City of Vancouver Supports International Declaration Calling for New Approach to Drug Policy

Vancouver City Council today endorsed the Vienna Declaration, a scientific statement highlighting the failure of drug prohibition and calling for evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy.

With today’s vote, Vancouver becomes the third municipality in Canada to support the Vienna Declaration, following endorsements by the Cities of Toronto and Victoria.


“Vancouver has been a leader in North America on drug policy, whether it is our Four Pillars program or the creation of InSite,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The Vienna Declaration is a powerful statement in support of an effective public health approach to illicit drug policy. We’re signing this declaration because we believe that drug addiction needs to be treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue.”

Widespread endorsement of the Vienna Declaration demonstrates increasing public support for evidence-based drug policies that improve community health and safety. Vancouver is the birthplace of the Four Pillars Drug Strategy, a policy that includes prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction. It is also the location of North America’s only supervised injection facility, an initiative proven to save lives and improve the health of injection drug users, including increasing uptake of addiction treatment services.

“We hope all levels of government in Canada take note of and emulate Vancouver’s leadership in supporting evidence-based drug policies,” said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and Chair of the Vienna Declaration Writing Committee. “Vancouver’s leadership is particularly timely given that the federal government is proposing to waste billions of dollars on mandatory minimum sentences with the recently tabled Bill-S10.”

Bill S-10 was tabled by the Conservative government and is currently before the Senate. The Bill proposes mandatory minimum sentences even for minor drug offences despite a wealth of research from the US demonstrating that these costly policies are not effective in reducing drug-related crime or rates of drug use. Since 2001 several US States, including New York, Washington State, Texas, Connecticut, Maine, have moved away from mandatory minimum legislation with policy experts such as the RAND Corporation citing the policy’s extreme cost and ineffectiveness as reasons for doing so. Recently, the state of California has gone the opposite direction, opting instead to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

“Research from the US demonstrates that Bill S-10 will only increase drug market violence in our communities and direct billions of taxpayer dollars into failed policies instead of towards proven prevention and treatment approaches,” added Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and immediate past president of the International AIDS Society. “Despite this activity on the federal level, we are reassured to see that Vancouver continues to endorse evidence-based approaches.”

The Vienna Declaration is a scientific statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of evidence-based research into the development of illicit drug policies. The Declaration was drafted by an international committee of experts in HIV/AIDS and drug policy from around the world and was initiated by the International AIDS Society, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The Vienna Declaration was the official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS conference (AIDS 2010) held in Vienna, Austria from July 18-23, 2010.

Since its launch on June 27, 2010, the Vienna Declaration has been endorsed by seven Nobel Laureates, thousands of scientific experts, law enforcement leaders, and current and former heads of state. In Canada, the Declaration has been signed by five chief provincial medical health officers, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Health Officers Council of British Columbia.

Those wishing to sign on may visit: The declaration references 27 reports describing the scientific evidence documenting the effectiveness of public health approaches to drug policy and the negative consequences of approaches that criminalize drug users.

Press release from
The Vienna Declaration on November 18, 2010.