Pubdate: Mon, 06 Jan 2014
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The London Free Press
Author: Terry Davidson
Referenced: Forum Research Inc. News Release (August 24, 2013):


The Great White North has a chance to learn from two U.S. states
legalizing marijuana, drug experts say

Canadian policy-makers should keep a close eye on the recent
legalizing of marijuana in two U.S. states before deciding on a
direction in the pot debate now raging north of the border, a
prominent American drug-policy expert says.

Mark Kleiman, a professor with the University of California Los
Angeles (UCLA) and an adviser to Washington State on the recent
loosening of its pot laws, says it will be to Canada's "advantage" to
take note of how Washington and Colorado deal with the legalization of
marijuana - a recreational drug many consider to be potentially
addictive and a health hazard - and to take note of the successes and
the challenges experienced by both states.

"What happens in Colorado and Washington will teach us something about
the effects of legal cannabis markets," Kleiman told the Toronto Sun.
"That new knowledge should help Canada design a better system. For the
(early) adopters of legalization, the key is to pick a system that is
easily changed in the light of experience."

In 2012, Washington and Colorado each made a landmark departure from
stalwart American drug laws by legalizing recreational marijuana, with
Colorado last Wednesday becoming the first state to officially begin
allowing the sale of the drug at commercial locations.

That day, as many as 40 dispensaries licensed to sell marijuana
opened, and anyone aged 21 and older is now free to buy a limited
amount. State mandated rules around the sale reportedly include
childproof packaging and labelling that has licence numbers of the
producer of the drug, as well as the retailer selling it. It will
reportedly be next year sometime when Washington will begin a similar

As well, it was deemed legal for Colorado citizens to grow up to six
plants in their homes for their own use without the fear of criminal

Meanwhile, debate over legalizing pot here in Canada was ignited yet
again after federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau admitted during a
trip to Vancouver this past summer that he had smoked pot after being
elected an MP, and called for marijuana to be made legal north of the

For a time afterward, Conservative MP and Justice Minister Peter
MacKay maintained the ruling Tories have "no intention of legalizing
or decriminalizing marijuana." But, in December, MacKay hinted the
Conservatives are considering altering the nation's marijuana laws so
police would have the option of fining pot smokers in possession of
small amounts of the drug instead of laying criminal charges.

What is currently happening in Washington and Colorado, the UCLA's
Kleiman says, is an experiment in what good could come of legalizing
marijuana - a controlled and reversible experiment of sorts that could
either result in "gains" such as reduced illicit activity, fewer
arrests and a decrease in incarceration, or possible "losses" such as
increased drug abuse and a rise in impaired driving.

Kleiman also said that while both Washington and Colorado have left
the selling of the pot up to their respective commercial markets -
both of which must do so under state-made rules and regulations - this
may not be the way to go for Canada, explaining that if marijuana is
made legal north of the border, the safe selling of it may best be
done by government.

"If an addictive commodity is to be provided, the provider ought to be
someone who doesn't have a financial incentive to induce consumers to
use it addictively," he said.

Dr. Jurgen Rehm, of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,
says CAMH is considering supporting the legalization of pot in Canada
as long as strict conditions are put in place around its advertising
and marketing, as well as strong safeguards around keeping it out of
the hands of minors.

According to an August 2013 poll by Forum Research Inc., 69% of adult
Canadians support either the legalization and taxation of marijuana or
the decriminalization for small amounts of the drug. 
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