Canada: Parliament’s Scathing Report on Pot’s ‘Harm’

Members of the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Health issued a 24-page report this week focusing on “marijuana’s health risks and harms.”

Among the alleged harms highlighted by the Committee:

“[C]ognitive impairment from acute marijuana use can affect a person up to a month after using the drug.”

“[S]tudies have shown that marijuana use can create the risk for the development of anxiety and mood disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts.”

“[T]he percentage of individuals who experience problematic use of the substance during the course of their lifetime is high at 40 percent.”

“[S]tudies have shown that driving within one to two hours of acute cannabis use increases the risk of car crashes two-fold. In particular, cannabis use during this period is associated with more severe crashes involving injury and death.”

“[T]he legal status of alcohol and tobacco does not prevent youth from gaining access to it, nor does it eliminate the black market for tobacco, where content remains unregulated.”

In response to their findings – many of which may be rebutted by a quick PubMed search like this or this – the Committee recommended, “The Government of Canada work with relevant stakeholders and experts to develop a campaign to raise public awareness and knowledge of the risks and harms associated with marijuana use.”

This conclusion was a far cry from those made a little over a decade ago by Canadian Senators. In 2002, members of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs issued<> a 600-page report that called on Parliament to amend federal law to allow for the regulated use, possession and distribution of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.

Unlike this week’s report, that inquiry concluded, “Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving.” Senators also rejected the notion that most consumers engage in problematic use, finding, “Most users are not at-risk users… and most experimenters stop using cannabis… Heavy use of cannabis can result in dependence requiring treatment; however, dependence caused by cannabis is less severe and less frequent than dependence on other psychotropic substances, including alcohol and tobacco.”

Finally, rather than calling for more federally sanctioned reefer propaganda, Senators in 2002 demanded instead a radical change in Canada’s drug policy. “We believe… that the continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians much more than does the substance itself or the regulated marketing of the substance,” their report concluded. “In addition, we believe that the continued criminalization of cannabis undermines the fundamental values set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. … A look at trends in cannabis use, both among adults and young people, forces us to admit that current policies are ineffective.”

Predictably, Parliament promptly dismissed the 2002 recommendations. But a similar rejection of Parliament’s latest inquiry is unlikely to be in the cards. Earlier this week, Health Canada launched a $7.5 million ad campaign on television and online warning: that pot use can “decrease IQ” and cause “hallucinations or delusions.”

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