As a teenager, Dom Cramer's anti-drug attitudes would have made any parent proud. He bought into the "Just Say No" government campaigns and the warnings from the police who visited his high school that marijuana was a surefire gateway to more hardcore drugs.
Today, Cramer owns the Toronto Hemp Company, a Yonge Street store that sells everything from hemp soaps and lip balms to rolling machines and "defunk smell remover spray." Cramer, now 30, began smoking pot in university, after he stopped believing "all the lies I was taught in high school." He smokes marijuana frequently, although says he can go for weeks or months without it.

Cramer calls cannabis the ideal "social lubricant -- something to do instead of drinking alcohol, something to share with people and bond people." The drug also "helps take your mind off things, it helps you relax."

Even experts believe cannabis can have positive health and physiological effects, and groups such as Canadians for Safe Access argue that the health repercussions of recreational marijuana use would never come close to matching the harm done by cigarettes or alcohol.

The debate over the health impact of marijuana took on renewed significance when the Liberal government introduced Bill C-10 in the House of Commons last month.

The bill would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possession of up to 15 grams of pot and up to three marijuana plants would be punishable under the new law by fines of between $100 and $500.

According to the 2002 special Senate committee report on illegal drug use, close to 30 per cent of the Canadian population aged 12 to 64 has used cannabis at least once.

About two million Canadians aged 18 and older have used cannabis sometime during the past 12 months, 600,000 have used the drug in the past 30 days, and approximately 10,000 use it daily.

(The committee sharply criticized health officials for failing to monitor pot use, saying knowledge of patterns of cannabis use in Canada "verges on the abysmal." They relied on epidemiological data from two surveys, in 1989 and 1994, to estimate marijuana use.)

Complete Title: Marijuana's Health Risks Outweigh Any Benefits, Experts Say: Small Margin Between Good, Bad Effects

Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Author: Sharon Kirkey, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, March 06, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Edmonton Journal