid overdoses each year.

Moore’s annual report, released this week, says research shows these recommendations can help leaders immediately prevent fatal overdoses and stop people, especially youth, from dangerously using multiple substances at the same time.

He says the number of opioid−related deaths among teens and young adults in Ontario tripled between 2014 and 2021. He also says more Ontario residents have been binge drinking, using cannabis and vaping in recent years, which has not only harmed substance users but also devastated families and destroyed communities.

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s minister of health says the government appreciates Moore’s viewpoint.

But Hannah Jensen says Moore’s recommendations to restrict legal substances while decriminalizing hard drugs ignore the unintended consequences other jurisdictions have experienced after implementing similar proposals, though she did not provide examples.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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