Pubdate: Thu, 08 Feb 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Aly Kamadia
Page: A15


"I believe that nicotine is not addictive."

This was the position the CEOs of the seven largest American tobacco
companies staunchly stood by while testifying in front of an infamous
1994 Congressional hearing.

The scientific evidence at the time rendered their ostensible belief a
tragic joke - a term that accurately describes the idea that Canadians
should blindly trust marijuana producers and distributors to design
their own packaging. Ottawa would do well by having health experts
take the lead in ensuring marijuana packaging is transparent.

If this obligation is abdicated to producers and distributors, it
hardly takes a genius to predict some of the ramifications. One
example is the many misleading health-benefit claims that will be
touted to consumers:

Need a cure for your insomnia? No problem, here's a strain that you
can toke on before calling it a night. Need to lose some weight? We
have some slimming gluten-free edibles that have been "proven" to work
fast and effectively. A little hesitant because you don't know how
safe this is? It's completely safe, as it's all "natural."

Well, cocaine is also "natural," though that hardly makes it a
nutritious vegetable. And "proven?" Says who? Blogs? Your experience?
That of your friends and Google searches that feed your confirmation

Yes, marijuana can be used for medical purposes, but the science is
sobering. For example, a 2015 study in the Journal of the American
Medical Association investigated medical marijuana uses and concluded
that while it is used to treat a host of conditions, only a few such
instances are backed by evidence, while many are not.

Stepping away from medical uses, a highly influential and widely cited
2007 systematic review (i.e. a study that looks at all relevant
previous studies) in the prestigious academic journal the Lancet
concluded that "there is now sufficient evidence to warn young people
that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing psychotic
illness later in life." Let me repeat that: "psychotic illness."
Moreover, there are numerous studies that point out marijuana has more
neurotoxic effects in brains that are not fully developed; think
younger than 25 years old. In other words, children, teenagers and
young adults put their mental health more at risk than older

And how do these young kids perceive marijuana? Might its legalization
lead to irrationally positive perceptions, based on simplistic
reasoning? For instance, it can't be that bad for me, because it's
legal, right?

The question is not theoretical in Washington state. After being
legalized in 2012, a study discovered younger teens perceived
marijuana to be less harmful than previously and reported increasing

On one hand, we can't blame younger teens (or teens in general) for
dubious judgment, by mere virtue that they are just that: kids. On the
other hand, the situation merits attention because they are highly at

Of course, some marijuana activists live in a fantasy land in which
the substance can do no harm, and more research must be conducted to
explore potential medical uses. The latter is true. Though additional
research must also continue to explore harmful effects, and even
changing effects, given that cannabis's potency has skyrocketed from 2
per cent in 1980 to 20 per cent in 2015 (in the U.S.): a tenfold increase.

So says the Canadian Medical Association. Its pleas to Ottawa to
ensure that designing marijuana packaging be left to federal officials
and health experts rather than producers and distributors are based on
the type of sound scientific foundation that was missing from the
mouths of tobacco CEO's testifying in the mid-1990s.

Moving forward with legalization means tragic consequences are
inevitable regardless of the positive impacts of the Bill C-45
experiment. The least we can do is ensure that transparency is
afforded to all its participants.

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Aly Kamadia holds a BA and MA in political science and is director of 
Kamadia & Associates.
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MAP posted-by: Matt