Pubdate: 17 Mar 1997
Source: Chris Clay
Author: Patricia G. Erickson
Note: MAP is archiving each of the affidavits filed in the Chris Clay 
Constitutional Challenge to preserve these important documents.
Bookmark: (Clay, Chris)






Affidavit Of Patricia G. Erickson

I, PATRICIA G. ERICKSON (Ph. D.), of City of Toronto, in the Toronto 

1. I am a Senior Scientist within the Social and Evaluation Research 
Department of the Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto. As well, I am 
an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology, the Director of the 
Collaborative Program in Alcohol, Tobacco and other Psychoactive 
Substances, and a member of the Graduate Faculty at University of Toronto. 
Before joining the Addiction Research Foundation in 1973, I was a 
researcher with the Centre of Criminology, at the University of Toronto. I 
am the author of works such as Cannabis Criminals; The Social Effects of 
Punishment on Drug Users (ARF Books, 1980), "Living with Prohibition" in 
the International Journal of the Addictions (1989), the co-author of The 
Steel Drug: Cocaine in Perspective (Lexington Books, 1987) and The Steel 
Drug: Cocaine in Perspective. 2nd ed. (1994), as well as the co-editor of 
Illicit Drugs in Canada (Nelson Canada, 1988). My other publications and 
professional interests are in the areas of law enforcement and social 
policy with respect to illicit drugs, comparative juvenile justice systems, 
deterrence and drug market violence. I received my Doctorate in Criminology 
and Social Administration from the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, in 
1983. My curriculum vitae is attached hereto at Exhibit "A".

2. While scientific investigation into the nature of drugs and their 
actions is an important factor in making informed decisions about drug use 
and drug policy, I believe that pharmacological research does not afford 
answers to all the issues concerning legislative measures to control and 
prohibit drug use. The scientific research concerning the effects of drugs 
on humans has its limitations. One of the most significant limitations of 
the scientific data to date is that knowledge about the effects of drugs on 
human users has traditionally come from observation of a biased sample. 
Most users of prohibited substances do not advertise themselves, and when 
they do surface it is usually because of problems such as arrest, 
dependence, overdose, and drug-related criminal activity. As a result, 
conclusions are drawn from the worst cases, while users with more benign 
patterns of use remain out of sight. For example, a school principal or a 
child psychologist may encounter many young cannabis users whose grades are 
falling, who are in trouble with teachers or parents, or who have drawn 
attention to themselves due to other behavioral problems. Yet well-behaved 
adult users may go unobserved by virtue of the fact that they can use drugs 
while continuing to be successful in other areas of their lives. Similarly, 
if most of the drug users seen by professionals are involved in a life of 
crime, addiction, or both, it is tempting to conclude that this is the 
inevitable result of using the drug.

3. I believe the public's perception of the affects of alcohol would be 
significantly different if most of the information about alcohol and its 
effects came from patients in alcohol treatment programs or addicted 
prisoners forced to abstain. If this were the case, the data and literature 
would show that, although people's curiosity and social nature lead them to 
start with a few drinks, the frequency of this drinking gradually increases 
until the alcohol becomes the pre-eminent force in the user's life. The 
public would see alcohol as an extremely powerful drug which radically 
changes the way people feel about themselves and the way in which they 
conduct their relationships with others. Further, the public would be 
forced to conclude that most, if not all, alcohol drinkers are bound to end 
up addicted to alcohol, with their lives in ruins. Lacking knowledge of 
"ordinary" drinkers who have not encountered problems, the public would 
inevitably conclude that the seductive and destructive powers of alcohol 
were derived largely from its pharmacology.

4. Even when rigorous methods are maintained in the formal analysis of 
scientific evidence, the application of the data is subject to more than 
one interpretation. In my opinion, medical and biological findings alone 
cannot and do not form the sole basis of public policy decisions. 
Political, legal, philosophical, economic, and moral issues must also be 
considered as they often influence the interpretation of the scientific 
data. I have conducted several studies and written many articles utilizing 
this multi-disciplinary approach to the analysis of drug prohibitions.

