Pubdate: Wed, 22 Nov 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Hina Alam
Page: A6


Legal pot a danger to youth, he says

SHERWOOD PARK - Utah Johanson wears three rings on his fingers: a
skull to show that death is always close, a Harley-Davidson ring from
his dad and a ring in the shape of the number 13 - unlucky 13 - to
show the life he lived and his misfortunes.

His T-shirt reads: "If you don't like something change it; if you
can't change it, change your attitude."

The 21-year-old, who now dreams of being an engineer or physicist, was
once a drug dealer. He is currently an honours student at NorQuest
College, studying physics and math.

"It was my mom who gave me a second chance," he said Tuesday at a
Parents Empowering Parents public forum about the legalization of
recreational marijuana held at the Sherwood Park Community Centre.

Johanson said he started using marijuana recreationally when he was 12
and at its height, was smoking about a half ounce each day. He was an
addict for about eight-and-a-half years. He was arrested in 2015 and
enrolled in drug treatment in June 2017.

Johanson said he began to sell pot to pay for his own

"I was pulled into addiction so far that I had to sell drugs to pay
for it," he said.

Just as a person can get addicted to cigarettes or alcohol, people can
get addicted to marijuana, too, he said.

Legalizing marijuana will help keep it safe and out of the hands of
drug dealers, he said.

But Brent May said his two sons started using marijuana recreationally
and both became addicts, his wife died of alcoholism and his grandson
is now struggling with marijuana.

"I'm dead-set against the legalization of marijuana because it's the
wrong way to go," May said.

"The addiction starts out recreationally. It starts once a month, once
a week and then every day … Anybody who says it's not addictive is
deluding themselves. Any pleasurable, mind-alternating drug is going
to be addictive."

Legalizing marijuana is going to make it accessible to youth and do
more harm to society than anything else, he said.

"The biggest harmful drug in our society is legal," he said. "It's
called alcohol."

May believes the legal age for all addictive substances should be 25.
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