Canada needs a safe drug supply to reduce the number of overdose deaths, drug policy experts told a public forum Wednesday night in Vancouver that centred on whether Ottawa should legally regulate the use of illicit drugs.

 Zara Snapp, who is the co-founder of Instituto RIA in Mexico, researches solutions to drug policy issues including how to curb the number of opioid overdose-related deaths.

"Now we're falling behind because we are using techniques that we had from 20 years ago and we need to advance," Snapp said.

She said the Canadian government could take control of the illicit drug supply.

"That's where really the conversation around safe supply is so important and how the government could provide the policy interventions that organizations, and local and provincial governments need in order to open up safe supply sites."        

Snapp said medical-grade heroin is already being produced in Europe and suggests Mexico could be a source of opium for legal use in other countries in the future once policies are changed.