Pubdate: Tue, 27 May 2008
Source: Camrose Booster, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Camrose Booster
Author: Dan Jensen
(Canadian Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs)
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


Augustana sociology professor Geraint B. Osborne is of the opinion
that people who use marihuana are no more a criminal threat to society
than are alcohol and cigarette users.

"Some people argue that drug use leads to crime, and that somehow
those who use drugs are in such an altered state they don't know what
they are doing and have to go out and hurt someone or get involved in
acts of vandalism," said Osborne, whose study, Understanding the
Motivations for Recreational Marihuana Use Among Adult Canadians, was
published in the spring edition of the journal Substance Use and
Misuse. "What I found in the research, with the people we talked to,
was that doesn't happen. It doesn't make you want to go out and do
those types of things."

The study surveyed 41 employed Canadians ranging in age from 21 to 61,
including 25 men and 16 women, whose use of the drug ranged from daily
to once or twice a year. They were predominantly middle class and
worked in the retail and service industries, in communications, as
white-collar employees, or as health-care and social workers.
Sixty-eight per cent of the users held post-secondary degrees, while
another 11 survey participants had earned their high school diploma.

Osborne was assisted with the study by former Augustana student Curtis
Fogel, who went on to do his MA work at Memorial University in
Newfoundland, and is currently completing a PhD at the University of

"The reason for doing it was largely influenced by my reading of the
report on the Senate special committee on illegal drugs, which had
looked into the decriminalization and legislation of cannabis back in
2001 and 2002," said Osborne. "A lot of their research focused on
people who abused the drug: people from socially marginalized
backgrounds who used the drug in almost an addictive manner. Not a lot
of ethnographic or qualitative research had been done on recreational
marihuana use, or how the rest of the population might be using it."

In conducting the interviews, Osborne found that most adult marihuana
users regulate use to their recreational time and do not use
compulsively. Rather, as he stated in the study, their use is
purposively intended to enhance their leisure activities and manage
the challenges and demands of living in contemporary modern society.

"Generally, participants reported using marihuana because it enhanced
relaxation and concentration, making a broad range of leisure
activities more enjoyable and pleasurable. That most participants made
rational decisions to enhance recreation through moderate use, and
reported no dependency or addictive problems, is probably related to
their middle class status: they are well educated, gainfully employed,
can afford to be engaged in a host of hobbies and interest, and as one
participant put it, 'have more important things to do than just sit
around stone all day.' In other words, there was nothing in their
immediate social environment to suggest that they were using marihuana
as a way of escaping or retreating from any significant social or
psychological ills."

The majority of users also indicated they employed certain rules that
many of us employ when it comes to the use of alcohol. Most said they
wouldn't drive while intoxicated from alcohol or marihuana, that they
wouldn't use it around children, and that they would only use it in
the privacy of their own home.

"Some said they would use it in public but only in a concert
situation, where others were using it as well," said Osborne.

On average, the yearly amount spent on marihuana by those surveyed was

In terms of the amount used, some people said they preferred to have a
few puffs of a joint, while others said they would like one joint a
night. A few said they would wait for a long weekend, when they would
have one to three joints.

Osborne respectfully disagrees with the police argument that marihuana
contributes to crime.

"I would argue that it is the prohibition of marihuana that actually
leads to crime," he said. "Not that there aren't any cases where
someone is inebriated and in such a state that they aren't thinking
clearly and do things that normally they wouldn't do, but that is the
same with alcohol. If you look at it, the drug that is most highly
correlated with crime, particularly violent crime, is alcohol. And no
one is calling for that to be criminalized."

Osborne feels that eventually, we are going to see the
decriminalization and legalization of marihuana, with the government
making money off it through taxes.

"Although these findings are not generalizable given the small sample
size, if they are corroborated by further ethnographic research there
may be a compelling reason to reconsider present laws that prohibit
marihuana use and treat recreational marihuana users as criminals.
These recreational marihuana users do not consider their marihuana use
as a compulsive behaviour resulting from some form of pathology such
as boredom, alienation or depression, as is often asserted by those
who support the current drug laws. They are no more escaping reality
through their use of marihuana than those people who are engrossed by
novels, enthralled by television and movies, mesmerized by religious
prayer and devotion, captivated by playing online role-playing games,
thrilled by roller-coasters and theme-park rides, or engaged in any
other mind- and mood-altering behaviour."

From a health standpoint, Osborne feels regulation is a way to go
because it would result in a controlled product, with everyone knowing
exactly what is in it.

"There would be no danger of foreign substances being put into the
drug," he said.

Osborne sees the need for a more responsible response to the drug
problem, considering the war on drugs in Canada is now officially 100
years old.

"The war on drugs has not been successful," he said. "If anything, it
has made things worse. A lot of people in the field argue that we need
to take a harm reduction approach and place more emphasis on
education. That means updating the DARE programs that we have and
giving people the right information. It has worked when it has come to
nicotine and cigarettes. Those levels are dropping because of the
education and awareness we have out there."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin