HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Decriminalize Pot, Says Poll
Pubdate: Fri, 15 Feb 2002
Source: Chilliwack Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Chilliwack Times
Author: Lisa Morry


Vast Majority Think It's OK To Use Marijuana As Medicine

Fraser Valley MP Chuck Strahl was testing the waters when he held a 
well-attended public debate on changing marijuana laws.

Strahl will be giving a speech in the House of Commons about the issue next 
week and will have to vote on a private member's bill sometime in the next 
couple of months.

Strahl, who said he has never smoked pot, said he's got his own opinion 
about Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Dr. Keith Martin's private member's bill to 
change marijuana laws, but he's open to hearing what others think about it.

That's why he hosted the meeting. What he got was a diverse range of 
opinion, from those who want marijuana completely legalized to most (90 per 
cent of the crowd, he said) who favour medicinal use, to those who want the 
law to remain as it is now.

That mirrors the results of a poll Strahl sent out about the proposed 
private member's bill, which shows that 56 per cent of the approximately 
1,000 respondents so far, believe marijuana should be decriminalized and 44 
per cent believe that the law should remain the same.

The marijuana meeting started with an expert who spoke about the way 
addiction works and how marijuana acts on the brain, Strahl said. Some 
marijuana supporters in the audience, which included Marijuana Party 
candidate Norm Siefken, who ran against Strahl in the last federal 
election, and other members of the Marijuana Party, didn't like that, 
Strahl said.

"It started off kinda rocky. Some people were just not allowing others to 
speak," Strahl said.

Once things settled down the evening was educational. He said he learned 
that marijuana has a longer-lasting residual effect than other drugs. That 
means that someone who uses it daily, is never clear of its effects.

He also learned about the gateway qualities of the drug. That doesn't mean 
that everyone who smokes pot will go on to use "so-called" harder drugs, 
but it does mean that nearly everyone who uses harder drugs, smoked 
marijuana somewhere along the way, he said.

"That started a huge row," Strahl said, among those who said they use the 
drug and don't have problems. "However, the first experience is rarely 
heroin," he said.

Strahl said that although there are problems with other legalized drugs, 
including prescription drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, he's concerned that 
legalizing pot would send a message that it's all right to promote its use 
to teenagers.

"Someone smoking marijuana at 14 is far more likely to have a problem with 
drug use than someone older-19 or 20. It's the same with cigarettes. It's 
hard to get someone started at 19 or 20," he said. "A 14 year old just 
doesn't have the discretion or will power that a 20 year old does."

However, Strahl said he doesn't think letting laws remain as they are is an 
option. He said a simple possession conviction gives someone a criminal 
record for life that precludes that person from travelling, from getting a 
passport and from certain jobs, and he doesn't think that's reasonable.
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