Taken from the National Post:
Canadian doctors want marijuana decriminalized
Brief to Senate committee
Peter Redman, National Post
Dr. Henry Haddad says the medical association supports a fine for simple possession or personal use of marijuana.
Simple possession and personal use of marijuana should be removed from the Criminal Code and instead be punishable only by a fine, concludes a medical organization representing 52,000 doctors in Canada.
In a brief to a special Senate committee on illegal drugs, the Canadian Medical Association added decriminalization of marijuana "must be done so with the recognition that cannabis is an addictive substance and that addiction is a disease."
"The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combatting simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth," Dr. Henry Haddad, the association's president, told the panel.
He said having a criminal record limits employment prospects, resulting in a profound impact on health status. "Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative," he added.
But he also said changes to the law affecting cannabis "must not promote normalization of its use, and must be tied to a national drug strategy that promotes awareness and prevention, and provides for comprehensive treatment."
The strategy, to include a National Cannabis Cessation Program, should be developed by the federal government with the provinces, he said. It would highlight the potential harm of cannabis use, including risk to pregnancy and people with mental illness as well as chronic respiratory problems, slower reaction times and impaired motor co-ordination. It would also examine increased heart rates and dilated blood vessels, two symptoms of cardiac disease.
The rate of cannabis offences has increased 34% since 1991, with cannabis possession rates generally steadily increasing, the CMA brief notes. About 86% of those charged with cannabis offences are younger than 25.
Of the 66,500 drug incidents in Canada in 1997, more than 70%, or 47,908, were cannabis-related. Of those, more than two-thirds, or 32,682, were for possession. About 2,000 Canadians go to jail annually for possession of marijuana, the medical brief states.
Dr. Haddad told the Senate committee the vast majority of financial resources are now dedicated to combating illegal drugs by law enforcement. "Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention and harm-reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs," he said.
Drug use among teenagers is on the rise, the CMA submission also states. It points to recent results from the 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey. The research found more than 29% of students in Grades 7-11 used cannabis, compared to less than 12% in 1991. It also noted other illegal drug use by students, including ecstasy, PCP, hallucinogens and cocaine.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine pushed for the decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs, as long as it was accompanied with government control over drug protection and distribution.
"Drug possession for personal use must be decriminalized and distinguished from the trafficking or illegal sale and distribution of drugs to others that must carry appropriate criminal sanctions," said Dr. William Campbell, the society's national president.
The CMA brief notes in U.S. states such as California where cannabis has been decriminalized, marijuana use has decreased.
"The issue is therefore whether there are less coercive ways to discourage its use," the brief states.
A coupe of things:
And either I didn't know California had decriminalized, or my weed-addled memory forgot it - good for them!
Its a start, though its still being treated as a dangerous addictive substance who's use should "not be normalized", while one can still walk into any liquor store and purchase a "Texas Mickey" of Canadian Club whiskey, which is enough to either get 10 people shitfaced, 5 people killed or 3 horses comatosed...........