Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jul 2007
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Matthew M. Elrod


Re: Treat marijuana abuse like a health problem, July 17.

Dr. Colin McMillan, president of the Canadian Medical Association, is 
right that drug addiction should be treated more as a public health 
problem and less as a criminal justice problem.

Cannabis is only mildly addictive, comparable to coffee. Fewer than 
15 per cent of cannabis users are daily consumers and most daily 
consumers eventually cut down or quit on their own with little discomfort.

The CMA should not be "very concerned about the recent reports of 
increased use of marijuana in Canada" because they are based on 
surveys of past-year usage rates. Canadians may feel more at ease 
discussing their casual cannabis use. The potential health problems 
the CMA associates with cannabis, such as lung damage, are a 
consequence of long-term heavy use, not casual use.

There is no evidence that cannabis usage rates are statistically 
related to cannabis laws and their enforcement, much less the musings 
of policy-makers. The UN reported, "A strong decline in cannabis use 
among high school students in Ontario" during the period that the 
Liberals pondered decriminalization.

Cannabis, alcohol and other psychotropic substances are economic 
substitutes with cross-price elasticities, meaning that when cannabis 
use goes up, alcohol and other drug use goes down, resulting in a net 
decrease in addiction, drug-related illnesses, overdose deaths, 
violence, crime, fetal alcohol syndrome and traffic accidents.

Matthew M. Elrod, Victoria 
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