Pubdate: Sat, 02 Dec 2017
Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Chatham Daily News
Author: Tom Morrison
Page: A3


Legalized marijuana will 'enslave our youth" and turn the federal
government into "the new pusher on the block," a Chatham politician
says - drawing a rebuke from the community's top publichealth official.

Dave Van Kesteren said that nothing about the federal government's
Cannabis Act is good, but he's particularly concerned about how it
allows youth ages 11 to 17 to carry up to five grams of cannabis.

"Doctors have been saying, psychiatrists have been saying, that
because the brain is still forming and is not fully formed by the time
somebody is 25, somebody below that age should certainly not be using
it," the Conservative member said in an interview.

"It's going to be detrimental to our youth."

The bill has passed its third reading in the House of Commons and
passed its second reading in the Senate on Nov. 28.

A survey conducted by the Government of Canada in 2015 showed 21 per
cent of youth aged 15 to 19 and 30 per cent of those aged 20 to 24
already use cannabis while it is illegal.

Van Kesteren, who joined the federal health committee at the
"tail-end" of discussions on the bill, said he predicts the rate of
usage to increase once the drug is legal because he thinks it will be
more accessible.

"Right now parents will have the ability and the options to stop kids
from using marijuana if they don't want them to," he said.

"But if the government says it's legal and if they can buy it at a
dispensary, especially if that dispensary is operated by the
government, what control will the parents have over any other decision
making?" Dr. David Colby, Chatham/Kent's medical officer of health,
said marijuana can be more harmful for developing brains than mature
brains, but he suspects the drug's legalization will not make things
worse for youth.

"It's already freely available to youth now through the illegal
channels that exist," he said. "I'm not sure that the effect of the
law is going to be detrimental as far as that goes."

Colby said it is not his place to say if he is in favour of
legalization, but public health officials "will work to make sure that
any harm that comes from this is minimized as best we can."

Another concern, Van Kesteren said, is drug-impaired driving. He
acknowledged it already happens, but he expects it to be more widespread.

The MP also said studies show marijuana to be a gateway

"I'm not suggesting that everybody that's going to smoke marijuana is
going to fall into that temptation or fall into that pattern, but some
will," he said. "If we had, just assume, if we had five per cent of
the population, that's a horrendous problem if you have addictions at
five per cent."

Colby said he does not believe the "gateway" theory about

"If it's a gateway drug, it's because it's available through the same
illegal channels that other illegal substances are available through,"
he said. "In fact, legitimizing the sale of cannabis may disassociate
it somewhat from other illegal substances."
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