Forget The Marijuana Scare Stories

  Forget The Marijuana Scare Stories

Posted by FoM on August 10, 2000 at 14:50:17 PT
By Catherine Mitchell 
Source: Winnipeg Free Press  

"The ordinary citizen, seeing the assertions implied by the law frequently belied by pharmacological fact or the effects that he himself experiences in the use of drugs, has long since ceased to look for a relationship between the harmfulness of a substance and its classification under criminal law. In this domain, it must be said that the criminal law is thoroughly outdated and outworn." 
Marie-Andree Bertrand,Le Dain Commission 1973.In 1973, the Le Dain commission found that little was known of the harmful uses of cannabis. It also recommended that possession of cannabis be decriminalized.In 1978, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau was on-side, promising legislation that would do just that. But then Joe Clark became prime minister and the issue all but disappeared from the radar screen. Over the years, with little movement politically to make marijuana possession and use legal, judges regularly granted discharges or a conditional sentence for simple possession. Police chiefs have called upon Ottawa to decriminalize possession, allowing fines to replace criminal charges.Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal warned it would stop enforcing the marijuana law if the federal government didn't move faster to make pot more available for medical purposes.In the absence of clear political will, Canadians are watching law enforcers take the matter into their own hands, reflecting polls that continue to show upwards of 30 per cent of the population lights up and the majority support decriminalizing.In effect, Canadians have landed in a spot where the law of the land is not supported by the courts, police, public opinion or science. Even Stockwell Day has used pot. What good does this law serve? And when my kids ask me what's wrong with smoking pot, what should I say? Marijuana has been used for 1,000 years by various societies and is not addictive, as are tobacco and alcohol, says pharmacologist Wayne Lautt. While there can be a claim that using this drug, like many other activities, can become psychologically addictive, real physiological dependence is demonstrated by identifiable withdrawal symptoms, which is not the case with pot. In fact, the University of Manitoba professor says there is no scientific evidence that using marijuana does any of the things teenagers are warned about when the age of experimentation arises -- that it kills brain cells, lowers testosterone levels in males, depresses immune systems. All myths, says Lautt, and fodder for scaremongers. It's accomplished little, he notes, except, as Marie-Andree Bertrand so succinctly stated almost 30 years ago, to instil suspicion and cynicism in generation after generation of young adults who learn, by their own experience, not to trust what government and various agencies present as fact.In 1972, the Le Dain commission said it appeared colds were soothed by marijuana use. Today, marijuana use is allowed, by exemption, for medical purposes. It has been demonstrated, although not scientifically, that those suffering from painful conditions, the ill effects of chemotherapy and other ailments find relief using the drug. And, now in the wake of the Ontario appeal court decision, Torontonian Terry Parker can continue using marijuana to control his epilepsy. Ottawa has a year to revise the law to include such a provision or marijuana use will be legal in Ontario. Lautt, whose area of research centres on diabetes, has some experience, academically speaking, with marijuana. Immediately following the Le Dain commission's recommendations to decriminalize, the federal government put out a call for research on the effects of marijuana. Lautt says $1 million a year went into funding these studies, but only for proposals that looked to prove some negative effect, he notes. He was a part of a group at the University of Montreal that looked at the impact on metabolism through experiments on animals, a study Lautt says found no ill-effect and to his knowledge was never published.Lautt has followed the story of marijuana, legally and scientifically, with some interest -- it is his job as a scientist, he says, to know what are the concerns of the day and to be able to advise students and the public generally on the facts -- and has found no study of value that can point to ill effects from the drug. Most of the myths have been born of studies in which extreme amounts of the drug were used, with no reduction to levels approaching those useful for debate. Intuitively, it makes sense that those smoking marijuana are at risk of respiratory diseases, he says. On the other hand, there is lots of harm coming from the criminalization of marijuana. For decades, those interested in public policy have decried the criminal records slapped on young people for possessing pot. Lautt says there's that to be concerned about. But, more, he notes, is the fact the illegality of pot introduces kids to harder drugs because they are buying the stuff from pushers who have an interest in getting people hooked. People don't get hooked on pot, but they might be convinced to try other mind-altering substances, like heroin and cocaine, that can reel them in real quick.So, the question is, why can't we control pot the way alcohol is controlled. You don't want to hop into a taxi driven by a guy who has been imbibing all day. Tax it, issue health warnings, educate the youth about the real health implications. But that would require scientific proof, or at least a balancing of the probabilities.It would also mean parents and educators would have to present to kids clear arguments based on fact about the impact drugs can have on their lives and good reasons not to use, or at least abuse, them. And it would remove an easy opportunity for pariahs like pushers to introduce kids to really dangerous drugs. As it stands, I can only tell my kids to be wary of pot and beware the law.Catherine Mitchell is a Free Press editorial writer. Her column appears on Thursdays.Published: August 10, 2000Copyright: 2000 Winnipeg Free PressContact: letters freepress.mb.caAddress: 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba R2X 3B6Fax: (204) 697-7288Feedback: Articles:Legalizing Marijuana Reflects Today's Reality Marijuana A No-Brainer Law on Marijuana Strikes Down Marijuana Possession Law 

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Comment #14 posted by Tim Stone on August 11, 2000 at 18:06:05 PT
Back to Dr. Russo's comment...
Nice image, Canada invading the U.S. to restore "order." There does seem to be something unique to the "American" national psyche that lends itself to national moral binges like drug prohibition. I've long maintained that when international drug policy reform finally does come, the U.S. will be dragged kicking and screaming like a two-year old to the conference table. We can see this in the particularly petulant approach the Fed gov't has taken to medpot. Funny quote, and please excuse if you've already hear this. It's unattributed, other than from an Australian journalist, speaking about Americans during his coverage of the late impeachment unpleasantness:"Thank God they [Americans] got the Puritans and we got the convicts."
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on August 11, 2000 at 15:57:57 PT
This is where they went
Hi fivepounder,What happened is freedom fighter thought he made a mistake and I said I would delete it. He said fine and I did. I have mentioned it before. I don't censor here. I try to fix things but that's all. I know dddd saw similar missing posts and I told him in that thread just about the same thing. I can fix editing mistakes I make sometimes now but not all the time. I am very cautious when trying to fix something for fear I might make it worse which I have done before unfortunately.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #12 posted by fivepounder on August 11, 2000 at 15:37:24 PT
lost comments
What happened to comments 8,9, and 10?
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Comment #11 posted by fivepounder on August 11, 2000 at 15:36:01 PT
we will win
We are going to win this war. No doubt. Their own actions are going to sink prohibition eventually. Their severe reaction to even the smallest change i.e. mmj, is slowly turning people against them. The last time there was this kind of push was the late 70's. This time the issue is much broader, and their readction is more severe. They will fight tooth and nail to the end because they all have their snouts to the trough and they want to keep us all down and keep on sucking up the resources of the country. This time we will win.
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Comment #7 posted by freedom fighter on August 11, 2000 at 09:19:39 PT


  least the cop said,"never, *I hope*"..By saying this, he sounds not so sure of himself.We can and we will win this War!
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on August 11, 2000 at 09:05:48 PT

Hiya Hempity!

Hiya Hempity! Good to see you! You all are doing great things up there in the great north! Your country will help the US change its laws. Your country is so very important to what is going to happen for all of us if we just keep the faith! I know you know that!Peace, FoM!
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Comment #5 posted by hempity on August 11, 2000 at 07:55:55 PT


Hiya All,Couldn't help but overhear the comment about Canada invading the US. I wish it were possible to kill ignorance by force, because I would be in the front lines to do it.Ignorance is our only enemy, it will defend itself to the death and beyond, and cannot be killed by violence.We need to come together under one plant, the cannabis plant, no more can we let the powers to be sepratate into groups of "stoners", "farmers", "Medicinal advocates", "Recreationalist", or any other group that takes from the whole.This is one plant, we need to get together on this, that is what Canada is doing, and it is working."Ego's into energy", don't matter who does it, right?Mitaoyate,hempity
Canadian Cannabis Coalition
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Comment #4 posted by greenfox on August 11, 2000 at 07:27:41 PT:

Not to be the party pooper...

