HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Report
Pubdate: Fri, 03 May 2002
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Toronto Star
Author: Dennis Bueckert, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Senate Committee Debunks Various Theories About Marijuana Use

OTTAWA (CP) - Efforts to prevent marijuana use are having little impact, 
and young Canadians are smoking up in greater numbers than ever, a Senate 
report says. An estimated 30 to 50 per cent of people 15 to 24 years old 
have used cannabis despite its illegality, the report, released Thursday by 
the Senate committee on illegal drugs, says.

"When you examine cannabis usage among youth, you realize that public 
policy has absolutely no effect," Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, committee 
chairman, told a news conference.

"The psychology of adolescents seems to take no account of the rules of law."

After studying the pros and cons of pot use for 14 months, the committee 
also concludes that scientific evidence suggests marijuana isn't a 
so-called gateway drug that leads to the use of harder drugs.

The discussion paper, intended to guide public consultation on the 
marijuana issues, indicates that millions of dollars in public money being 
spent to combat pot is wasted.

The arguments in the paper are far from new - many were made in the Le Dain 
report of 1973.

Yet the federal government has been reluctant to change the law and Health 
Minister Anne McLellan has backtracked from a plan to give severely ill 
patients access to government-grown marijuana.

There's a widespread perception that the federal government is reluctant to 
decriminalize pot because of opposition from the United States, which 
remains committed to prohibition.

The Nolin committee raises that issue in a questionnaire it will submit to 
participants in consultations planned for six Canadian communities in 
coming weeks.

"If Canada was to adopt a different, more liberal approach to cannabis, 
should it take into account the reaction of the USA?" the questionnaire 
asks. "What would the reaction likely be?"

The discussion paper offers no recommendation on whether the law should be 
changed. That will come in its final report in August. But Nolin has said 
he personally favours decriminalization.

Other findings in the paper, based on extensive hearings and research over 
the past year:

- - Cannabis is a psychoactive substance and it's better not to use it. It 
may have some negative effects on the health of individuals, but 
considering the patterns of use, these effects are relatively benign.

- - Pharmacological studies of cannabis have not found any element that 
predisposes users to more potent drugs.

- - Pot doesn't increase aggressiveness or anti-social behaviour, nor induce 
users to commit crimes.

- - Definitive conclusions can't be drawn from available evidence about how 
cannabis affects driving abilities, although it may lead to increased risk 
at high doses or combined with alcohol.

- - Cannabis use doesn't hurt academic performance.

"Studies tend to indicate that problem young cannabis users are also 
problem alcohol users, manifesting other risk-taking behaviour. These are 
therefore symptoms of other underlying problems rather than causes."

The annual cost of fighting illegal drugs, for federal agencies alone, is 
estimated at $500 million. Each year, more than 30,000 Canadians are 
charged with simple possession of marijuana.
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