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Resources not in place to support drug decriminalization, says Worden

Medicine Hat Police Chief Mike Worden participated Thursday in a virtual meeting hosted by the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, in response to discussions about decriminalizing drugs for personal possession.

“The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police does not currently support the decriminalization of illicit drugs, without the necessary supports in place,” reads a statement from the AACP. “Before decriminalization can be seriously considered, provincial regulations must be established around key concerns such as consumption around minors, regulation of consumption and public disorder, and the operation of motor vehicles.”

“Right now we don’t support (decriminalization of the drug) because we know the resources aren’t in place to support it,” Worden told the News. “What we want are the wellness, health and social supports in place before instituting these other strategies like drug decriminalization, safe supply and consumption sites. (Decriminalization) cannot happen without these other things; it is dangerous to start it without these other elements in place.

While Worden and the AACP are not against drug decriminalization, they are concerned that recent discussions about implementing decriminalization in Alberta are shortsighted.

“Portugal is a country that people always talk about when you enter this conversation,” Worden said. “One of the things that Portugal did was they put those things in place first and then came up with the harm reduction strategies afterwards.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Worden provided insight into the impact of decriminalization on small communities like Medicine Hat.

“The larger centers have better access to some of these addiction recovery resources; in smaller communities there is less access,” Worden said. “It’s about making sure areas like Medicine Hat get the resources we need.

Worden says he thinks continued discussions between government, justice, health and social service officials could generate positive ideas about drug possession and use.

“Everyone is trying to find a solution to this. We all want the best for the people in our communities struggling with drug addiction and drug use. We’re all heading towards the same goal, but maybe getting there from different angles,” Worden said. “We try to balance the community’s desire for consequences against compassion.”

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