Pubdate: Sat, 06 May 2017
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: A6


"We are moving forward to ensure that we keep ... cannabis out of the
hands of young people." - Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, May 1
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA -During the 2015 election, the federal Liberals campaigned on a
plan to greenlight marijuana for recreational use to keep it of the
hands of children and the profits out of the hands of criminals.

The party's election platform said Canada's current approach -
criminalizing people for possession and use - traps too many Canadians
in the justice system for minor offences.

Last month, the government spelled out its plans in legislation,
setting sweeping policy changes in motion.

The new law proposes setting the national minimum age to legally buy
cannabis at 18 years old. It will be up to the provinces should they
want to restrict it further.

Is it true, as Wilson-Raybould and the Liberals suggest, that
legalization will in fact keep cannabis out of the hands of kids?

The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of
political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale
of "no baloney" to "full of baloney" (complete methodology below)

This one earns a lot of baloney - the statement is mostly inaccurate
but contains elements of truth. Here's why:


There is no doubt cannabis is in the hands of young people

In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of teenage and early-age
adulthood use of marijuana, says Dr. Mark Ware, the vice-chair of the
federally-appointed task force on cannabis and a medicinal marijuana
researcher at McGill University.

"We don't anticipate that this is going to eliminate it; but the
public health approach is to make it less easy for young adolescents,
young kids, to access cannabis than it is at the moment," he said.

Bonnie Leadbeater, a psychology professor at the University of
Victoria who specializes in adolescent behaviour, said as many as 60
per cent of 18-year-olds have used marijuana at some point in their

The aim of a regulated, controlled system of legalized cannabis is to
make it more difficult for kids to access pot, Ware said, noting the
principle goal is to delay the onset of use.

So will a recreational market for adults coupled with a regulatory
regime really keep pot out of the hands of kids?


Public health experts - including proponents of legalization - say
that probably won't happen.

"I don't exactly know what they are planning to do to keep it out of
the hands of young people and I think some elaboration of that might
be helpful," Leadbeater said. "It is unlikely that it will change ...
it has been very, very accessible to young people."

Benedikt Fischer, a University of Toronto psychiatry professor and
senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,
agrees the expectation that legalization will suddenly reduce or
eliminate use among young people is counter-intuitive and unrealistic
to a large extent.

"The only thing we could hope for is that maybe because it is legal,
all of a sudden it is so much more boring for young people that
they're not interested in it anymore," he said.

Increasing penalties for people who facilitate access to kids will
help discourage law-abiding Canadians from doing so, says Steven
Hoffman, director of a global strategy lab at the University of Ottawa
Centre for health law, policy and ethics.

"That being said, when there's a drug, there's no foolproof way of
keeping it out of the hands of all children," Hoffman said. "For sure,
there will still be children who are still consuming cannabis."

Cannabis will not be legal for people of all ages under the
legislation, he added, noting this means there may still be a market
for criminal activity for cannabis in the form of selling it to children.

In Colorado, officials thought there would be an increase in use as a
result of legalization, according to Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical
officer at the Department of Public Health and Environment, but he
said there's been no increase among either youth or adults.

Nor has there been a noticeable decrease.

"What it looks like is folks who may have been using illicitly before
are using legally now and teens or youth that were using illicitly
before, it's still the same rate of illicit use," he said.


Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy
Coalition, said the Liberal government could provide a more nuanced,
realistic message about its plans to legalize marijuana.

"To suddenly go over to the rhetoric ... that strict regulation is
going to keep it out of the hands of young people doesn't work," he

"There's a better chance of reducing the harm to young people through
a ... public health, regulatory approach. That's ideally what they
should be saying."

Careful messaging around legalized marijuana - like the approach taken
by the Netherlands - could make cannabis less of a tempting forbidden
fruit for young people, said Mark Haden, an adjunct professor at the
University of British Columbia.

"What we know is that prohibition maximizes the engagement of youth,
so if we did it well and skillfully and ended prohibition with a wise
approach and made cannabis boring, it would keep it out of the hands
of kids," he said.

"It isn't completely baloney, it just hasn't gone far enough in terms
of a rich, real discussion. It is just political soundbites."

For this reason, Wilson-Raybould's statement contains "a lot of


The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the
level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is
researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

No baloney - the statement is completely accurate.

A little baloney - the statement is mostly accurate but more
information is required.

Some baloney - the statement is partly accurate but important details
are missing.

A lot of baloney - the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains
elements of truth.

Full of baloney - the statement is completely inaccurate.
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