Pubdate: Mon, 06 Oct 2014
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Gary Direnfeld
Column: Family Life
Page: G10


Q: I read with interest your column of a few weeks ago, concerning 
the student leaving home for school, with his mother's worry about 
drugs, and the misuse of them.

Your advice was, I believe, very correct in pointing out the inherent 
dangers of marijuana use. I have yet to hear from any professional 
source that marijuana use is anything but harmful to young adults, 
trying to forge their way in a difficult world. The current public 
debate surrounding legalizing marijuana is very troubling. I request 
that professionals such as yourself contribute to the public 
discussion, especially since I believe the stakes are so high for our 
young people.

A: The discussion of marijuana use and legalization does require 
reasoned professional input, lest decisions be made on the basis of 
junk science and base opinion.

It is important to understand that marijuana use does carry 
well-identified risks to physical and mental health as well as to 
personal and social performance particularly as it relates to the 
adolescent and young adult and proportional to the amount consumed. 
These are nondebatable facts in the respected scientific literature.

That being said, persons will continue to consume marijuana on a 
recreational or medicinal basis. At present, marijuana for medicinal 
use is highly controlled and possession of marijuana for anything 
other than medicinal use remains a criminal offence under the 
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

There are profound differences between "decriminalizing" and 
"legalizing." Decriminalizing refers to removing possession of 
marijuana for personal use as a criminal offence. The intended 
benefit is to save taxpayer money and law enforcement resources by no 
longer chasing and prosecuting individuals for their personal use of 
the substance. This also saves the individual the hardships 
associated with a criminal record.

As a strategy to curtail marijuana use, criminalization has proven 
largely unsuccessful.

Legalization goes a step further than decriminalization and like 
alcohol use, sets out processes for the controlled cultivation, 
distribution, sale and taxation of the substance.

Given that criminalization has proven to be a poor deterrent and that 
criminal records associated with minor possession can have 
far-reaching unintended negative consequences, decriminalization 
makes for a reasonable consideration. However, this is not to speak 
out in favour of recreational marijuana use or legalization as 
defined above, just to speak out about the unintended negative 
consequences of criminalization.

Hopefully policy-makers and politicians support and put money into 
better educational campaigns aimed toward parents, adolescents and 
young adults to better understand and appreciate the risks associated 
with consumption of this substance. Marijuana is not an innocuous substance.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom