Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2006
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2006 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Richard Watts, CanWest News Service


VICTORIA -- People in B.C. smoke more marijuana than people in any 
other province in Canada, according to a study released Wednesday.

"There is more occasional and low-risk cannabis use, more tolerant 
attitudes, and greater availability in B.C. than in the rest of 
Canada," says the study for Addictions Research of B.C., which is 
based at the University of Victoria.

"In B.C. cannabis, like alcohol, is now regarded as a 'normal' 
recreational drug."

In fact, daily use among young people in B.C. is outstripping tobacco,

And a majority in B.C. want cannabis decriminalized, says the study.

The study cites estimates that put the value of the cannabis industry 
in B.C. at as much as $3.64 billion per year.

The study, which is based on a 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey, said 
more British Columbians report having used cannabis (53 per cent), 
than other Canadians (44 per cent).

British Columbians also report it is easy to find -- 65 per cent, 
versus only 44 per cent in Canada.

And one of the few categories where Canada scored higher than B.C. 
was in the proportion of people who want marijuana to remain illegal, 
49 per cent in Canada versus only 42 per cent in B.C.

B.C.'s more tolerant attitude about marijuana remaining illegal may 
have something to do with the number of charges for cannabis 
cultivation in B.C., 25,014 between 1997 and 2004. That works out to 
79 per 100,000 people, almost three times the national average of 27 
per 100,000.

Dr. Benedikt Fischer, one of the authors of the study, said the study 
is more proof that the existing law-enforcement approach to cannabis 
isn't working.

"It's very categorical, black and white," said Fischer. "It says 'no 
use is good, any use at all is bad."'

Meanwhile, he said cannabis use has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

He said it would make more sense to start reflecting public attitudes 
and approach cannabis use as a public-health issue rather than a 
strict, law-enforcement issue.

Authorities should concentrate on the harmful behaviors associated 
with marijuana use, like driving while under its influence, than to 
try and stamp it out, he said.

Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C. provincial health officer, said the Health 
Officers Council of B.C., has already called for a public-health 
approach to drugs such as marijuana.

"We should look at drug use and look at user harm and try to come at 
it with a control mechanism that reflects the harm those drugs pose," 
said Kendall.
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