Pubdate: Fri, 10 Oct 2014
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2014 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Joan Bryden
Page: A19
Cited: CAMH Cannabis Policy Framework:


Treatment centre's call to legalize it dismissed

OTTAWA - The Harper government's resolve to enforce the law against
marijuana use is unshaken by a call to legalize pot from the country's
largest mental health and addiction treatment centre.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Thursday the Conservative
government has no intention of heeding the call of the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health.

Indeed, the government remains committed to going in the opposite 
direction, said MacKay: finding ways to increase enforcement of 
marijuana laws, including potentially making it a ticketing offence to 
possess small quantities of dope.

But Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has been championing
legalization for more than a year, said CAMH's endorsement of the idea
shows he's on the right track while the Tories are ideologically bound
to a war on drugs that has proven a failure.

NDP health critic Libby Davies, whose party supports decriminalization
of marijuana, said the Conservatives are becoming increasingly
isolated on the issue as more public-health groups refuse to back
their tough-on pot message.

In a policy statement released Thursday, CAMH said cannabis should be
legalized and strictly regulated, sold through a government-controlled
monopoly with limited availability and an age limit. The centre
concluded the current legal prohibition on pot has failed to prevent
use or reduce the harm it can cause.

That pretty much echoes the arguments that have been made by Trudeau,
who has been pilloried by Conservatives for allegedly wanting to make
pot more easily available to children.

"Yes, it's nice to see a world-class organization like CAMH come out
and agree with (us) and demonstrate that we're on the right track,"
Trudeau said in an interview.

By contrast, he said CAMH's position shows the Harper government is
"trapped in policies based on ideology rather than policies based on
evidence and that is harmful to Canadians and to Canada." MacKay,
however, was unmoved. "It surprises me, quite frankly, because there
are just as many respected organizations and credible reports that say
the opposite," MacKay said on his way into a committee meeting.

He argued other public-health groups have warned about the negative
effects of marijuana on the developing brains of children and the fact
it can "trigger episodes of psychosis and schizophrenia and other
serious mental conditions."

"And so I think there is a need to really be very circumspect about
any move towards making marijuana more readily available. So that
certainly is our government's position.

"We do not intend to legalize or decriminalize."

MacKay added the government continues to consider "methods in which we
can increase enforcement," including the ticketing option favoured by
chiefs of police.

"This would not decrease but increase enforcement and optionality for
police to ensure that people are respecting the law," he stressed.

Trudeau argues legalizing and strictly regulating marijuana would do
more to restrict availability and reduce consumption, particularly
among young people, than the failed war on drugs.

He said Thursday he has deliberately not spelled out precisely how a
regulatory regime would work because he wants the input of experts and
groups such as CAMH.

On that score, Trudeau said he's "very interested" in CAMH's advice
that advertising, marketing and sponsorship by marijuana producers
should be prohibited and that health information should be clearly

Davies said CAMH brings "a lot of credibility" to the debate on
marijuana because it is so well-respected.

While the NDP has not gone as far as the Liberals in calling for
outright legalization, Davies said New Democrats see decriminalization
as a first step, to be followed by a serious public debate on what
more needs to be done.

The "biggest impediment" to that debate, she said, is the ruling
Conservatives, "who've buried themselves in this rhetoric of the war
on drugs, when I think most Canadians know it's absurd and it's

The rigidity of the Tories' position "does leave them more and more
isolated on the question," Davies said.
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