Benefits of Decriminalizing Illicit Substances in Canada - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1424 Words
Date:  2022-11-29


Bogart and Pillay (2016) rightly posit that, if there is anything that Canada should have learned from the experiences of its policy decisions dating as far back as the 19th century, it is that prohibitions leading to the declaration of substances as illegal have not translated to the elimination of the criminal activity associated with such drugs. Policy decisions on alcohol and gambling, for instance, provide specific case scenarios of how federal and provincial legislation prohibiting illicit substances creates a vast network of criminal activity including theft, assault, and international trafficking of various drugs. Out of such law have arisen a vicious system of incarceration of addicts of such illicit substances. Instead of prescribing the more useful drug rehabilitation centers, these approaches herd addicts to prisons. That the current approach to the war on drugs is failing is an understatement. Canada needs to change its attitude on illicit substances and begin to implement alternative solutions to gain better results. If illicit drugs were decriminalized in Canada, the government could prevent many overdoses, gang-related crimes, and earn revenue through taxation.

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The continued classification of certain drugs as illicit has not helped address overdose deaths, nor eliminated criminal activities related to the consumption of such drugs within Canada. Between 2011 and 2017, for instance, an average 35 percent of illicit drug overdose decedents in British Columbia and Surrey had criminal records within the year preceding their death from an overdose (Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths, 2011-2016| British Columbia And Surrey, 2019). During the same period, there was a significant increase in drug overdose death numbers. This number captures the extent to which the existing policy approaches to the war on drugs have been counterproductive and the more reason why the decriminalization of illicit drugs should be considered.

The government of Canada could significantly bridge its revenue deficits by tapping into the sustainable drug industry if it were to decriminalize illicit drugs. According to statistics, at least 42 percent of Canada's students' population report using illegal drugs annually (Canadian Drug Crisis - Teen Challenge Canada, 2019). This number is significant considering that it represents hundreds of thousands of citizens who are more likely to be hooked up into the illicit drugs even with the restrictions against their sale. Looked differently, the present approach to illicit drugs costs the government at least $8 billion annually in terms of expenditure towards healthcare. Decriminalization of such drugs would ensure a sober approach to handling young people who are exposed to them, prevent overdoses, and reduce the potential health risks. Through the regulatory framework that criminalizes illicit drugs, no sober discussion can be initiated.

There is a direct correlation between criminal gangs and drug business. According to the Edmonton Journal, Canada is host to over 900 organized criminal groups, 80 percent of which are funded and sustained by money from illegal drug sales (Canadian Drug Crisis - Teen Challenge Canada, 2019). The Toronto Star reports that at least 14 criminal gangs are actively engaged in the sale of illicit drugs across the borders of Division 12 in Toronto. Over a period spanning three decades, Canada has seen a sharp increase in the illegal drug trade. It is less likely that the government's current approach will counter this growth in the illicit drug trade. The Health Officer's Council of British Columbia reports that for each $5 that the Canadian government channels to drug rehabilitation, a corresponding $95 are allocated to the incarceration of users of these illegal drugs. The prioritization of imprisonment over rehabilitation thus serves to create a vicious cycle of illicit drug-related criminal activities.

One of the significant limitations of using incarceration as a way of disciplining illicit drug users is that it is inappropriate for the affected population segment. According to Statistics Canada, at least 60 percent of Canada's illicit drug users are aged between 15 years and 24 years. It is noteworthy that these individuals fall under teenage and early adulthood and a confrontational approach is less likely to suppress their search for identity and inherent rebelliousness. Additionally, it is foolhardy for the government to overlook the fact that the substances abused are highly addictive and only a rehabilitative approach can yield positive results. The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse reports that only 8.1 percent of the 10 percent of drivers on Canada's roads who record drug abuse test positive for alcohol. Furthermore, the Canadian Press reports that not less than one-third of Ontario's kids already using these drugs gets them from a criminal (Canadian Drug Crisis - Teen Challenge Canada, 2019).

The government would develop effective rehabilitative initiatives for illicit drug users if its approaches were capable of keeping in check the growth in illegal drugs consumption. However, the current path remains ineffective in this regard making it impossible for any significant gains to be recorded. This inefficiency is evident in the rise in the opioid epidemic in the country. According to the Blueline Magazine, over 2,900 deaths were recorded in 2017 which were directly attributable to opioid overdoses. The decriminalization of such drugs would address this challenge by treating and reducing the high expenditure that the government channels to health care, addiction treatment and the criminal justice system. More importantly, in employing an approach centered on the affected parties, the government could address the issue of lost productivity (Combating the rising Opioid epidemic, 2019).

A review of the impact of illicit drug consumption on productivity can be essential in understanding why the decriminalization of such drugs can help increase revenue for the government. For all the adult deaths related to an illicit drug overdose, the deceased had a source of income (Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths, 2011-2016| British Columbia And Surrey, 2019). The industries affected by such deaths include construction, building maintenance, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and retail. Mainly, these are the drivers of the country's economy. Incarceration of illicit drug addicts similarly denies these industries of the much-needed workforce. Their reduced output capacities imply that the government cannot meet its revenue collection projections from these industries. Decriminalizing illicit drugs would enable their proper regulation within the market and limit access to them, eliminate the possibility of an overdose, and ensure the maintained productivity of citizens working in these industries.

Apart from shoplifting breaking, the majority of incidents leading to police contact with illicit drug users include disturbance of the peace, failure to comply with the order, breach of probation, level one assault cases, and mischief (Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths, 2011-2016| British Columbia And Surrey, 2019). For the more severe result of illicit drug use, overdose, it is notable that all the decedents have a history of contact with the justice system within the past two years preceding their deaths. Additionally, at least a quarter of decedents record a history of hospitalization within the year before their deaths. The admissions are for substance use related disorders, mental health conditions, injuries and poisoning, and opioid intoxication. These trends show how the existing approach to combating drug use cannot help to prevent overdose and save government revenue on treatment. If the current method were useful, with 100 percent contact between the police and illicit drug users, one wouldn't expect overdose deaths two years later and minimal hospitalizations.

Decriminalization of illicit drugs in Canada would prevent the government from many overdoses, gang-related crimes, and gain revenue through taxation. This approach would inculcate a sense of awareness of the scope of the illicit drug situation, ensure that interactions between addicts and the police result in proper rehabilitation, and regulate the quality and quantity of drugs consumed. Canadians generally get introduced to drugs presently categorized as illicit at a tender age. As a result, incarcerations can only be counterproductive for such users who crave identity, recognition, and mentorship. There has also been a significant rise in criminal gangs funded by drug money. Most of these crimes are committed by young people under the watchful eyes of the drug traders. Their growth has been because since the drugs are illegal, there is underground control and unregulated pricing which breeds violence as the security. The government has to decriminalize the drugs, set up a system to tax and regulate the consumption of the drugs to break such gangs. This approach has been found to work with cannabis.


Bogart, W. A., & Pillay, S. (2016). Off the street: Legalizing drugs. Toronto: Dundurn.

Canadian Drug Crisis - Teen Challenge Canada. (2019). Retrieved from

Combating the rising Opioid epidemic. (2019). Blueline Magazine, 30(6), 18-19. Retrieved from{%22issue_id%22:499999,%22page%22:18}

Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths, 2011-2016| British Columbia And Surrey (2019). Retrieved from

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Benefits of Decriminalizing Illicit Substances in Canada - Essay Sample. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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