Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2014
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Jessica Hume
Page: C8


'Telling Kids to Not Smoke Pot Is Not a Partisan Attack,' Ambrose Says

OTTAWA - Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose blames Liberal Leader 
Justin Trudeau after doctors groups declined to participate in a 
government anti-marijuana campaign.

Speaking at a meeting of the Canadian Medical Association, Ambrose 
accused Trudeau of "politicizing" the debate over marijuana and said 
that shouldn't take away from the importance of the government's message.

"Telling kids to not smoke pot is not a partisan attack on Justin 
Trudeau by Health Canada," Ambrose said. "It is a sound public health 
policy backed by science - whether it's legal or illegal, the health 
risks remain the same."

The feds tried to enlist the College of Family Physicians, Canadian 
Medical Association and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of 
Canada to endorse an educational campaign aimed at discouraging young 
people from smoking marijuana, also illuminating Canadians about its 
potentially harmful effects.

An ad released by the Tories focused on Trudeau's idea to legalize 
marijuana, saying his policy would make it easier for children to 
access the drug.

Trudeau, who has said he believes marijuana should be regulated and 
taxed in a way similar to alcohol, responded that the Conservative 
government's anti-marijuana messaging was an attack against him personally.

Outgoing CMA president Dr. Hugo Louis Francescutti said the group had 
"never signed on" to participate in the ad campaign and explained 
that it "took a twist that looked political." As a result, "members 
did not want us to be affiliated with a campaign like that."

That said , Francescutti acknowledges that "especially in youth, the 
evidence is irrefutable - marijuana is dangerous."

He also said medical marijuana puts doctors in a "precarious" 
position by having the ability to prescribe a drug previously covered 
under the Criminal Code, without the body of scientific research that 
usually accompanies a drug a doctor would recommend to a patient.

"We're stuck providing access to patients to marijuana, but we have 
to come up with a model that's within a legal framework," he said. 
"If marijuana was to be tested like any other product that calls 
itself medication, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Francescutti has more trouble with the idea of advising patients to 
smoke their medication than with the notion that marijuana can have 
therapeutic properties.

"If we could deliver it through a cookie or a milkshake or a pill 
then we'd welcome it with open arms."

Ambrose said a clinical trial was underway to study the longer-term 
effects of medical marijuana.

About a year ago, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police came 
out in support of ticketing, rather than laying charges against 
individuals found to carrying 30 grams of marijuana or less.

Francescutti wouldn't comment on that idea, as his concern is with 
the long-term health effects.

"There are inherent dangers in chronic use," he said, pointing to a 
lowering of IQ, unmasking psychosis and generally hampering 
educational performance.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom