Pubdate: Thu, 04 Oct 2012
Source: Kamloops This Week (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Kamloops This Week
Note: By Canadian Mental Health Association (Kamloops Branch)


Municipalities in B.C. want the federal government to decriminalize pot.

Are they out of their minds?

This was a question posed to us when it was announced that B.C. 
municipal leaders at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities had 
voted in favour of a resolution calling for the decriminalization of marijuana

Decriminalization is not quite the same as legalizing pot.

When you legalize something, you make it totally acceptable.

When you decriminalize it, you reduce the punishment or change the 
restrictions regarding it - two very different things.

At this stage, we are not going to take a stand for or against 
decriminalizing marijuana because, like so many issues, there are no 
clear right and wrong approaches.

The current method of handling marijuana distribution and use has 
some strengths and a great many weaknesses - and this makes it 
tempting to jump on the decriminalization bandwagon, which also has 
some strengths and a great many weaknesses.

Any substance that alters your brain and changes your mood should be 
considered suspect and potentially dangerous - and that includes medicines.

There are so many factors to consider in a decision such as this that 
it may be fair to say one position cannot fit the needs of the whole 
community, the entire society or even all individuals.

So, in the absence of a position for or against decriminalization of 
marijuana, what are the best statistics we have?

According to Health Canada, this is what we know:

* Among Canadians 15 years and older, the prevalence of past-year 
cannabis use decreased to 9.1 per cent from 10.7 per cent in 2010.*

The prevalence of cannabis use decreased since 2004 to 12.2 per cent 
from 18.2 per cent among adults and to 21.6 per cent from 37 per cent 
for youth ages 15 to 24.

*Among youth ages 15 to 24 years, use of at least one of five illicit 
drugs (cocaine or crack, speed, hallucinogens excluding salvia, 
ecstasy and heroin) decreased since 2004 to 4.8 per cent from 11.3 per cent.

The bad news is that the rate of drug use by 15- to 24-year-olds is 
much higher than that reported by adults 25 years and older.

Cannabis use by youths is three times higher and the use of any one 
of five drugs is five times higher.

* Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians over 15 years of age drank 
alcohol, which is unchanged from past years.

But, 25 per cent of Canadians exceeded the guidelines for safe 
amounts of alcohol use, putting them at either chronic risk or acute 
risk of damaging their health or being involved in an accident.

So much for citing the decriminalization of alcohol as a reason to do 
the same for marijuana; in fact, alcohol remains one of the most 
dangerous and socially damaging drugs in our culture.

These are the statistics and one side or the other will warp them to 
fit their arguments.

The key to good mental health is to remember that developing brains 
(under 24 years of age) respond differently to drugs than do brains 
in older adults, and brain development is easily impacted in people 
under 25 years of age.

We need to stress that moderation - even for good things - is always 
healthier than excesses.

Until next time, thank you for asking us this question and keep those 
questions coming to  because we love to hear from you.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom