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  Cannabis Controversy: Painkiller or Troublemaker?
Posted by CN Staff on March 29, 2003 at 08:40:16 PT
By Tracey Duguay 
Source: Northern Life 

cannabis The debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana continues to divide opinions of those directly impacted by cannabis use. This was quite evident at a recent roundtable discussion at the Elizabeth Fry Society office in Sudbury. Part of the problem is the overall complexity of the issues surrounding the legalization of a product millions of Canadians use.

There appears to be an abundance of conflicting information on one hand, and not enough knowledge on the other.

The meeting was organized in an attempt to stimulate debate, raise awareness and educate those in attendance about the topic of decriminalization.

Gerry Cooper, a manager with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, was supposed to debate the issue from the perspective of supporting legislative reform, but at the last minute, he wasn’t able to make it.

Instead, Cooper’s replacement, Barry Burkholder, made an emotional appeal for reforms to the regulations governing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Burkholder, who suffers from the affects of Hepatitis C, spinal damage and severe arthritis, received a one-year federal exemption in 2001 to cultivate and smoke pot, or “medicine sticks” as he calls it, to alleviate the chronic pain from his various illnesses.

Burkholder, a recovering addict who’s against recreational marijuana use, admits he has tried alcohol, prescription pills, cocaine and other measures to dull his physical pain, but he said his symptoms are better managed by cannabis than any other treatment.

“Alcohol is, for me, worse than marijuana,” said Burkholder, “but it’s more socially acceptable.”

After using at least 10 different prescriptions some of which were given to counteract the side-effects of other medication, and getting busted for drug possession and trafficking, Burkholder decided to fight in court for a legal exemption to smoke his medicine sticks.

It wasn’t an easy fight though. Burkholder said he lost his house because of legal costs.

“There’s no reason I had to lose $30,000 and my house over a plant” that grows naturally in so many countries and places around the world, said Burkholder.

His medical exemption has since expired and he said the federal government is making it harder to renew or obtain medicinal marijuana exemptions.

The red tape and paperwork continues to grow and many physicians won’t take the time to fill out the necessary paperwork or simply refuse to do so because they’re worried they may lose their medical license or insurance.

As well, Burkholder remains highly suspicious about “hand shaking” between the federal government and highly-influential pharmaceutical companies that stand to lose a lot of money if marijuana gets legalized or too many Canadians are granted medical exemptions.

He said the issue won’t get resolved until the pharmaceutical companies discover a way to harness THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in a pill or inhaler form. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

If those companies ever devised such a method, they would gain immense profits from the new medication, said Burkholder.

While Burkholder’s argument was moving and passionate, it wasn’t necessarily the right argument to counterbalance the next speaker, Const. Robert Brunette of the Greater Sudbury Police Service.

In a straightforward and rather uninspiring manner Brunette listed the reasons why marijuana shouldn’t be legalized.

Almost all of the reasons he listed were taken directly from Health Canada and Canadian Police Association websites.

In a nutshell, the argument against legalization falls into two main categories: health risks and the social message legalization would convey.

Brunette pointed to research indicating smoking marijuana is as dangerous for a person’s health as smoking cigarettes because it contains more tar and is addictive if mixed with tobacco.

He pointed to studies indicating smoking three to five joints a day is equivalent to inhaling 20 cigarettes.

Brunette said he doesn’t buy the argument legalizing marijuana will free up police resources.

Legalization would only increase demand, which would in turn increase supply.

And because the marijuana trade in Canada is heavily managed by organized crime, this might actually increase the workload for police.

The counter-argument to the point is the government would probably manage any supply and distribution network if pot was ever legalized.

Brunette said he also worried about the message being sent to children. Legalizing marijuana is counter-productive to a healthier lifestyle.

“Why would we want to legalize something that’s even worse [than cigarettes],” said Brunette. “We already have one bad problem, let’s not add another.”

He also pointed to statistics about the “gateway drug” theory which suggests young people who try pot will eventually experiment and get hooked on harder drugs.

“They’re 85 times more susceptible to using other drugs than those who didn’t.”

While both presenters gave valid arguments to justify their position, the debate broke down at times because the issue of medical use and legalization or decriminalization are two seperate issues.

The two overlap but don’t belong together. For example, if the laws were changed to legalize marijuana, medicinal users still couldn’t grow their own pot without an exemption.

For more information, visit: http://www.hc.sc.gc.ca -- Health Canada -- http://www.camh.net -- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health -- http://www.cfdp.ca -- Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy -- http://www.parl.gc.ca -- Parliament -- http://www.hempnation.com -- Hemp Nation -- & -- http://www.johnhoward.ca -- John Howard Society.

