Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2011
Source: Whistler Question (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011, Whistler Printing & Publishing Ltd.
Author: Christopher Poon
Cited: Stop the Violence BC:


Sea To Sky Health Officer Supports Legalization Movement

It has been one of the most debated issues in the country and this
past week the legalize marijuana movement got some added support with
the Health Officers' Council (HOC) of B.C. saying now is the time
for legalization.

As an organization made up of public health physicians, the HOC's
endorsement of a new report by the community health and wellness
group, Stop the Violence B.C., adds an educated voice to the side of
marijuana legalization proponents. One of those voices is Paul
Martiquet, medical health officer of the Sea to Sky region for
Vancouver Coastal Health.

"oeI'm a supporter of this,"  said Martiquet, who noted that the
prohibition on marijuana is similar to the one placed on alcohol
during the early 1900s.

The Stop the Violence B.C. report claims that anti-marijuana law
enforcement in Canada has failed in its most basic objectives, which
was to curb usage and production. In fact, the report makes the claim
that current government's style of enforcement has actually
contributed to other consequences associated with the drug, including
gang violence.

The report concludes that only by legalizing the substance in a
controlled situation can the government truly end the crime associated
with the production and sale of pot.

According to Martiquet, the current stigma currently surrounding
marijuana usage is entirely blown out of proportion, and he hopes that
Canada never ends up with an enforcement strategy similar to what's
currently going on in the U.S., where punishment for small amounts of
marijuana possession can include jail time.

"oeI think that giving people a criminal record for possession for
moderate amounts of marijuana is wrong,"  he said. "oeIt criminalizes
people and alters their lives in ways that can't be undone."

Martiquet also said that he agrees with the idea that the current
enforcement method has created the criminal element associated with
marijuana production and selling.

"oeI think that when you're talking about a $6 billion industry
that's illegal, the only way to resolve disputes is by violence and
we've seen that escalating over the last many years,"  he said.
"oeSo, essentially speaking, the prohibition of marijuana is fuelling
organized crime and violence."

According to the report, the National Anti-Drug Strategy has received
at least $260 million in government funding since 2007 "" most of
which was allocated for drug law enforcement.

However, as funding for drug enforcement has increased over the years,
so has the number of youth trying marijuana. The report says 27 per
cent of youth aged 15 to 24 admitted to having tried the drug in the
previous year. In Ontario, marijuana use has almost doubled since the
early 1990s amongst high school students, with over 20 per cent
admitting to it in 2009 compared with under 10 per cent in 1991.

And along with an increase in use by young people, the additional
enforcement funding over the years has also led to an increase in
drug-related charges in Canada. There was a 160 per cent increase in
cannabis-related arrests and a 420 per cent increase in
cannabis-related seizures between 1990 and 2009, according to the report.

"oeThe unmistakable interpretation of government surveillance data is
that increased funding for anti-cannabis law enforcement does increase
cannabis seizures and arrests,"  concludes the report. "oeBut the
assumption that this approach reduces cannabis potency, increase price
or meaningfully reduces cannabis availability and use is inconsistent
with virtually all available data."

Instead, the report urges lawmakers to look at a regulating the
substance similar to alcohol and tobacco and create a safe and
controlled environment around marijuana use.

"oeThe idea of strictly regulating the sale and use of marijuana as we
do liquor and cigarettes make perfect sense to me and it's something
that our local, provincial and federal governments should get in
to,"  said Martiquet. 
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