Medical Journal: Decriminalize Marijuana Use

  Medical Journal: Decriminalize Marijuana Use

Posted by FoM on May 15, 2001 at 10:39:04 PT
By Sharon Kirkey 
Source: National Post 

Possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should merit the equivalent of a traffic ticket, not a criminal record, says Canada's leading medical journal. Calling for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use, the Canadian Medical Association Journal argues in an editorial published today that the current law that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana illegal can make an aspiring medical career "go up in a puff of smoke." The CMAJ says the 1.5 million Canadians who smoke marijuana can attest to the drug's "minimal negative" health risks when used in moderation.
Half of all drug arrests in Canada are for possession of small amounts of marijuana, the journal notes, often leading to fines or jail terms "and that indelible social tattoo: a criminal record."This means that for anyone who's ever been caught with a stash in his or her pocket, the question 'Have you ever had a criminal conviction?' during a job application or medical school interview can force higher aspirations to go up in a puff of smoke."Last month, the federal government released proposed new regulations for the medicinal use of marijuana that would create three categories of patients, with different rules for each. The new regulations should be in place by July 31."We decided that the solution is perhaps not so much to devise elaborate recommendations for medicinal use but decriminalize possession," Dr. John Hoey, editor of the CMAJ, said in an interview yesterday."That would allow more patients to use it as they saw fit. That would also relieve major problems for a lot of Canadians who are using small amounts of marijuana for recreational use."Of the drugs people use for their "psychoactive" effects, Dr. Hoey says, marijuana appears to be among the least harmful. The journal notes there have been no reports of fatal marijuana overdoses and that the risk of lung cancer or the "very weak and perhaps non-existent risk of addiction are mostly irrelevant" to people who smoke marijuana to relieve the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses.While there is some concern smoking marijuana can lead people to other drugs, "there's not a lot of evidence that using marijuana for recreational purposes is terribly harmful," Dr. Hoey said."There is some harm from inhaling the smoke. But I don't think people are smoking a pack of marijuana cigarettes a day, or there are very few people consuming that kind of amounts that cause various diseases related to smoking."The greater damage, the journal says, comes from the "legal and social fallout" from the current law prohibiting possession.An estimated 600,000 Canadians have criminal records for marijuana possession. In 1998 alone, 19,200 adults and youths were charged for having marijuana.Even though the court system rarely imprisons those caught using the drug, people can end up in jail, Dr. Hoey said."That experience itself, in addition to not being pleasant, can put you in contact with a lot of other people who are there for more serious offences and probably has a detrimental effect beyond just spending time in jail."The journal stressed that decriminalizing marijuana for personal use "does not mean making marijuana 'legal' or letting it be sold in every school yard."But if possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized, "presumably someone could write a law that made some sense and relieved police officers from having to prosecute someone every time they smell marijuana," Dr. Hoey said.The journal is the latest group to call for decriminalization of the drug; the Canadian Medical Association has for years advocated a more liberal approach to medicinal use of marijuana. A special Senate committee has started a two-year inquiry into Canada's drug policy.Title: Decriminalize Marijuana Use : Medical JournalEditorial: 1.5 million smoke up: 'Legal and social fallout' worse than health risks.Source: National Post (Canada) Author: Sharon KirkeyPublished: May 15, 2001Copyright: 2001 Southam Inc. Contact: letters Website: Related Articles & Web Sites:Canadian Medical Association Medical Association Journal Relaxed on Medicinal Marijuana Unveils Rules for Medical Use of Pot Boost for Medical Marijuana 

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Comment #2 posted by Charlie on May 15, 2001 at 19:37:07 PT
Oh Cannada...
I thank you for your insightfulness.
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Comment #1 posted by wades on May 15, 2001 at 19:17:13 PT:
Clever people, these Canadians
Suppose the Journal of the American Medical Association printed an editorial like this. Would you take that as an omen that cannabis prohibition was about to end in the US?I wonder how Uncle Sam will like it when American tourists can go to Vancouver and score a couple of grams of sinsemilla at a coffee house. I'd like to see that.
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