Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jul 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Joanna Smith
Page: A4


OTTAWA* The number of cannabis-related offences reported to police
declined for the fifth straight year, Statistics Canada said Monday,
despite the percentage of Canadians consuming the drug on the rise.

The StatsCan annual report on police-reported crime was released the
same day that the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society
issued a stark warning that the coming legalization of marijuana in
Canada doesn't mean that it is safe and the public needs to know the
risks of consuming pot.

"There's somewhat of a normalization around marijuana use and I think
some of the public really don't understand there are significant
health concerns associated with marijuana use," Dr. Lynn
Murphy-Kaulbeck said.

StatsCan said there were about 55,000 offences related to marijuana
reported to police in 2016, about 6,000 fewer than reported the year

The agency said police charged 17,733 people with the possession of
pot last year, a drop of about 3,600 from 2015.

The Liberal government has introduced legislation to legalize
marijuana by next summer, but won't decriminalize simple possession in
the face of NDP requests to do so in the interim.

The medical society is launching a public education campaign on the
health risks associated with marijuana consumption, ahead of Ottawa's
commitment to make pot legal across Canada by July 2018.

But Murphy- Kaulbeck said too often governments only look at the
financial gains without looking at the long-term impact.

"It's very much like smoking or alcohol - you have your tax and your
revenue from that, but down the road there's great cost that comes
with treating all the effects that come from these substances," she

She said the health risks inherent with the use of marijuana are
clear, particularly for people under the age of 25, and include
addiction, worsening of substance abuse and attention deficits.

"Marijuana use up to that point does have the potential to affect
brain development. As well, the research does show the use of
marijuana can be related in young people to psychiatric disorders,"
she said.

Statistics Canada said the combined rate of drug-related offences for
substances other than cannabis and cocaine, which has also been on the
decline, has been increasing since 2010.

That included as even-per-cent increase in the number of police-
reported offences related to the possession of drugs such as
prescription drugs, including opioids such as fentanyl, LSD and so-
called "date rape" drugs in 2016.

Meanwhile, the national crime rate did not change in 2016. The
national crime rate has been on a downward trend since the early
1990s, although there were increases reported in both 2003 and 2015.
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