5. In my view, there are many popular misconceptions regarding illicit drug 
use. These misconceptions are premised on the belief that drugs possess 
extraordinary powers and, thus, they overwhelm users or compel them to 
behave in certain ways. These misconceptions also result from the 
mechanistic characterization of human beings as helpless individuals, who 
lack volition when confronted with drugs. The misconceptions assume that 
people are unable to exercising choice and make rational decisions about 
their drug use. The data show that the ability to avoid drug-related 
problems is not evenly distributed in the population and that youth, 
psychological instability, and other factors may increase the probability 
of their occurrence. However, the mythology of drug use attributes etiology 
of drug abuse to pharmacology, creating an image of the powerless 
individual in the grip of the all-powerful drug.

6. One of the common misconceptions about drugs is that the pharmacological 
properties of illicit drugs are overwhelming and behaviorally specific. The 
misconceptions arise partly from fear and ignorance, but also from 
confusion of correlation and causation. Observations of drug users with 
other social problems have led to the assumption that drug use caused these 
problems, although there is no logical reason why the reverse might not be 
true, or why no causal relationship might exist.

7. In my opinion there is no merit to the notion that the use of one drug 
may "cause" people to move on the other and stronger drugs. This theory has 
been around since the early part of this century, but crystallized in the 
United States after World War II. Originally, it was thought that this 
so-called progression, usually from marijuana to heroin, had a 
pharmacological basis. When this theory was rejected, the alleged 
progression was blamed on psychiatric factors. That argument has also 
failed to withstand scrutiny. Today, progression is rarely mentioned by 
experts in the field.

8. Today, the focus has shifted to the "gateway" theory; namely, that 
cannabis use serves as a gateway to using more "serious" drugs. The gateway 
theory is based on a considerable body of research into patterns of 
multiple drug use. Generally, there is not much difference between the 
concepts of "gateway" and "progression". Both words imply that by taking 
one kind of drug the individual increases his or her risk of taking 
another, and that perhaps some mysterious drug-related forces are at work 
that will lure users along against their better judgment. Like its 
predecessor, the gateway theory is significantly flawed. Research has shown 
that cannabis smokers are more likely to report use of other drugs than are 
non-users. Furthermore, multiple illicit drug users are more likely to have 
been heavier, rather than light, cannabis users. They are also more likely 
to have been involved in the buying and selling of cannabis. However, none 
of these facts can be attributed to special properties of cannabis per se. 
The process involved in illicit drug use are very human, and therefore also 
very social. They reflect involvement in friendship networks that at first 
include those who only use cannabis, but widen to include users of other 
drugs. That most people have never tried a drug like LSD, heroin or cocaine 
should come as no surprise, since people are less likely to seek out the 
drugs or want to try them. These are relatively rare illegal commodities 
that even cannabis users may not encounter. One needs friends who use such 
substances and provide a favourable example before a decision can be made 
for or against trying them. Studies which have taken into account a full 
range of unconventional adolescent activities (including illicit drug use), 
have found that drug use of any kind, legal or illegal, tends to be part of 
a larger behavioral syndrome for a given age cohort. Thus, the same factors 
that predict cannabis use also predict precocious initiation into alcohol 
use and sexual intercourse. In sum, there is nothing magical about 
"gateway" drugs. Rather, there seems to be a constellation of social and 
psychological factors involved in determining the degree of deviant 
behaviour a person might exhibit. Illicit drug use is simply one of these 

9. It has been estimated that somewhere in the area of four or five million 
people in Canada have tried cannabis at one point in their life, whereas 
consumers of "hard drugs" only number in the thousands. To say that roughly 
8-10% of the population consume marijuana would not be a gross under 
estimate. Therefore, it can clearly be seen that consumption of marijuana 
does not lead to "hard drug" use for the vast majority of marijuana consumers.