'It'll probably take something more dramatic than a simple expression of common sense to override 8 decades of insanity. But our day is coming, folks. Hang in there!'Heya Kap, I enjoy reading the splendor of your experience. In fact, when I come on this forum, I sort of focus on the things you, Observer, dddd, and FoM says. To be honest, however, I truly focus on Observers' and your comments; they are stimulating because they usually have historical context. HOWEVER (there's always a catch, right?) :) I'm sort of the "Pessimist" at heart. I'd like to know, in all honesty, why you think we can and will win, and an estimated window of how long you think it will take. OBSERVER: if you're out there reading this, I wouldn't mind your input as well. Now don't get me wrong, I am all for the movement. I have done some pretty pro-active things along the lines of cannabis law breaking, (and not just smoking a joint,) so I would definately benefit from any changes in our silly laws. However, just yesterday for example, i was at my friend's place of work, (a gas station,) and a cop came in. I asked him when/if he thought it would be legal, and he replied ever so casually, "never I hope". And that's just the thing that sort of makes me doubt- severely - that there will be any change. There are just too many of "THEM" and not enough of "US". We're outnumbered, damnit, and it's just plain silly.Oh well, any and all candor is appreciated.Sly in green, foxy in kind. ^o.o^-=greenˇf0x=-
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on August 11, 2000 at 05:22:08 PT:

At the risk of sounding like a chauvanist,

we need to clean our *own* house of the DrugWarrior mess-on-the-rug. Because so long as there is any vestige of this nastiness in existence, no nation is safe. No matter how tempting, emigration is not going to be an answer. Yes, the Canucks are to be congratulated for showing the spine and the sensibility that is so evidently lacking amongst our pols. From what I can tell (from reading the LTE's at the various websites of major papers up there) the sentiment is very strong among the majority of the Canadian electorate to scrap the laws by letting them die quietly. Their opposition was, as ever, easily identifiable. Those few souls who were briefly able to raise their knuckles from the ground long enough to hold a pen or tap a keyboard showed the standard paucity of ideas that is the hallmark of the anti. They merely repeated chapter, line and verse the dogma of their doppelgangers south of the 49th Parallel. Really sad.So, yes, things are looking up for cannabis reform. My friends here who have complained of feeling depressed should keep in mind the old adage about how dark it gets before dawn. Our dawn is coming. It will take longer than the astonishingly(!) quick turn of events Up North; 86 years of bureaucratic inertia can't be overturned by 3 sensible judges' pens. There's simply too many DrugWarrior careers at stake. It'll probably take something more dramatic than a simple expression of common sense to override 8 decades of insanity. But our day is coming, folks. Hang in there!
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Comment #2 posted by Dan B on August 10, 2000 at 22:28:19 PT:

Kudos to Dr. Russo (Again)

At the risk of sounding like a tape permamently looped to repeat the phrase, "Thank you, Dr. Russo," I have to say that it is refreshing to hear someone with your credentials speak out so strongly in opposition to the war-on-some-drugs-but-especially-marijuana (a.k.a., the race war in the name of drugs). I'd be right there with you, waving the white flag and saying "Come on in, Canada!" 
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 10, 2000 at 17:34:42 PT:

Canada the Great

I think it is time for Canada to invade the USA to wipe out idiocy. I am already preparing the white flag.   Why is it that so few, well-reasoned editorials such as this appear south of the border? The Great White North will need to lead the way on this issue. I hope we can catch up some decade.
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