Pubdate: Tue, 02 Feb 2016
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2016 The Guardian, Charlottetown Guardian Group Incorporated
Author: Rose Barbour
Note: Rose Barbour is a recently retired addictions advocate from 
Charlottetown who still writes about the issue from time to time.
Page: A7


I am writing in response to the recent article about the petition to 
stop the legalization of marijuana (also known as cannabis). Mitch 
Reid states that he is very concerned about legalization, which he 
believes will make things worse when it comes to addiction in our 
society. Cannabis is not a benign substance so Mr. Reid is right to 
be concerned about how it is handled.

In an effort to raise awareness on this important topic, and to 
perhaps put Mr. Reid's mind at ease, I will share the views of a few 
respected organizations that are in support of legalization, starting 
with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). CAMH is 
Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, and 
one of the world's leading research centres in its field.

In 2014, it came out in favour of legalization of marijuana with a 
strict health-focused and regulated approach. CAMH conducted 
significant research on this issue and presents its conclusions in 
its "Cannabis Policy Framework" report, which is available on its 
website. I would encourage all Islanders to read it before signing 
onto any initiative that supports maintaining the status quo.

In the report, CAMH points out that Canada has one of the highest 
rates of cannabis use in the world. Dr. Jurgen Rehm, Director of the 
Social and Epidemiological Research Department at CAMH, states that 
"Canada's current system of cannabis control is failing to prevent or 
reduce the harms associated with cannabis use. The evidence examined 
indicates that the criminalization of cannabis does not deter people 
from using it. Instead, criminalization drives cannabis users away 
from prevention, risk reduction and treatment services."

Dr. Rehm further points out that "Canadians obtaining cannabis in 
criminal markets know little about the potency or quality of the 
products they purchase. They are also exposed to criminality and 
other drugs and run the risk of a criminal record." In addition, 
"enforcement of cannabis laws cost Canadians $1.2 billion per year." 
It is CAMH's research-informed opinion that an approach of 
legalization with strict regulations will present governments at all 
levels with an opportunity to mitigate harms to youth and to promote 
a public health approach geared to prevention and education.

The organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which is 
made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and 
criminal justice communities, among others, also advocates for 
legalization. LEAP states that existing drug policies "have failed, 
and continue to fail, to effectively address the problems of drug 
abuse, especially the problems of juvenile drug use, the problems of 
addiction, and the problems of crime created by criminal control of 
illegal drug sales."

LEAP believes that "a system of regulation and control of these 
substances by the government, replacing the current system of control 
by the black market, would be a less harmful, less costly, more 
ethical, and more effective public policy".

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC), an independent civil 
society network of organizations and individuals working to improve 
Canada's drug policies, also believes that it is time to chart a new 
path because the current approach that "relies far too heavily on the 
criminalization of people and punitive policies is not working. It is 
expensive, wasteful, ineffective and damaging to those who are most in need."

CAMH, LEAP and CDPC, three trusted and respected organizations in the 
areas of mental health and addiction treatment and research, law 
enforcement, and drug policy, respectively, favour a public health 
approach to drugs, not a criminal one, as a way to reduce the harms 
to individuals and society.

We cannot afford another 40 years of a failed "war on drugs."

With the highest rate of cannabis use in the world and a drug 
epidemic that spans across our great nation, it is time for change.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom