HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Poll
Pubdate: Sun, 03 Feb 2002
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Jack Aubry
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


One million Canadians say they smoke up 'for health reasons'; Only 300 
permits issued

More than a million Canadians are breaking the law by smoking marijuana for 
medicinal purposes, and it appears it's mostly because they haven't paid 
close attention to the recent changes in the law, a government poll reveals.

A recent national survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers for Health 
Canada, shows that more than four per cent of the population over the age 
of 15 is using medicinal marijuana without permission from the government.

The poll report says the percentage represents about one million Canadians, 
even though only 300 permits allowing the use of medicinal marijuana have 
been issued by the government since 1999.

"This implies that individuals are using marijuana for medicinal purposes 
without appropriate exemptions from Ottawa, leaving them open to 
prosecution for possession," the report concludes.

The use of medicinal marijuana remains illegal without a permit. Under 
legislation passed in 1999, Canadians who have a severe illness or who are 
expected to die within the year can possess marijuana after obtaining a 
licence from Health Canada.

But the poll reveals that the Canadian public is mostly ignorant about the 
new law.

More than 70 per cent of Canadians reported they thought marijuana was 
legal for possession in Canada for medicinal purposes. Only an additional 
three per cent stipulated it was legal only with an exemption from the 

Andrew Swift, a spokesman for Health Canada, said the recent poll findings 
are still being examined and no reaction was yet available from the department.

Mostly anecdotal evidence supports the efficacy of marijuana for medicinal 
purposes, including claims of appetite creation, relaxation, pain relief 
and aiding sleep. The report points out that clinical research is only now 
testing the medical benefits of the drug.

However, the poll shows that about 70 per cent of Canadians already believe 
there is already valid evidence to support the use of medicinal marijuana.

The poll also shows that an overwhelming 85 per cent of Canadians feel 
marijuana should be made available for medicinal use under specific conditions.

The report concludes that the strong support by Canadians for medicinal 
marijuana "may be due" to the high proportion of individuals who feel there 
is sufficient evidence to support medicinal marijuana use.

Even without scientific evidence, the poll shows almost one-third of the 
Canadian population supports the outright legalization of marijuana for 
personal use, either for medical or recreational purposes.

The report points out that the reported support in the poll on legalizing 
the drug is substantially lower than other previous reports, which has 
placed support between 47 per cent and 69 per cent.

In August 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in the case of Terry 
Parker that the new marijuana legislation violates the rights of sick 
people by forcing them to choose between health and imprisonment.

Mr. Swift said the poll was conducted in October and November, but he could 
not provide the margin of error or cost to the government for the 
large-sample survey.

The poll found that males and younger individuals were more likely to 
report the use of medicinal marijuana, with 6.3 per cent of those between 
the ages of 15 and 24 saying they had.

"Health status was also a factor; those who reported being in poor or fair 
health (12.2 per cent) or having a chronic illness (5.5 per cent) were also 
more likely to report medicinal marijuana use," said the report.

"Individuals with an addiction to drugs or alcohol were 5.9 times more 
likely to report this type of marijuana use."

Provincially, the highest use of medicinal marijuana was in Alberta, with 
7.8 per cent reporting, and British Columbia, at 6.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, Manitoba had the lowest reported usage at three per cent, 
slightly behind Ontario, at 3.3 per cent and Quebec, at 3.5 per cent.
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MAP posted-by: Jackl