Ontario’s top health official advocates for increased hard drug access while pushing to restrict alcohol use

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is recommending that Premier Doug Ford up the legal drinking age from 19 to 21 while simultaneously recommending the province decriminalize hard drugs and make them easier to access.

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Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, proposes raising the legal drinking age from 19 to 21 while advocating for the decriminalization of hard drugs in his 2023 Annual Report.

Premier Doug Ford rejects the idea of increasing the drinking age, citing that if legal adults can go to war, then they are old enough to “have a beer.”

Moore's 2023 Annual report acknowledges the negative impacts that his COVID-19 policies had on substance use, particularly among youth. “The best antidote to problematic substance use and addiction is connection,” the report states. “Connection to family and friends, to community, and to society.”

Despite this emphasis on connection to combat addiction, Moore's COVID-19 policies deprived individuals of crucial support networks for years, on a rolling basis.

Moore suggests harm reduction measures like supervised consumption sites and increased access to “safer” drug supply and paraphernalia will address the opioid crisis, yet he simultaneously advocates restricting the legal drinking age.

"When thousands of people are dying from preventable overdoses each year in Ontario, the system must take urgent steps to keep people alive, such as creating safe spaces where people can use drugs, and providing regulated pharmaceutical alternatives (e.g. a safer supply of drugs). With these harm reduction responses in place, people who use opioids may be in a better position to benefit from offers of education and treatment, and to make choices that enable them to reduce or even stop their opioid use."

Moore says that his “balancing act” aims to increase access to supervised consumption sites and naloxone kits, provide needles and other drug paraphernalia to addicts and operate peer-led outreach supports and health services that include “rapid access to addiction medicine,” (a fancy way of giving out taxpayer-funded prescribed opioids) which is just a better way of saying safer prescribed opioids. Other investments include “drug-checking services” so that street drugs can be analyzed before the addict consumes them.

Interestingly, the document falls short of mentioning any age restrictions concerning access to opioids.

These proposed controls on alcohol are a stark contrast with Moore’s push to decriminalize and increase access to hard drugs, all while side-stepping any mention of age restrictions. This is particularly disturbing given the colossal failure of the federal Liberal substance use strategy, which showed no tangible benefit despite costing a staggering $1 billion.

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