Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jerry Golick
Page: A9


Far from putting Canadians at risk, the move will be beneficial, Jerry
Golick says.

I would prefer to have a child experimenting with cannabis rather than
with booze or tobacco.

Far from putting Canadians at higher risk, as Benjamin Anson suggested
in his opinion article earlier this week ("Legalization of marijuana
is courting disaster" April 18), the national legalization of cannabis
will provide a much safer society, as well as innumerable other benefits.

The experience of jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis suggests
there is little change in consumption rates post-legalization.
Generally speaking, anyone wishing access to cannabis in a
pre-legalization landscape can easily obtain it today. All we are
changing is from whom it is purchased.

If Canada were merely to decriminalize, rather than legalize,
marijuana, that would give criminals a much freer hand to sell the
product. That is neither a safe nor intelligent solution.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that for many, cannabis is an
effective and much safer solution to pain management than opioids.
Jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana have discovered both
opioid prescriptions and opioid fatalities have decreased. Even
Canadian addiction specialists are suggesting cannabis can be part of
addiction recovery programs for those hooked on opioids.

Legalization will lead not only to the end of a currently thriving
underground market, but also to savings in police enforcement, cease
tying up our judicial system with victimless cases and spare countless
Canadians from having the black mark of a criminal record. All this
means a safer society.

As well, criminal elements currently providing cannabis will have less
incentive to be involved in this business.

Along with a decline in underground involvement, there will also be
less motivation for kids to purchase cannabis from pushers. Why
bother, when they can simply ask an older sibling to supply some, much
in the way they ask for cigarettes or beers? I do not condone this,
but I accept the reality. However, and this is a key point, I would
prefer to have a child experimenting with cannabis rather than with
booze or tobacco. Why? Because it is impossible to take a fatal
overdose with cannabis (unlike with booze), and if they do become
dependent, which happens in an estimated 10 per cent of cases, the
withdrawal symptoms are immeasurably less challenging than with
nicotine. Finally, if there are any long-term negative consequences to
using cannabis (another hotly contested topic) they are of less
significance than those of alcohol and cigarettes.

And it's wrong to call cannabis a "drug." It is not. It is a plant
with a complex set of compounds. These compounds have demonstrated and
provable benefits with respect to overall human wellness acting as
anti-inflammatories, antispasmodics, neural protectors and so on. In
fact, there is a compelling argument to suggest these compounds are
essential human nutrients, much like many of the minerals and vitamins
found in other consumable plants. Unlike manufactured drugs, once
cannabis is legalized citizens will be entitled to grow a certain
amount for themselves. Again, this implies no market for criminals to
take advantage of.

With respect to an increase in impaired driving, the evidence is
inconclusive. One thing is clear: when people are very stoned they
know they are impaired and will generally choose not to drive, or will
drive with extreme care. The same can hardly be said for those who
drink. Also of note, the impairment of a stoned person is not
manifested in the same manner as that of a person under the influence
of alcohol. In jurisdictions that have legalized, overall highway
fatalities have decreased, suggesting there may even be a positive

There is much about the proposed legislation that I do not care for,
but I recognize there is a need to compromise. My hope is that some of
the more severe penalties will be scaled back, and opportunities
created to better study, exploit and appreciate this truly amazing and
beneficial plant.

Jerry Golick is an IT consultant and cannabis activist who lives in both 
Montreal and SainteAgathe-des-Monts.
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