Pubdate: Tue, 02 Feb 2016
Source: McGill Tribune (CN QU Edu)
Copyright: 2016 The McGill Tribune
Author: Sofia Rautionmaa


Focuses on addiction and economic impacts

On Jan. 27, students discussed cannabis legalization at an open forum
held at the Yellow Door, led by the McGill chapter of the Canadian
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP). Their goal as an
organization, according to their website, is to discuss the negative
impacts of drug policies on individuals and communities.

The forum began with a video showing an interview with two professors
from McGill University, Dr. Mark Ware, a director of clinical research
at McGill University Health Centre and Dr. Ken Lester, a professor of
Finance in the Desautels Faculty of Management. Ware started the video
by disproving the widely held assumption that the effects of cannabis
are worse than tobacco.

"I don't think there is a single metric that you can use that can
prove that that statement is true," Ware said. "It's clearly not
infintely worse than tobacco. In fact, in many ways, cannabis is far
safer than tobacco."

Every year, millions of people die from over consumption of tobacco
and other drugs, but the statistics for cannabis use are not as high.
Ware discussed the the effects of decriminalizing recreational
cannabis use evidenced in the states of Washington and Colarado.

"There doesn't seem to be a huge spike in traffic accidents, a huge
spike in fatalities, [or] a huge spike in school dropouts [in those
states,]" Ware explained.

Lester went on to explore the benefits of legalization for the

"Right now, the market is paying a huge premium because it is
illegal," Lester said. "What would it actually cost [the market] if it
was not illegal? Probably 10 per cent of what the market is paying for
now. Theoretically, if that market price is doable [=C2=85] then that 90
per cent could be taxes."

Despite government laws that restrict or ban certain substances, there
is relatively easy access to them through the black market.

"If you want [cannabis], you can find it now-so I don't think there
are people looking for it that that can't get it," Lester said. "I
don't think that legalizing it will all the sudden increase the usage
among [teenagers.] "

The main speaker of the evening, Gonzo Nieto, co-chair of CSSDP, spoke
about the potential risks of addiction to cannabis, especially when it
comes to teenagers and young adolescents who are the biggest users of
the drug.

"We speak about 'addictive' as a quality of certain drugs, yet we have
people addicted to gambling and no one is arguing that a pack of cards
is addictive," Nieto said. "People are addicted to work, and we don't
debate whether a given workplace is addictive. Sure, there are drugs
that people are more likely to [become addicted] to, but what we need
to look at is why some people have a greater tendency to become addicted.

Nieto explained that the drug itself doesn't cause addictive
behaviour. There are many perscription drugs that patients can become
dependent on, yet are still legal to perscribe.

"There is a lot of over-prescription of antidepressants and
anti-anxiety medication which can also become an addiction [=C2=85] and i
many cases, people aren't aware that what they are under the effect of
is a form of substance dependence," Nieto said.

According to Ware, the decriminalization of cannabis would take the
focus away from the legal justice system and instead focus on harm
reduction and helping those that are in need of support and aid.

"Having an approach where you treat people who have substance abuse
disorders as a medical problem [and] not as a legal one allows us to
help those people [get] treatment, to find access to something that's
clean that allows them to avoid the harm," Ware said. "The harms often
with these drugs are not so much the drug itself, but the illicit
nature of the drug that goes with it."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt