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Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners studying decriminalizing personal drug possession

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WATCH: Saskatoon police will study if decriminalizing small amounts of drugs could help those struggling with addictions – Aug 19, 2021

The Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners wants to study decriminalizing drugs. At its Thursday meeting, members asked the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) to report on evidence-based approaches to harm reduction.

Decriminalizing would only apply to small amounts for personal use.

Read more: New Saskatchewan overdose numbers show old pattern

One mother whose son died of an overdose says there’s evidence that shows it could help.

“I think we’ve learned now what we’ve been doing that, we’re not getting the results that we need: more people dying, streets aren’t any safer, health care costs are going up,” said Marie Agioritis of Moms Stop the Harm.

Daniel Hearn was addicted to fentanyl, alcohol and meth for 23 years. He now hosts an online talk show, Hard Knox Talks, discussing substance use disorder and mental health issues.

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Read more: Student maps Saskatchewan’s growing opioid deaths: ‘It’s heartbreaking’

Now in recovery, he said it’s important to hear the voices of addicts during this process.

“When the police took my dope, that just triggered my drug-seeking behaviour,” Hearn explained.

“Now I’m stealing to get my fix, now I’m desperate and lashing out at friends and loved ones. Wonder how many domestics were triggered.”

SPS chief Troy Cooper said police are just one piece of the puzzle; they also need to look at how community partners and the health care system can help people who are struggling.

Read more: Fentanyl possible factor in recent suspected overdose deaths: Saskatoon police

“We need to have some structure built in the province so we can accept people into health care that would have previously gone into criminal justice,” Cooper said.

Last summer, the head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police called for the decriminalization of simple drug possession.

Cooper added it is important to engage the public to make sure people understand what decriminalization means and that it’s what people want for the community.

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