Just the Facts: Exemption Categories:

There are three categories of people who can apply for cannabis medical exemptions.

Category 1: People suffering from a terminal illness who are expected to die within a year.

Category 2: People suffering from severe symptoms of a serious medical condition like multiple sclerosis; spinal cord injury or disease; cancer; HIV/AIDS; arthritis; and epilepsy.

Category 3: People suffering from severe symptoms of a serious medical condition other than those contained in Category 2, where conventional treatments have failed.

Terms of Reference:

Marijuana (cannabis, pot, grass, weed, reefer, ganja, or joint) is the flowering tops and leaves of the cannabis plant. It’s usually smoked in pipes or in hand-rolled cigarettes.

Hashish (hash) is the dried, sticky resin of the cannabis plant. It’s sold in pieces and is crumbled and smoked in a pipe or in a hand-rolled cigarette with tobacco.

Oil (hash, honey or pot oil) is an extract of cannabis or hash. It can be spread onto a cigarette paper, rolled with tobacco and smoked or mixed with tobacco in a pipe.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active ingredient in cannabis.

Marinol, an appetite stimulant, is a synthetic form of THC used to treat the side effects of various medical conditions or diseases.

Policy Options:

Status quo: Leave the current laws and policies in place.

De Facto decriminalization: Instruct Crown to stop prosecuting cases of simple cannabis possession.

Decriminalization: Remove cannabis possession from the Controlled Substances and Drugs Act and place under the Contraventions Act as a minor ticketable offense.

Controlled legalization: Legalize production and consumption with strict controls and high taxes like alcohol and taxes.

7 per cent of population smoke pot

In 1923, Canada was one of the first countries to make possession of marijuana illegal.

The listing of cannabis as a prohibited substance is a mystery since there was no discussion in Parliament about making it one.

No person was charged with cannabis possession in Canada until 1937.

According to a drug use survey by the John Howard Society, seven per cent of population in Ontario used cannabis in the last year.

The use of cannabis among Grade 7 to 12 students is higher than tobacco (29.8 per cent vs. 23.6 per cent).

Around $400 million is spent annually by the criminal justice system on cannabis-related offenses.

Source: Northern Life (CN ON)
Author: Tracey Duguay
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Northern Life
Contact: lifeedit@northernlife.ca
Website: http://www.northernlife.ca/

Related Articles & Web Site:

Cannabis News Canadian Links
http://freedomtoexhale.com/can.htm

Marijuana Decriminalization Possible by Summer
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread15766.shtml

Canadian Government Looks at Ticketing Pot Users
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread15762.shtml

Committee Calls for Decriminalization of Cannabis
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread14957.shtml


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Comment #7 posted by afterburner on March 31, 2003 at 20:33:43 PT:

The "French" Connection:
Another part of the US-Canadian dynamic is that Canada is an officially bilingual country, English and FRENCH. Imagine how all the anti-French reaction in the US plays in Quebec, which at one point wanted to secede from Canada and possibly join the US. How welcome do you think they would feel if French fries must be called "freedom" fries now?

Quebec is also home of the Marijuana Party of Canada [Our mandate: End marijuana prohibition in Canada], founded by Marc-Boris St-Maurice http://www.marijuanaparty.org/home.html

ego destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #6 posted by freedom fighter on March 30, 2003 at 09:07:57 PT
Fruedian Slip?
Brunette pointed to research indicating smoking marijuana is as dangerous for a person’s health as smoking cigarettes because it contains more tar and is addictive if mixed with tobacco.

Do you mean to say that if Cannabis is NOT mixed with tobacco is not addictive?

Excuses after excuses, in 1973, you claimed smoking one joint will kill you. In 1983, you claimed one joint equals 200 cigarettes. In 1993, you claimed one joint equals 60 cigarettes. Today, 2003, you are claiming one joint equals 4 cigarettes.

It seemed to me the society will have bigger problems when half of the population somehow get criminal records sitting on their backs because they choose a certain smoke that a POLICEMAN who claimed it is a health risk.

I am pretty sure he does not know how many human beings he has already thrown in jails. And I am also very very certain that he cannot name me one soul that died from smoking cannabis. He probably will have to lie.

And lying is like second nature to him.

Sounds like to me that next time I get sick, I should just drive over to the POLICE dept. and ask for help. Of course, its' stupid and silly. Then why the hell there are cops who dressed up as doctors telling us how to live a life?

Just one human being sittin in a cage for growing or smoking cannabis is far more damaging to the society than the entire use of 5 thousand years of cannabis.

After all, the main "reason" for cannabis prohibition is to increase the cost of product and to increase the impurities of the product so that people may not consume it.

What so healthy about a policy that kills?

ff

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #5 posted by Kegan on March 30, 2003 at 03:33:16 PT
The smell
That smell!

That cannabis smell!

The whole HILL! It smelled like......... victory.

One day this war is gonna end.

-Kilgore from Apocalypse Now

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #4 posted by aocp on March 29, 2003 at 14:38:07 PT
organized crime
Legalization would only increase demand, which would in turn increase supply.

Perchance. It's at worst an upward slope with a plateau in sight.

And because the marijuana trade in Canada is heavily managed by organized crime, this might actually increase the workload for police.

Organized crime is in the business for the money. With legalization, their incentive for involvement is nullified. Must be the money...

The counter-argument to the point is the government would probably manage any supply and distribution network if pot was ever legalized.

You'd like to think so. In fact, i'd say that's a given, what with all the taxes to be gained and just a smidgen of pride left at being able to still involve their paws in the cannabis trade. So many out-of-work thugs, too ... ah, bliss...

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by afterburner on March 29, 2003 at 13:20:30 PT:

"Policy Options:"
Status quo: Leave the current laws and policies in place.

The Canadian courts will not allow this option because it forces medical cannabis buyers to obtain their supply from the black market.

De Facto decriminalization: Instruct Crown to stop prosecuting cases of simple cannabis possession.

This is also a bad option since it provides no consistency or guarantees that sanctions will not be re-activated in some unknown future time. I can't see the courts accepting this option since it still provides no legal access to medical cannabis for medical cannabis patients.

Decriminalization: Remove cannabis possession from the Controlled Substances and Drugs Act and place under the Contraventions Act as a minor ticketable offense.

This option, which seems to be a halting first step, seems to be the current favorite of hesitant politicians on both sides of the Medicine Line, has two problems. First, if only possession, and not cultivation, is decriminalized, then there is still no legal source of medical cannabis for medical cannabis patients. Second, the notion of fining sick people for using their medicine is morally repugnant. However, considering the fear and panic in some of the population due to the insidious propaganda of the prohibitionists and misguided UN treaties, this seems to be the most politically possible option currently.

Controlled legalization: Legalize production and consumption with strict controls and high taxes like alcohol and taxes.

This is what the Canadian Senate recommended because it is the only option that removes cannabis from the black market. Thereby, through government owned and/or sanctioned distribution, quality control can be established, tax revenue can be generated, and and the crime associated with the black market can be eliminated.

ego destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #2 posted by delariand on March 29, 2003 at 13:18:16 PT
Huh?
"Why would we want to legalize something that’s even worse [than cigarettes],” said Brunette. “We already have one bad problem, let’s not add another"

Worse than cigarretes? What rock have you been under? Unlike marijuana, tobacco is extremely addictive, has no positive effects whatsoever, and tastes like crap to boot ;)

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by Virgil on March 29, 2003 at 11:34:39 PT
The Supreme Court will settle it for you
There appears to be an abundance of conflicting information on one hand, and not enough knowledge on the other.

Canada started their 80 years of cannabis prohibition with almost no knowledge. Prohibition survives by hiding knowledge as in the findings of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs Report that said exactly that. On page 23 of this PDF file- http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/ille-e/rep-e/summary-e.pdf - it says When cannabis was introduced in the legislation on narcotics in 1923, there was no debate, no justification, in fact many members did not even know what cannabis was.

Prohibition started without knowledge. This article does not even mention the Special Senate Committee Report that says on page 12 of that PDF file - The goal of governance is freedom, and not control. Prohibitionist don’t want knowledge, much less truth. The reform community says “Let’s be honest on the issues of substance abuse.” That is our opening line and the first thing the prohibitionist do is go off on yet another idiocy. They start adding words and then maybe a twisting or two of their own words before they start in on their mixed message chant. Listening gets in the way of their chanting. God dammit, let’s get honest. It would help if the press did not repeatedly drown the issue in prohibitionist words that are completely not relevant to freedom and totally disregard honesty. Reformers cannot even get out “Let’s be honest” before the media drowns out premise before they start with endless blah blah blah blah blah.

It looks like the Canadian Supreme Court cannot back up any longer and will finally have to rule that cannabis prohibition violates The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just how difficult would it be to have to actually defend cannabis prohibition on an intellectual level? They cannot back up again. They cannot defend cannabis prohibition with intellectual corruption for decriminalization. The wall will fall and freedom will prevail in Canada.

I usually put vanilla ice cream in my coffee because it adds flavor along with cream and sugar and it will not spoil. Today I had some Canadian honey that still sells at Family Dollar for $1.50. It taste like freedom.



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