10. Studies conducted by the Addiction Research Foundation between 
1977-1995 indicate that cannabis use among the Canadian youth (i.e. 12-19 
years of age) has increased from 12.7% in 1993, to 22.7% in 1995, although 
it should be noted that this is still lower than the rate in 1979 (31.1%). 
While the rate of consumption has decreased among the youth, it is 
interesting to note that it has been increasing among those aged 30 to 49 
years from 15.4% in 1977, to 39.6% in 1994. Overall, it has been a steady 
trend that more males than females use marijuana, 25.7% as compared with 
19.8%. Studies have found that cannabis use is not significantly related to 
family income, educational level, or employment status. Perhaps the most 
influential demographic factor in the use of cannabis is age.

11. Marijuana is one of the few substances shown in both human and animal 
research as being negatively correlated with violence. There is no evidence 
that cannabis makes people violent or drives them to be involved in 
violence in any way. Most marijuana users do not engage in other criminal 
activity and their marijuana use constitutes their major risk-taking 
activity. Very little (or no) crime is a product of a compulsive need to 
obtain and use marijuana although connections have been made between crime 
and much stronger drugs (i.e. cocaine and heroin). It must be recognized, 
however, that there is some violence associated with the marijuana drug 
trade because the legal prohibition creates a black market for 
distribution, and a black market leads to the commission of secondary crime.

12. In general, there is no relationship between consumption of marijuana 
and the development of psychotic behavior, however, in some extreme cases a 
connection can be made primarily with persons who have pre-existing disorders.

13. In my opinion, if people are permitted to use cannabis in their own 
home and are permitted to grow cannabis for their personal use, harmful 
patterns of use of marijuana will not emerge. In a study I did on adult 
cannabis users, I found that the majority of the subjects used marihuana in 
a social setting only. It appeared that the most of the adult users in my 
study had access to a steady flow of marijuana despite its criminalization. 
It appears that there are already norms for marihuana use that helps 
protect people from abusing the substance. I have documented these results 
in my article "Living with Prohibition" in The International Journal of the 
Addictions 24(3), 175-188, 1989, a copy or which is attached hereto as 
Exhibit "B".

14. The imposition of criminal sanctions on cannabis users has been at the 
heart of much of the debate over cannabis policy from the mid-1960's to the 
present. By the early 1990's, some 600,000 Canadians have received criminal 
records for cannabis-related offenses. In Canada, as elsewhere, the impact 
of criminal conviction on young lives was identified as one of the most 
serious costs generated by the current prohibition. I have documented these 
adverse individual consequences of criminalization in my book, titled 
Cannabis Criminals: The Social Effects of Punishment on Drug Users. 
(Toronto: ARF Books, 1980), a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit 
"C". The methodology of that study is set out in the second chapter of the 

15. A major by-product of the prohibition is that it creates a category of 
cannabis criminals. Consuming cannabis is considered a criminal activity 
and therefore any user is vulnerable to being labeled with a criminal 
status. The consequences of this stigmatizing label can carry many 
long-term consequences. Even without even being found guilty, the offender 
suffers a loss of liberty, as well as humiliation and worry. If an offender 
is found guilty they receive a criminal label. They must live in fear the 
rest of their lives, wondering when this label will come back to haunt 
them. In my opinion, this is the biggest disadvantage of the 
criminalization process.

16. Most individuals who are caught are on the low end of the socioeconomic 
scale. By saddling them with a criminal record, finding a job and becoming 
a contributing member of society only becomes more difficult. With the 
depressed job market, employers are more likely to hire someone without a 
marijuana record when comparing applicants. In a legal stigma study I 
conducted, it was found that there was a significant difference in job 
offers between individuals who possessed a criminal record for marijuana 
possession and those who did not. People who received a discharge fell 
somewhere in the middle, however, it was found that individuals who were 
charged received significantly less offers than those who did not possess a 

17. Some people argue that the impact of receiving a criminal record for 
cannabis use has been watered down by social and legal developments and 
that, today, the consumption of marijuana is viewed as far less deviant. In 
my own view, this is untrue and the label has not been watered down enough 
to make the effects of criminalization negligible.

