Pubdate: Sat, 25 Nov 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Liz Monteiro
Page: B3


KITCHENER - At gatherings with family and friends, it's common for
people to sit and chat as they enjoy a glass of wine.

Drinking alcohol is legal and regulated by the government, but too
much of it causes impairment and your long-term health could be at

The same could be said for marijuana.

The now illicit drug will soon be legal, regulated and sold by the
government. Smoking it daily could lead to a dependency, healthcare
professionals say.

But the stigma associated with dope smoking remains.

"I'll go home and drink a beer and I don't think twice about it," said
Michael Beazely, an associate professor in the University of
Waterloo's School of Pharmacy.

"I would feel uncomfortable if I went home and smoked a joint. Most
people would," he said.

Beazely, who is the chair of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug
Strategy, said in other jurisdictions where marijuana is legal,
research shows there is a positive effect on opioid use and the rate
of opioid overdoses with less use of the harsher drug.

UW hosted a public discussion on recreational marijuana at the School
of Pharmacy on Thursday night. The lecture hall was packed with
university students, people interested in growing the maximum four
plants at home, others who are worried about the health risks of
people smoking weed and still others who are trying to get into the
business of selling marijuana.

Ken Nightingale of the Waterloo Region Chronic Pain Initiative said
some people with chronic pain, prescribed medications aren't working
and they are looking for alternatives.

"When it (marijuana) is legal, you can get a dosage that is regulated
and it's tested as opposed to buying it on the streets," he said.

The federal government introduced legislation in April that will make
recreational pot legal by July 1, 2018. The provinces are in the midst
of designing their own distribution system and usage

In Ontario, the provincial government announced its plan to sell
recreational marijuanain as many as 150 dedicated stores run by the
Liquor Control Board of Ontario. It set the legal age to buy the drug
at 19.

Consumption of legal weed will not be allowed in public spaces or
workplaces and will be confined to private residences in Ontario.

But there remains questions such as the levels of THC (the active
ingredient in marijuana), what the government-set limitations for
users will be and how the rules will be enforced.

"We may or may not have more people using but hopefully it will be
safe," said Noreen Jamal, a pharmacist at the Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health in Toronto and a graduate of UW's pharmacy school.

"(Legalization) will enable safer use," said Jamal, adding that people
are going to dispensaries with a prescription and getting marijuana
that isn't regulated.

In her presentation, Jamal outlined known health risks for marijuana
use, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, impaired
memory and judgment, and anxiety and psychosis.

Jamal, who works in a psychosis unit at the Centre for Addiction, said
some of the patients use marijuana to help with anxiety and sleeping.
But it's unclear if taking the drug worsens the psychosis or calms the
anxiousness, she said.

Studies also show that heavy marijuana use can lead to fertility
concerns, she said.

Laurie Nagge, a Waterloo Region public health nurse, said there are
concerns associated with teenagers who smoke marijuana daily.

Nagge said the adolescent brain is still "pruning" at this stage and
the parts of the brain that plan, organize and make decisions are
still maturing.

"Using cannabis floods the system and it makes the system go into
overload," she said. "The brain is maturing and you're interfering
with the process."

Although more research is needed, Nagge said young teens smoking early
and using high dosages often show a higher dependency. "I'm not
suggesting it's a gateway drug. I'm not going down that path but they
are more susceptible to other substances," she said.

Nagge said cannabis protocols will likely follow those related to
tobacco. There will be strict regulations on advertising with no
colours, a health warning on the package and childproof packaging.

School-based programming will focus on cannabis education and doctors
will participate in screening, asking their patients if they use marijuana.

Nagge said cannabis use guidelines recommend people start using
marijuana in their 20s, limit their use, try lower THC levels and
avoid smoking it.

"You are inhaling byproducts of combustion," she said.

The public health department also suggests avoiding synthetic
cannabis, which has high concentrations of cannabis. The concentrates
look like pieces of glass known as K2, Spice and Shatter.

Const. Scott Metcalfe, a drug recognition officer with Waterloo
Regional Police, said he stops drivers who may be impaired by drugs.
Some of the evaluation techniques include an eye exam looking at pupil
size and reaction to light, a divided attention test, and measuring
pulse rate and blood pressure.
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MAP posted-by: Matt