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Marijuana Use Makes Case For Decriminalization

Lord Mong

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A new study shows Canadians surpass Americans and even the Dutch when it comes to trying marijuana, but drug policy experts say it's not a cause for concern.

The UN's 2007 World Drug Report found 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 used pot in 2004 - the highest rate among developed nations. The report studied the prevalence of marijuana use in 2005 or the latest year for which data were available.

By comparison, 12.6 per cent of American respondents said they have tried pot. Britain (8.7), France (8.6), Germany (6.9), and especially Japan (0.1) all reported much lower rates than Canada.

But Benedikt Fischer, a drug policy expert with the University of Victoria, said the UN report is flawed since it didn't examine patterns of use.

"From a public health point of view or consequence point of view, these numbers are fairly meaningless," Fischer said.

"We want to know how many of those people use marijuana in a highly frequent way, how many of them have problems related to marijuana use and, thirdly, what are the social harms?"

Fischer added that the numbers aren't surprising, and haven't changed much from previous studies.

York University law professor Alan Young, who launched a constitutional challenge to Canada's marijuana laws in 1997, said the UN findings could have been distorted by the willingness of Canadians to openly discuss their drug use.

"We have magazines that celebrate cannabis culture in this country, we have conventions and conferences and rallies and concerts," he said.

"It's become a large part of youth culture in Canada, and more importantly, 50 per cent of marijuana smokers are over the age of 30. So it's really gone to all age groups, all class groups. There's no question about it that there is less stigma in Canada."

Young said the report's finding that pot use among Ontario high school students dropped from 30.3 per cent in 2003 to 24.4 per cent in 2005 is simply a "blip" in a larger trend of increasing rates of use.

"The one thing that remains constant is Canadian young people are consuming marijuana at a rate much higher than anywhere else in the western world," he said.

Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa-based lawyer who specializes in drug policy issues, said the UN report shows that the legal status of marijuana in a given country seems to have little bearing on consumption rates.

The report found that only 6.1 per cent of people in the Netherlands, where marijuana use has effectively been decriminalized, reported trying pot.

This shows decriminalization has no bearing on rates of use, and Canada shouldn't be so afraid to follow the Dutch lead, Oscapella said.

"The criminal law does not prevent people from using marijuana, nor does legalization force people to use it," he said.

Jean Chretien's Liberals first introduced a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in 2003, but it was never brought to a final vote. Stephen Harper's Conservatives killed the bill when they came to office in January 2006.

Oscapella added that Canada should be focusing its resources on the root causes of drug abuse, rather than persecuting people for possession.

"It is a health and a social issue," he said. "The criminal law is not the appropriate mechanism for dealing with drugs in the vast majority of cases."

The four countries that ranked ahead of Canada for marijuana use were Papua New Guinea (29.5 per cent), Micronesia (29.1), Ghana (21.5) and Zambia (17.7).

Canadians reported relatively low rates of use for harder drugs such as amphetamines and ecstasy.

News Hawk - Lord Mong https://www.420magazine.com
Source: CTA CA
Author: Canadian Press
Contact: newsonline@ctv.ca
Copyright: © 2007 CTA.CA All Rights Reserved
Website: CTV.ca | Marijuana use makes case for decriminalization
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