Pubdate: Mon, 16 Sep 2002
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Contact:  2002 The Western Star
Author: Melanie Callahan


A Senate committee recommendation that smoking marijuana should be legal for
people over 16 years old has drawn an unfavourable response in this area.

The recommendation, which received full support by the Senate committee,
goes beyond decriminalization or even the kind of tolerance in such
cannabis-friendly jurisdictions as the Netherlands.

Constable Shawn O' Reilly, president of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
Association, said he's outraged by the recommendation. To make such a
conclusion shows that the committee is ignoring scientific evidence about
the dangerous effects of marijuana use, he said.

"These politicians are now becoming self-proclaimed scientists," Const.
O'Reilly said. "They are ignoring the facts that marijuana disrupts the
brain and it impairs judgment, concentration, short-term memory. Marijuana
is what the police call a gateway drug. This means that it is a starter drug
that leads to harder drugs, be it prescription or illegal drugs."

Michael Gough, co-president of the Regina High School student council,

"I think (the recommendation) is absurd. It is just crazy," said Gough. "For
people our age who already smoke marijuana, they will have much more access.
It will just be an open door for people who were not using it.

"If we legalize this, then where will it stop? What will we legalize next?"

With legalization and decriminalization comes more usage and with that comes
increased crime, Cost. O'Reilly said.

"And that has been proven in Sweden," he said. "The country of Sweden
learned from its permissive policies of the ?60s and ?70s. Now they are
moving back to a strategy of trying to narrow down the drugs available and
Canada should learn from their (Sweden's) mistake. With increased drugs
comes increased crime."

To see the legalization of such a drug is hypocritical as the government is
already spending money trying to combat alcoholism in youth, said Const.

"Police spend so much time and resources educating the public, especially
youth, on the effects of alcohol," said Const. O'Reilly. "Every province
recognizes that there should be a legal age for drinking. We go out of our
way to prosecute people who sell and supply alcohol to minors. Here is the
same government that is trying to go after the problem of drinking underage,
possibly decriminalizing marijuana."

Betty Tilley, guidance counsellor at Regina High School, sees the
government's efforts to stop drug abuse in students.

"I was surprised because an overwhelming amount of money is being spent in
the school working with the Department of Health to address tobacco use in
youth," said Tilley. "There is money put in place to combat this problem,
and now they are talking about complicating the issue."

Many people feel that at 16, an individual is not mature enough to use
marijuana responsibly.

"At 16, you are not old enough to carry the weight of drugs," said Angie
Gorman, co-president of Regina's student council. "You cannot even vote
until you are 18. If you are not old enough to make a decision about your
country, how can you be old enough to make a decision that affects your

And a legal age of 16 means that people younger than 16 will be using.

"At 16, people are no responsible enough to handle it," said Gough. "With
alcohol, people who are 19 are buying it for people who are younger than
that. If you have to be 16 to buy drugs, people will buy it for people under

Marijuana will open doors to other things, suggested Gorman.

"When people get the legal age to drink, they drink for a while and then get
bored of it," she said. "What if people smoke marijuana get bored of it,
they will move onto other things. They might get involved in more serious
drugs that will hurt their health. The government is saying that it is okay
to be a drug user."

At 16 many are still in school, and marijuana is not a catalyst to learning,
said Tilley

"Students are still in school until they are 18, they will be smoking and
returning to class," she said. "People will be going to class under the
influence and that will affect their ability to perform in class as well as
the environment at the school.

"It opens the doors for selling in schools. People will feel pressure to do
marijuana. It will also have a negative impact on younger students,
especially here when there is such a close proximity of the junior high
school to the high school, it will have an impact on younger students."

The senate committee received local support in some of their findings.
Gorman supported marijuana use for medicinal use while Tilley would like to
see the outdated prosecution laws changed.
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