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Marijuana in Canada

Is that the new maple leaf? /Image: Mark Blinch
Is that the new maple leaf? /Image: Mark Blinch

Controversy still remains on the use of marijuana

Article: Bryn Hadubiak – Contributor

Should marijuana be legalized? Opinions remain diverse among students at the University of Regina following the introduction of Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s policy of marijuana legalization, and new medical cannabis regulations from Health Canada.

Ian Mousseau, a second year student at the university, has no problem with the medical use of cannabis, and doesn’t believe marijuana has as negative an impact as other drugs.

“All (legalizing) it is going to do is allow the government to tax it,” says Mousseau, “Decriminalization would be great. The amount of people being arrested just for possession is ridiculous,” he said.

According to Stats Canada, police-reported charges of cannabis possession reached a peak in 2007, where among the 100,000 incidents reported, 62 per cent involved cannabis, and of those, three-quarters were for possession. Despite these statistics, the Harper government shows little interest in decriminalization, let alone legalization. Justin Trudeau’s admission of trying marijuana since his election as a Member of Parliament didn’t score any points with the Prime Minister. “Obviously, I think Mr. Trudeau’s actions display poor judgement,” Harper said to the media last week. “Our priority as a government is not encouraging the spread of drugs, it is encouraging job creation in this country.”

The feelings of Melanie Klöcker, a student from Germany, and her friend Debora Warkentin on marijuana use are mixed. Both feel that regardless of what the government does to control it, people will still find a way to obtain the substance. Quality control is an issue for Warkentin, “[Marijuana is] kind of like a gateway drug. I’d be afraid someone might mix in things like cocaine,” she says. Klöcker agrees, and feels there should be some form of regulation if cannabis ever becomes legalized. In regards to Trudeau’s recent announcement, however, she is wary.

“I don’t like it. It feels like the politicians are using [marijuana legalization] to influence younger voters.”

Starting on Apr. 1, 2014, Health Canada’s new regulations for medical marijuana will take effect, requiring patients to fulfill their prescriptions strictly through growers licensed by the government. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan’s (CPSS) Doug Spitzig sees this as a positive move, but feels Health Canada isn’t doing enough. Spitzig is the Pharmacist Manager of the prescription review program at the CPSS.

“We get anecdotal reports from people who are using marijuana as medication that say it decreases their opioid use, but we don’t know precisely the harm it might bring. Health Canada doesn’t monitor them, and there just isn’t a lot of good medical literature available,” Spitzig said.

Under the new regulations, patients will no longer be allowed to maintain their own grow-ops. According to Spitzig, the purity of the cannabis grown in home-based operations is always in question, and mould can become a significant health problem if not carefully monitored. Dosage is also a concern. Typically, herb based products are put into tablet form, allowing their dosage to be controlled by a physician, but with marijuana leaves, there’s no consistency. Marijuana isn’t as life threatening as some other drugs, Spitzig says, but without sufficient study and regulation, potentially harmful effects may remain unknown.

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