Pubdate: Tue, 21 Nov 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Todd Whitcombe
Page: 4


On a flight home last week, I was having a conversation about the
introduction of Bill C-45 or the "Cannabis Act." The person I was
talking to is working with local governments to sort out the multitude
of bylaws and regulations which will be necessitated by the
legislation. Different municipalities are taking varying approaches
and have disparate points of view on the whole issue.

After all, not everyone is in favour of legalizing marijuana nor sure
what exactly that means.

 From the federal government's perspective, the bill restricts sales to
people age 18 and older (while allowing provinces to set a higher
threshold) with adults allowed to publicly possess up to 30 grams of
dried cannabis or its equivalent in a non-dried form (i.e. a plant).

It allows adults to grow up to four plants for each residence provided
the plants are less than one metre in height. They may be used for
legal cannabis products such as food or drink but only for personal
use at home. And the bill regulates the amount of THC in a driver's
blood stream, allowing saliva tests to determine impairment.

That is the short version of the law but there are many questions left
unanswered. Can marijuana be sold within the proximity of a school,
for example? The present laws for medical marijuana dispensaries
require a buffer zone.

But how will a buffer zone work when adults are allowed to grow their
own plants in a house across the street?

Sales by mail or courier through a federally licensed producer would
be allowed in provinces lacking a regulated system but how will age
verification fit into such a system? And how will a municipality deal
with tenants growing or smoking cannabis when the odours permeate a
building or a neighbourhood?

Over the course of the next seven months, provincial and municipal
politicians will need to pass the necessary regulations. Indeed, they
have been working on regulations since well before Bill C-45 as it has
been apparent marijuana would be legalized at some point. Is it a good
thing? I would answer yes as it simply recognizes the reality of the
present situation. Anyone can buy marijuana right now. It is not hard
to find. Or so I am told. It is a commercial product with a vast
distribution service.

The law will allow government to control marijuana in all its forms
and restrict access for minors in much the same way as laws regarding
alcohol have done.

A free market will provide a disincentive to the criminal element
involved in its present production.

Further, it will allow for controls on quality and quantity.

But I do worry about the longterm health impacts of smoking marijuana.
Smoking a joint is not equivalent to smoking a single cigarette. Its
health impact is closer to smoking half a pack.

There are roughly 1,300 known chemical compounds found within
cigarette smoke. These range from the simple products of combustion
such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide to complex polyaromatic
hydrocarbons. These compounds are also found in the smoke from burning

For example, the ammonia content of the smoke for a single joint
versus a single cigarette is 228 micrograms vs 178 micrograms.

For hydrogen cyanide, it is 532 micrograms vs 498 micrograms.

For benzene, 76 micrograms vs 67 micrograms. Both types of smoke
contain pretty much the same compounds.

But perhaps more important is the particulate matter and tars as these
are the largest source of cancer-causing chemicals. For example
benzo-anthracene is 75 nanograms vs 43 nanograms for a joint vs a
cigarette. For benzopyrene, it is 31 nanograms vs 22.1 nanograms.

When you consider these numbers, it is not hard to realize the smoke
from marijuanahas just as many harmful chemical constituents as smoke
from tobacco. Most people, when confronted with this data, point out
that no one smokes as many joints in a day as they do cigarettes.

True, but cigarettes have filters which remove much of the tar and
particulate matter preventing it from entering the lungs of the
smoker. Further, the process of smoking marijuana tends to result in
holding the smoke in the lungs for as long as possible, thereby
increasing the dose.

The legalization of marijuana will have health impacts on the
population, but they will not be realized for another 20 years. I
would suggest rather than arguing over revenue sharing formulas for
the taxes which will be collected, all governments should be setting
the money aside to deal with the impending health issues.

After all, if the money from tobacco sales had been earmarked into a
health savings account all along, our health care system would have
the funds to deal with the consequences.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt