Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: 7


OTTAWA - Marijuana is a "dangerous drug," Conservative leadership
hopeful Kellie Leitch said Tuesday as she promised to undo the Liberal
government's efforts to legalize it, should she become her party's
leader and eventually prime minister.

There are too many public health and safety concerns surrounding
marijuana for it to be legal, Leitch told The Canadian Press as the
government prepares to table legislation later this week to legalize
and regulate its sale.

Political Ottawa has been buzzing for weeks about what will be in the
bill, expected Thursday. One key task-force recommendation that the
government could act on is imposing an age limit of 18 on those who
seek to buy it.

"Look, I will be reviewing it, but I'm a pediatric orthopedic surgeon
- - I have personal views on this that I feel very strongly about,"
Leitch said in a roundtable interview.

"I don't think that we should be legalizing this drug; this is a
dangerous drug and I don't want it in the hands of children."

Scientific evidence shows the drug can have damaging effects on the
brains of those under the age of 25 and should only be available from
pharmacies for patients with prescriptions, Leitch added.

"I have young people come to me as a physician and say 'You know, I
don't understand, Dr. Leitch - I'm told not to do drugs, but can I do
this drug now?" she said. "These are the kinds of messages Canadian
parents do not want portrayed to their kids."

In an August submission to the federally appointed task force on
marijuana, the Canadian Medical Association recommended a minimum age
of 21, as well as limits on quantities and potency for those aged 2125
to discourage use and sharing among underage friends.

The driving purpose of the Liberal government's plan is to address
Canada's "very high rates" of cannabis use among young people -among
the highest rates in the world, Health Minister Jane Philpott said

Criminalizing cannabis has not deterred its use by young people,
Philpott said in an interview. Other products known to be harmful,
including alcohol and tobacco, are available with restrictions for
legal consumption, she added.

"As we legalize cannabis and make a decision about what age it can be
accessed, we know that regardless of the age of the person consuming,
that it is a product that has potential risk associated with it,"
Philpott said.

"That's why we are taking a public health approach with a strong focus
on public education."

One of the current challenges is a shortage of information on products
like cannabis, she added, insisting that legalization should in no way
be taken as a signal that pot can be used with impunity and without an
understanding of the potential risks.

"This is a way of responding to the reality of the fact that rates of
use are extremely high in young people and we need to take an approach
that acknowledges public health, acknowledges the approach of
criminalization has not deterred young people from using it," Philpott

Benedikt Fischer, a University of Toronto psychiatry professor and
senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said
there are clear risks and harms associated with cannabis, but a strong
upside to legalization from a public health perspective.

Trying to restrict its use to people aged 25 and up will only drive
young people to the black market, he added.

"What will those people under 25 do if they are not allowed legal

Chuck Rifici, a co-founder of Canada's first publicly traded marijuana
company who now chairs National Access Cannabis - a company that works
with patients navigating the medical marijuana system - said Tuesday
said he will look at whether the government acts on task force advice,
allowing mail-order marijuana sales.

Selling through the mail would help the government achieve its
election promise on pot, Rifici said, noting it also ensures Ottawa is
not beholden to provincial distribution systems yet to be

"If it is hard to access legal product, like any controlled substance,
if there's not a legal option, people will turn to another option,"
Rifici said, a former treasurer for the Liberal party's national board
of directors.

"I think it makes more sense to make it easier for Canadians to access
safe, tested, federally licensed product."

The task force, which issued a 106-page report in December, also
recommended storefront sales to people 18 and older with personal
growing limits of four plants per person and a 30-gram limit on
personal possession.
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