Why stop at weed? Kamloops doctor wants to see more drugs made legal

A Kamloops emergency room doctor predicts after the legalization of marijuana, the government will move on to magic mushrooms — and he’s in favour of it.

There is a push in Ontario to start a legal Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to see it happen in Canada.

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California wanted to hold a vote on the issue, the emergency-room doctor and expert on naloxone’s use in opioid overdoses said, but the push for seeing it on a ballot failed to get the required 265,680 signatures.

There are similar movements in Oregon and Denver, where marijuana is legal. Oregon’s goal is to see it allowed only with the approval of a physician and under the supervision of a registered therapist. Denver wants a similar situation limited to that city only.

The groups promoting it say research shows psilocybin, the active drug in the mushrooms, can alleviate depression and anxiety.

Dr. Ian Mitchell, who works in the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital, said there are other studies showing it also works on some people who have cluster headaches.

“There are more calls now for decriminalization,” Mitchell said.

“Medical officers of health are calling for it across the country now.”

One of them is Dr. Ken Tupper, who goes one step further, saying “decriminalization of drugs doesn’t go far enough.”

A senior member of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use who researches creating healthy public policy addressing illegal drugs, Tupper said the reality is enforcement on the supply side of drugs coming into the province isn’t working.

Both look to the path Portugal took in 2001. It didn’t legalize drugs but did decriminalize them and instituted as penalties fines or being referred to dissuasion panels composed of legal, social medical and psychological experts who can work with the person on their lifestyle issues.

Basically, Mitchell said, these panels ask “What can we do to help?”

He called it a more enlightened approach that could see the person access housing, counselling or other services. It might also see the person walk away, only to be brought back again after another instance of being found with a drug.

Tupper also sees the Portugal model as providing some guidance on how Canada should move forward dealing with not only the opioid crisis but the issue of illicit drugs.

Contrary to those who say harm reduction isn’t working, Tupper says it not only works but is present throughout society.

“We require people who go mountain biking to wear helmets,” he said.

“And we learned we needed to put seat belts in cars.”

Other harm-reduction mandates Tupper pointed to include things like requiring clean drinking water and vaccinations, putting air bags into vehicles, warnings on medications, the Food and Drug Act or specifications for making parachutes.

There are steps that can be taken to ensure drugs also meet standards, Tupper said

Prohibition won’t work, both doctors said. Rather, there are lessons to be learned from it that speak to how to proceed with drugs.

Giving users a safe, regulated source would impact the illicit market, he said, and would have a significant impact on the opioid overdose crisis that has spread throughout the country.

Mitchell said such a move would also have an impact on crime, perhaps ease the transient issue and could start making people who buy decriminalized and controlled drugs more likely to have a point of contact with a service provider who might help them move to an improved lifestyle.

“We need to get them to not just be looking for drugs or money to get the next fix,” he said.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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