Pubdate: Fri, 16 May 2008
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Misty Harris, The Ottawa Citizen
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


A new study says the drug is a hit with all kinds of Canadians.

A variety of educated, middle-class Canadians are "making a 
conscious, but careful choice to use marijuana" to relax or focus on 
leisure activities, say researchers behind a new study spotlighting 
smoking of the drug behind the nation's picket fences.

These people might drive minivans to their full-time jobs or run a 
household, but, come time to unwind, it's not Dr. Phil who's calming 
their nerves.

"It's an illegal activity, so it's still something people do in 
secret, usually in the privacy of their own home," says Geraint 
Osborne, whose study is published in the spring edition of the 
journal Substance Use and Misuse. "They're a little reluctant to come 
forward and talk about it, using the phrase that they're still 'in 
the closet.'"

A qualitative study of 41 adult Canadians nationwide suggests people 
of all ages and educational backgrounds are lighting up. Mr. Osborne, 
from the University of Alberta, and the University of Calgary's 
Curtis Fogel led the study, which shows most of the participants 
smoke marijuana to loosen up or enhance various leisure activities.

"Music, television, movies, computer games, creative endeavours, the 
outdoors, sex ... they find marijuana makes all those things more 
pleasurable," says Mr. Osborne, an associate professor of sociology.

"When they're using it to relax, it's typically being smoked when 
they come home from work. It might be while they're preparing supper, 
or socializing with friends, or just having a few puffs before they go to bed."

Study participants were predominantly middle-class and worked in 
white-collar jobs in industries such as health care, retail, social 
work, service and communications, and 68 per cent held post-secondary 
degrees, while another 11 per cent had earned high school diplomas.

A qualitative study involves a small sample size that yields a high 
amount of detailed information because interviews are face-to-face 
and in-depth. Mr. Osborne says the findings should be seen as 
preliminary exploratory research that provides a detailed snapshot of 
this demographic of marijuana user.

"The movies focus on the average marijuana user as a burnout, a 
slacker, and certainly there are those people out there, but it's not 
everyone," he says. "Eventually, I think we're going to see its 
decriminalization and legalization, with the government taxing it and 
making money off it."

The study also found its middle-class participants consider 
themselves responsible users of the drug, defined by "moderate use in 
an appropriate social setting and not allowing it to cause harm to others."

According to a survey released last month by the Centre for Addiction 
and Mental Health, the average age of cannabis users in Canada has 
increased from 26 to 31 since 1977.

Ian Mulgrew, author of Bud Inc., says the trend has been wafting 
beneath academia's radar for years and is only starting to surface 
because of increased cultural tolerance for the drug. A nationwide 
poll released this week showed 53 per cent of Canadians supported 
legalization of marijuana, while the United Nations 2007 World Drug 
Report revealed Canadians used more cannabis than people in any 
country in Europe, Asia or Latin America.

"People are finally starting to recognize that judges and lawyers and 
cops and doctors and other people who hold responsible jobs in 
society like to have a reefer," says Mr. Mulgrew, an award-winning 
writer from Vancouver.

The Fraser Institute estimates Canada's wholesale marijuana industry 
is worth $5.7 billion. It is reportedly second only to construction, 
and ahead of forestry, in terms of its contribution to the gross 
domestic product of British Columbia.

Mr. Mulgrew says the trendiest marijuana paraphernalia -- smokeless, 
and pricey, marijuana vaporizers -- are largely targeted to 
health-conscious suburban dwellers who want to cut down on their 
inhalation of respiratory toxins and keep the odour of cannabis out 
of their upholstery.

"We're not talking about a 17-year-old buying a glass pipe and 
thinking it's a big investment," he says. "These are smart people 
with the disposable income to buy what amounts to a $700 hookah." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake