Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jun 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Mitchell Moir
Page: G2


Health implications of marijuana policy are ignored, says Mitchell

Canada's Liberal government has stated that marijuana will be
decriminalized by July 2018. This means the removal or, at the least,
a lessening of laws and restrictions related to marijuana use and
associated pot services.

While people on both sides of the debate have strongly held and
differing opinions, the protection of youth is an area of agreement.

Marijuana has been illegal in Canada for close to 100 years. Marijuana
can't be produced, sold or even possessed. If caught, one faces fines,
jail time or both.

Despite this, Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in
the world. Over 40 per cent of Canadians have used cannabis.
Furthermore, studies conducted by Health Canada indicate that between
10.2 and 12.2 per cent of Canadians use cannabis at least once a year.

As changes in cannabis regulation occur, new research findings are
alarming. According to published research, someone who uses marijuana
regularly has, on average, less grey matter in the orbital frontal
cortex of the brain. Other research has found evidence of a link
between pot and schizophrenia symptoms.

A major factor is the potency of cannabis, which has gone through the
roof for the last two decades. In the 1960s, THC levels were reported
to have been in the one-to four-per-cent range. Research reported in
the science journal Live Science in 2014 indicates that marijuana's
main psychoactive ingredient, THC, in random marijuana samples, rose
to about 12 per cent that year from about four per cent in 1995. In a
more recent article, the leader of the American Chemical Society
stated: "We've seen potency values close to 30-per-cent THC, which is

Despite these clear and increasing dangers, the Government of Canada's
stated objective is to "legalize, strictly regulate and restrict
access to cannabis for non-medical purposes." Unfortunately, the
government's approach has flaws. Most importantly, their approach
lacks protections for youth, despite this being another stated
objective of the government's new law.

While supporters of cannabis often compare it with alcohol, a legal,
but controlled substance in Canada, there is a difference. Cannabis is
commonly consumed by smoking, which leads to significant second-hand
affects and, as a result, second-hand structural changes in the brain.

In my neighbourhood, cannabis users in one house, taking advantage of
the decreasing legal response to cannabis in B.C. these days, smoke
the substance on their back deck, only to have the blue smoke waft
across to the trampoline next door, where my younger brother and his
friends often play.

The government's proposed new policy encourages youth exposure by
making it legal for citizens to grow cannabis in their homes. There is
no mention of the protection of children living in those residences,
where cannabis is grown, consumed and potentially sold.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) makes this point.
They warn that allowing homegrown cultivation will fuel the cannabis
black market and that the four-plant limit proposed under the
legislation is impossible to enforce. The chiefs further note that
home cultivation is a direct contradiction to the government's promise
to create a highly regulated environment that minimizes youth access
to the drug.

The biggest concern that the youth of Canada should have about the
government's approach to decriminalization, however, is drug quality -
potentially with deadly results. The opportunity for tampering is
obvious. A high school friend casually uses cannabis and landed in the
hospital for a few weeks. She believes that some of the cannabis she
used was laced with another substance. I often wonder how close my
friend came to dying.

Canada isn't ready for the decriminalization of cannabis. The federal
government's plan to decriminalize pot, as it stands now, doesn't
provide enough protection for Canada's young people.

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Mitchell Moir is a Grade 12 student at New Westminster Secondary.
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MAP posted-by: Matt