HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Alberta's Reefer Madness Hitting New Highs
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Aug 2008
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Calgary Sun
Author: Michael Platt


As Albertans go, they outnumber Catholics, smokers, Edmontonians, 
voters and overweight folk -- though a massive intake of potato chips 
might soon balance out the latter.

They're pot smokers, and a new study by Health Canada shows a 
staggering -- and presumably peckish -- 45.3% of Albertans have 
inhaled marijuana, with 34.7% returning for a regular hit of weed.

The 2007 federal government statistics place supposedly clean-cut, 
law-and-order Alberta as the second-most stoned province, just behind 
hippy-infested B.C., where 37.4% of citizens are repeat tokers of 
Cannabis sativa.

Cannabis sativa, for those who've avoided cultural contact for the 
past 40 years, is a psychoactive herb that generally produces 
pleasant emotions ranging from giddiness to well-being in smokers 
while stimulating hunger.

Before you start packing your bags, determined to leave this wasted 
western Babylon behind, take note that Alberta and B.C. aren't 
anomalies when it comes to dope consumption.

Just under a third of Canadians, or 32.2%, have smoked pot more than 
once, with another 6.9% admitting to at least trying marijuana.

Even in Newfoundland, the least cannabis-prone province, 26.4% of 
citizens have smoked up more than once.

It's reefer madness, no matter what side of the bong you're sitting on.

Albertans who morally support the law of the land will be horrified 
to think nearly half of their neighbours and co-workers are drug 
users, smoking from a secret stash of illegal narcotics.

Those who morally oppose the law of the land will be aghast over a 
justice system that labels nearly half of Albertans as criminals.

Professor Geraint Osborne, a social science/humanities researcher at 
the University of Alberta, is part of the latter camp -- he feels 
marijuana laws no longer reflect the society they are meant to protect.

"We have to start distinguishing between use and abuse of marijuana, 
as we do with alcohol," said Osborne.

"There are people who will abuse any substance, and others who will 
use that substance responsibly, and our policy has to change to 
address this issue."

Osborne says the sheer number of citizens who are breaking the law by 
smoking marijuana shows society has changed since cannabis was 
outlawed a century ago -- and yet users are still officially a criminal threat.

"That's why the majority are in the closet on this issue," he said.

"These are middle-class adults with kids and responsibilities, and 
they are not criminals at all."

The continued legal condemnation of marijuana users, according to 
Osborne, is the root of organized crime's interest in the drug and 
illegal activity connected with it.

"It's no different from bootlegging during prohibition."

For those who might be sitting on the fence over marijuana's legal 
and social status, hearing a university professor's sober opinion is 
a refreshing change, even if it reflects what many out-of-the-closet 
smokers have been saying all along.

Too often, the legalize-weed proponents come off as total waste-heads 
- -- but the new numbers, suggesting widespread use by more than a 
third of Albertans, prove chronic smokers are to marijuana what the 
chronic drunk is to alcohol.

Someone whose life is consumed by a drug is not a worthy spokesman for change.

The majority of Alberta users, judging by the lack of giggling and 
bloodshot eyes in our offices and work spaces, are capable of 
handling marijuana the way they handle alcohol.

Whether you smoke it or not, agree with it or otherwise, the Health 
Canada study offers a clear message -- marijuana can be commonly used 
without harming society as a whole, just like alcohol.

If it wasn't the case, Alberta would be struggling to survive as a 
productive province.

For the majority of users, marijuana is a recreational treat, just 
like an occasional beer, or glass of wine.

And there are more than 1.2-million Albertans who've enjoyed it.

Make that 1.2-million criminals.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart