Pubdate: Wed, 07 Oct 2015
Source: Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 Metro Canada
Author: Jeremy Simes and Gilbert Ngabo
Page: 16


Advocates say lives shouldn't be ruined over marijuana use

Stephen Harper's recent comments on marijuana have drawn ire from
community advocates and medical users of the drug.

While speaking at a campaign stop in Montreal Saturday, the
Conservative Party leader said cannabis is "infinitely worse" than

He insisted his government would continue to apply tough laws against
its use, a stance he's maintained even during candidate debates. Keith
Fagin, founder and director with Calgary 420 Cannabis Community, an
advocacy group that looks to legalize the sale of marijuana through
regulation, much like alcohol, said Harper's comments are "complete

"It's ridiculous," he said.

Fagin said the government's current drug policy can ruin young
people's lives, where some end up in jail for having a pipe and a bit
of residue in it.

"Just because they consume a bit of cannabis doesn't make them bad
people," he said. "Kids tell me they feel like they miss out on job
opportunities after they get a criminal record for minor incidents."

Pot can also be abused and affect people's health negatively, Fagin
added, but alcohol, for example, is no different.

"Anything can be abused," he said. "But marijuana is a lot less
harmful when used normally."

The Conservatives have long linked the use of marijuana to the
increase in risks of mental health problems. However, medical research
on that issue is divided.

Details from a 2014 report on the issue from the Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health drew specific conclusions.

While the use of cannabis carries significant health risks -
especially for people using it frequently or beginning to use it at an
early age - criminalizing it heightens these health harms and causes
more social harms, the report concluded.

On a scale of 0-100, both tobacco and cannabis were rated 0 on
lethality. Tobacco was rated 100 for damage to physical health, while
pot was 20. Marijuana however was rated 30 for impairment of mental
functioning, while tobacco was rated 0.

"At the levels and patterns of use reported by most adult cannabis
users, the health risks are modest, significantly lower than tobacco
or alcohol," the report said.
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