Pubdate: Mon, 13 Feb 2017
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The StarPhoenix
Author: Jordon Cooper
Page: A5


Regulatory patchwork across Canada isn't helping anyone

I have never smoked marijuana. Until last week, I had no idea where
one could purchase it. Then someone told me they were going to get
their "green card" from a doctor. This would allow them to purchase
marijuana for medicinal purposes. No pressing medical reason, they
just wanted to buy weed.

As I asked around, I was told by many people who have them that the
process is a joke. You go to a known doctor, give them an excuse for
why you want it and they give it to you. Multiple people told me there
was no examination or any probing into why they wanted it. They just
got it. There are even websites that, for a fee, will tell you which
doctors to see.

I am not against medicinal marijuana. I have had friends need it as
pain relief as they struggled with chronic pain or had a terminal
illness. I just found it stunning that some doctors prescribe a
restricted substance because someone wants it.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons' legal counsel, Bryan Salte,
made it clear that medicinal marijuana is under federal jurisdiction
and is tracked by Health Canada. That information isn't shared with
the College of Physicians and Surgeons. If there is abuse of the
program, the province and the college are currently out of the loop
regarding who is doing it.

What difference does it make if everyone in Canada is using medicinal
marijuana? Even our own prime minister has admitted to toking once in
a while.

The problem is that with it pseudo-legal in many places across Canada,
the tools to regulate and control it are behind the times and are
largely based around alcohol.

Many see marijuana as a harmless drug because no one overdoses from
it. Yet it does impair judgment while driving. Two European studies
found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as
likely to be responsible for a fatal crash than drivers who had not
used drugs or alcohol.

Those studies have been replicated since Washington and Colorado
legalized marijuana. In both states, fatal accidents involving people
using marijuana doubled in the first couple of years. It looks bad,
but keep in mind that fatalities are still very close to historical
lows in both states. Roads are the safest they have been in years.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, studies have shown
that marijuanagreatly increases the impact of alcohol in your system.
One plus one does not equal two when drugs and alcohol are combined -
the impact often equals much more.

Understanding the impact is difficult. It took years to understand and
agree on 0.08 as a measuring stick in our society for alcohol
impairment. Even now, new data is showing that isn't true for young
drivers. The same thing is happening over marijuana use, especially
since it is stored in a person's fatty tissues and isn't water soluble.

That means that many people have been hit for driving over the limit
when they had not smoked marijuana for a while. Lawyers have said it
will be years until enforcement and the courts find the balance that
we have with alcohol.

If the government of Canada wants to legalize marijuana, it needs to
do so. In talking to some people who have green cards, I found they
have no education on the rules, the impact on their behaviour or even
procedures to purchase the marijuana they don't need.

Legalizing would standardize the process across Canada and provide a
better framework than exists now. It would allow doctors, governments
and schools to educate people on its use, like we have around alcohol.

Right now, we have a patchwork of Health Canada directives, activist
doctors and select law enforcement that varies from police force to
police force.

If the government of Canada wants to treat medical marijuana as a
restricted substance, then it should enforce the rules around
prescribing it.

If the government wants to legalize it, then it should be done right
so that governments, the courts and other agencies can start the
process of making it safe for everyone - even us non-tokers.
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