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January 11, 2022 46 min

2020 was a deadly year for North America’s substance abusers. Over 6,000 Canadians and 93,000 Americans died from opioid related deaths, a significant increase from 2019. And while cannabis recently became legal in Canada and parts of the US, many believe that the only way to solve the current crisis is by legalizing all drugs, especially opiates. Supporters say legalization will reduce crime, free up police resources, and generate millions in tax revenue that can be used to rehabilitate addicts instead of punishing them. Regulating drug sales would make them safer to administer and thus curb overdose rates. Legalization would also solve existing racial disparities in drug enforcement that unfairly target and imprison black men compared to their white counterparts. In a free society, they argue, adults should be free to do what they choose provided their actions are not causing harm to others. Critics of legalization are raising red flags. Increasing access to drugs and normalizing their use will increase the abuse and addiction associated with these powerful opiates. We would see a substantial rise in consumption, the decay of our moral fabric, and a rise in health care costs needed to treat deadly addictions. And finally, critics point out, one need to look no further than America’s deadly opioid crisis to see that legalization will not curb addiction or death. Indeed, they argue, it will do just the opposite.

Arguing in favour of the motion is Canadian Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

Arguing against the motion is Theodore Dalrymple, English cultural critic, retired prison physician and psychiatrist, and Dietrich Weissman Fellow of the Manhattan Institute

QUOTES:

NATHANIEL ERSKINE-SMITH

“From drugs to sex work to assisted dying, there are so many different examples where when we push something underground, the problems get so much worse.

THEODORE DALRYMPLE

“The current American opioid crisis started with perfectly legal prescription by incompetent, naïve, or corrupt doctors influenced by dishonest promotion.”

Sources: 

CNBC, BNN, CHEK News, PBS, NBC, ABC, Newsy

The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.  

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Senior Producer: Ricki Gurwitz

Editor: Reza Dahya

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