18. In the 1980's, health concerns had gained ascendancy. This thwarted 
much of the impetus for legal reform. For this reason, Glenn F. Murray and 
I conducted a second study which re-examined the nature of the costs to 
individual cannabis users arising from their criminalization and also to 
consider the reciprocal pressure that criminalization policy exerts on the 
processing of offenders. Our study utilized interview data collected from 
similar groups of cannabis possession offenders in 1974 and 1981 in Toronto 
to address the following questions: (i) "who gets caught": have offender 
characteristics changed; (ii) "what is the impact": have offenders' 
responses to the experience of criminalization altered; (iii) "how has the 
system responded": have the police and courts changed their procedures and 
practices regarding cannabis offenders. A copy of a reprint of our paper, 
"Cannabis Criminals Revisited", British Journal of Addiction, 81, no. 
1(1986): 81-85, is attached hereto as Exhibit "D". My research and the 
research that I have reviewed have lead me to conclude that the health and 
social costs associated with the consumption of marihuana are relatively 
low and out of proportion with the costs of criminalization. The overall 
costs of the use of marihuana are much lower than the individual and social 
costs of the criminal sanctions which the legal system uses to deal with 
users of marihuana.

19. In 1983, I published a critique of the Canadian regime of cannabis 
control policy in conjunction with Robert Solomon (currently of a professor 
of law at University of Western Ontario) and Eric Single (currently the 
research and policy director of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse). A 
copy of this paper is attached as Exhibit "E" to this my affidavit. In this 
paper, we concluded that the costs of criminalizing users far exceed the 
deterrent benefits. We then considered three other policy alternatives to 
total prohibition: mitigation, partial repeal, and legal availability. For 
each, we asked how individual and social costs can be minimized with the 
least risk of increasing harmful levels of use. Drawing on data generated 
since the completion of the Le Dain Commission's (1970-1972) reports, we 
reached the same preferred option as that favoured by the Commission 
majority, namely, the partial repeal of the offence of simple possession. 
We suggested several forms such an option could take, and forecasted only 
slight increases in use under such a policy. From my studies, I have 
concluded that consumption rates ebb and flow with little regard for the 
state of legal sanctions. In fact, specific deterrent effects are virtually 
non-existent, and in studies I have conducted, it was determined that 92% 
of first offenders continued to consume marijuana within one year of being 
sentenced for simple possession. It appears that consumption rates change 
with changing social and economic factors rather than changing as a result 
of the deterrent effect of increasingly punitive sanctions.

20. It appears that public opinion is consistent with the recommendations 
of the Le Dain Commission. In 1977, a Gallup poll reported that the 
majority of Canadians oppose the harsh criminalization of cannabis 
possession. In particular, 36% Canadians wanted to see cannabis possession 
sanctioned by a fine at the maximum, whereas 23% thought it should not be a 
full criminal offence, and only 35% wanted the offence to be a full 
criminal offence. More recently, Health Canada released a public opinion 
poll in 1995 which found that 27% of Canadians believe that "possession of 
marijuana should be legal", while 42.1% believe it should remain illegal 
but only be punished by a fine or a non-jail sentence. therefore, in 1995, 
it is apparent that 70% of Canadians are opposed to the use of 
incarcerating criminal sanctions to combat marijuana use. Attached hereto 
as Exhibit "F" is a copy of an article which I co-authored with Benedikt 
Fischer and Reginald Smart, The New Canadian Drug Law: One Step Forward, 
Two Steps Backward (1996) 7 The International Journal of Drug Law 172, in 
which the results of these public opinion polls have been summarized.

21. I make this affidavit in support of the Applicant's Application for a 
declaration of constitutional invalidity and for no other or improper purpose.

SWORN before me in City of Toronto, in the Toronto Region, this 17th day of 
March, 1997.