Criminal Law and the Counter-Hegemonic Potential of Harm Reduction

38(2) Dalhousie Law Journal 2-27

26 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2018

See all articles by Alana Klein

Alana Klein

Faculty of Law, McGill University

Date Written: January 2015


Harm reduction approaches to drug use have been lauded for saving lives, being cost-effective, elevating pragmatism over prohibitionist ideology, being flexible in tailoring responses to the problem, and for their counter-hegemonic potential to empower people who use drugs. This article examines the legal systems engagement with harm reduction, and, in particular, recent cases that incorporate harm reduction's focus on empirical evidence in policy making into Canadian constitutional rights jurisprudence. It argues that harm reduction approaches in this venue may hold promise as a bulwark against some of the marginalizing features of traditional criminal justice approaches. However, the article also warns of a risk of inadvertently reinforcing the dominant discourse of criminalization and stigmatization as harm reduction s features are embodied within the institutional frameworks of the state.

Keywords: Harm reduction, criminal law, constitutional law

Suggested Citation

Klein, Alana, Criminal Law and the Counter-Hegemonic Potential of Harm Reduction (January 2015). 38(2) Dalhousie Law Journal 2-27. Available at SSRN:

Alana Klein (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, McGill University ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec

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