Pubdate: Fri, 19 Aug 2011
Source: Leduc Representative (CN AB)
Copyright: 2011 Osprey Media
Author: Simon Yackulic


Leduc addiction counsellor Gene LeBlanc, who sees hundreds of addicts
every year, is on the side of what an Angus Reid poll pegged as a slim
majority of Canadians who favour the legalization of the drug marijuana.

LeBlanc is against marijuana prohibition, and doesn't think the
current drug laws appear very rational, with drugs such as alcohol and
tobacco on one side and marijuana on the other side.

An Angus Reid poll in 2010 found that 53 per cent of Canadians support
the counsellor's position that legalization is the way to go.

"Personally, I think it should be down to people's choices," LeBlanc
said. "Should pot be kept illegal? Personally I don't think it should
be. Why should cigarette smoking be (legal), when cigarette smoking is
just as lethal in terms of cancer?"

"There's better ways of dealing with it. People make choices. I had a
guy not to long ago who got charged with possession, but who claims he
used it for medical purposes -- I mean he had a great big bag of it
that he had got from Vancouver, but he claimed it was medical marijuana.

"And I guess it was for him, but he got charged anyways," LeBlanc
said, while only some people are legally allowed to use marijuana for
medical purposes, many users have claimed to him that they use it for
medical purposes as well.

"The law is a cow. It doesn't have much judgment and is imposed by

While LeBlanc feels marijuana use can be harmful, at least for youth,
he feels the best approach is to moderate drug use through harm
reduction strategies rather than using scare tactics.

"They had that commercial in the States with the frying pan that said
'this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs.' Sometimes I think
there's misinformation presented in our attempt to show how bad it is.
Scare tactics don't work."

Marijuana, also referred to as cannabis, weed or pot, can be smoked
via pipes, bongs, joints or consumed in food. According to Alberta
Health Services (AHS), cannabis can damage the lungs if smoked and, if
used with tobacco, may cause individuals to develop cancers earlier
then exclusive tobacco smokers. AHS ties heavy use of cannabis as
leading to anxiety, depression and personality disturbances along with
schizophrenia for "people vulnerable to it."

"Long-term users are less able to focus attention and filter out
irrelevant information. These problems are subtle, but may last for
years after use has stopped," explains AHS in Beyond the ABC's:
Cannabis (Marijuana). "Long-term use is sometimes associated with lack
of ambition and motivation, and reduced communication and social
skills. Apathetic individuals may be attracted to cannabis use, and
chronic intoxication can reinforce these tendencies."

The site also states, "People who use drugs to avoid dealing with
difficulties generally make their problems worse. When young people
frequently use mood-altering substances, they often fail to learn many
of the normal lessons of maturing. They may not learn how to handle
their own emotions, how to take on responsibilities, and how to make
thoughtful and considered decisions. The substance becomes an
emotional crutch, even if it is not physically addicting."

According to the summary report of the Canadian Senate Special
Committee on Illegal Drugs, a number of theories regarding marijuana
use lack scientific validation. The report calls the "Gateway Theory"
that marijuana use is a "gateway" to harder drugs an "outdated"
theory, and stated it found "most experimenters stop using cannabis"
and that "cannabis itself is not a cause of delinquency and crime."

The report estimated 30 per cent of Canadians have used marijuana,
with 10 per cent using the previous year. While pointing out "long
term effects on cognitive functions have not been established in
research," the committee found there are some hazards of cannabis use.

"The immediate effects of cannabis are characterized by feelings of
euphoria, relaxation and sociability; they are accompanied by
impairment of short-term memory, concentration and some psychomotor
skills," the report explained. "Heavy use of cannabis can result in
dependence requiring treatment; however, dependence caused by cannabis
is less severe and less frequent than dependence on other psychotropic
substances, including alcohol and tobacco."

Marijuana possession is against the law in Canada, and the maximum
penalty for possession of less then 30 grams of marijuana is a $1,000
fine and/or six month in prison, along with a criminal record. For a
second offence, the penalty can rise to $2,000 or 12 months in prison.

A limited number of Canadians have been licensed to use marijuana for
medical purposes. However, the medical marijuana program has faced
opposition by drug opponents who feel marijuana's medical claims are
groundless along with opposition by marijuana advocates who feel the
program is unnecessarily restrictive.

A recent judicial ruling in Ontario which stuck-down the government's
medical marijuana program will be heard on appeal this November.
Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Robert Blair ruled this summer the
current laws will stay in force until the appeal is heard, and said
the effect of a successful appeal could be to "legalize marijuana
production in Ontario, if not across Canada."

Until that happens, if it happens, there's still no denying
marijuana's widespread use among Canadians. According to RCMP drug
enforcement constable John Baker, marijuana is the most common illicit
drug being used in Leduc, and is apparently part of a booming,
organized crime run black market.

Leduc RCMP statistics indicate between August 16, 2010 and August 16,
2011 police laid charges in 112 out of 230 investigations related to
the possession of a controlled substance.

Out of those 112 investigations that led to charges, 89 were for
either the possession of cannabis or related products such as hash oil
and four were for marijuana trafficking.

Only 19 charged investigations were in relation to other

"The most prevalent (illegal drug) in Leduc is marijuana," Baker said.
"It's very popular with the high school kids, and it's very popular
with everyone, going across demographics."

Baker explained while the police always have the option of laying
charges, they try to push younger users towards programs that aim to
increase drug education and awareness.

"If we lay charges, it's usually for the larger amounts. If it's the
smaller amounts, or if it's a teenager or someone younger, we try to
shift them towards alternative measures," Baker explained.

Baker warned the market for illegal drugs in Canada is inherently tied
to organized crime, and even small time users are assisting criminals.

"Obviously, it is the most commonly used drug in Canada, so organized
crime does take advantage of that.

"Even if you're only buying a small amount of marijuana in the long
run, organized crime are the guys providing that marijuana to the
mid-level and low-level traffickers here," Baker said.

"In the end, it always filters back to organized crime.

"Like I said, even if you're just buying a small amount, you could be
inadvertently be helping out some kind of organized crime boss who is
pocketing millions of dollars." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.