On Decriminalization of Drug Possession
On June 1st, 2021, Kingston City Council passed a motion to support KFL&A’s recommendation to decriminalize drug possession in the City of Kingston. As a tenants' union, we see a strong connection between the City's housing policy and the lack of support for people who struggle with substance dependencies. Housing insecurity and homelessness are leading contributors and barriers to recovery. People who use substances deemed “illegal” by authorities are some of the most stigmatized and marginalized members of our community. Harm reduction includes ensuring a safe supply of medicine and secure housing. Drug policy and housing policy are inherently connected.
The City of Kingston’s recently approved encampment protocol prohibits camping in public spaces, forcing people who already have nowhere to go into increasingly precarious and dangerous living conditions away from public services that they need. This protocol, when considered alongside the lack of safe and adequate housing available in the city, forces Kingston’s over 200 homeless people, some of whom struggle with substance abuse, to hide from authorities. The City’s plan will add to the substance abuse-related death toll, as the housing protocol increases the likelihood of unhoused people using substances alone and far away from services that could save their lives if they are poisoned.
Although decriminalization may decrease the criminal prosecution of drug users, get the police off people’s backs, and reduce the number of overdose deaths, the supply of substances will remain unsafe due to the continued criminalization of production and distribution. “Criminals” who distribute these drugs are more often than not victims of addiction themselves. People with substance dependencies should not have to rely on unregulated and dangerous markets to obtain medicine. While decriminalization is a positive step forward, people will continue to medicate with legal and illicit substances as a result of the City of Kingston’s inadequate housing policy, and the ongoing marginalized and oppressive conditions many people in the area find themselves in.
The Katarokwi (Kingston) Union of Tenants calls on the City of Kingston to:
1) decriminalize sale and distribution of all medicine including those otherwise referred to as 'illicit drugs';
2) provide free, legal and safe supply of medicine for the people through a safer opioid supply (SOS) program;
3) repeal the City of Kingston Encampment Protocol and the By-law Number 2009-76 criminalizing people who are homeless; and
4) make immediately available 250 units of assisted housing and wrap-around services for our traumatized and brutalized homeless population.