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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Health Officer Joins Call To Decriminalize Pot
Title:CN BC: Health Officer Joins Call To Decriminalize Pot
Published On:2012-01-17
Source:Trail Daily Times (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-20 06:01:31

The smoke is beginning to clear on cannabis prohibition and it's
obvious the government's war on drugs is failing, says the Interior
Health Authority's medical health officer.

Dr. Andrew Larder and other members of the Health Officers' Council
of BC lent their support to the most recent Stop the Violence report
- - released Dec. 22 - which provided evidence that, despite big
increases in the money spent on drug law enforcement, the prevalence
of cannabis use in particular has increased.

"The reason there was unanimous support for this report was that it
really aligns very well with the position and the discussion that we
as the health officer council have been having for a number of years," he said.

The council - which includes all medical health officers throughout
the province as well as physicians, researchers and consultants -
says it is not asserting marijuana is safe, but that policy as it
stands puts the public at even greater risk.

The public is wary of the dangers of drinking and driving, he added,
but there's very little knowledge or research around using pot and
driving for the same reason.

"It's clear prohibition isn't working," he said.

The price of marijuana is lower, there is greater potency and wider
usage, and there is increased gang violence related to the provision
and selling of drugs in general, said Dr. Larder.

Arrests and cannabis seizures jumped when anti-drug funding
increased, according to the report, but none of the other anticipated
impacts materialized and, in fact, cannabis use rose.

The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey showed 27 per
cent of B.C. youth between 15 and 24 smoked marijuana at least once
in the previous year. Since 2007, most of the $260 million in federal
funding against drugs has been allocated to policing. Between 1990 to
2009, arrests have increased by 70 per cent.

The report from the Stop the Violence BC coalition - a group of
former Vancouver mayors, former B.C. Supreme Court justice Ross
Lander and B.C.'s former chief coroner Vince Cain - said instead of
criminalizing pot, Ottawa should regulate and tax it.

However, for the time being the federal justice minister stands by
the decision not to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

In Ottawa on Sunday, federal Liberal delegates at a three-day party
convention added their voice to the issue by endorsing a non-binding
recommendation the party support legalizing marijuana use and
regulate its distribution.

Amongst the B.C. population over the age of 15, 79 per cent drink
alcohol, 15 per cent use tobacco, 17 per cent use cannabis while four
per cent use other illegal substances.

The numbers change dramatically when the potential harm associated
with the substances is considered, said Dr. Larder. Tobacco accounts
for 17 per cent of all deaths in the population, alcohol accounts for
four per cent, while all illegal drug use accounts for .8 per cent.

For hospital stays (number of days in acute care facilities), 10 per
cent of the stays are due to tobacco use, seven per cent are related
to alcohol and 1.6 per cent are due to illegal drugs.

"You should take into account the magnitude of the harm caused by
these substances, when you determine the precise measures you take
when you regulate them," Dr. Larder concluded.
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