KITCHENER -- The chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service is co-chair of a special committee calling to decriminalize simple drug possession.

The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs released a report on Thursday recommending all police agencies recognize substance abuse and addiction as a public health issue.

"[It's] time for us to take a different, modernized, innovative and bold approach to managing addiction in our country," WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin said. "Let's not criminalize addiction, let's actually move towards a public health model."

The CAPC wants the federal government to establish a national task force to research drug policy reform.

Sanguen Health Centre clinical supervisor and educator Alice Maguire said decriminalization would help reduce the stigma associated with addictions.

"This has a lot of potential to be really, really helpful, to save lives," she said. "That will ultimately lead to less overdose deaths and less crimes associated with substance use."

However, Cambridge councillor Jan Liggett, who said she opposes consumption and treatment sites in the city, said adopting this approach could be dangerous.

"Decriminalized just gives free rein for more happening on the streets," Liggett said. "You'll have more and more people actively using out in the open because there are no consequences, there's no enforcement of the law."

Larkin said decriminalization isn't legalization, meaning police will continue to stop trafficking, producing and importing drugs.

"We don't support perpetual drug use," he said. "We still believe drugs ought to be illegal, it's how we manage the outcome."