The Canadian government has quietly approved new drug regulations that will permit doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical-grade heroin to treat severe addicts who have not responded to more conventional approaches.

The move means that Crosstown, a trail-blazing clinic in Vancouver, will be able to expand its special heroin-maintenance program, in which addicts come in as many as three times a day and receive prescribed injections of legally obtained heroin from a nurse free. The program is the only one of its kind in Canada and the United States but is similar to the approach taken in eight European countries.

The move by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government last week is another step in reversing the policies of the previous government, run by Conservatives, and taking a less draconian approach to the fight against addiction and drug abuse.

In April, the Trudeau government announced plans to legalize the sale of marijuana by next year, and it has appointed a task force to determine how marijuana will be regulated, sold and taxed. The government has also granted a four-year extension to the operation of Insite, a supervised injection site in Vancouver where addicts can shoot up street-obtained drugs in a controlled environment. The previous government had tried in vain for years to shut down that clinic.

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