The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs released a discussion paper on pot last week, and in the process exploded many of the marijuana myths that have kept policy-makers in a fog when it comes to decriminalization. Will it help cure the Grits of their reefer madness? Here's an excerpt. everyone has opinions on canna-bis. Yet opinions are often biased, based on myths and lack of information. Indeed, some of our own opinions were just that when we began our study.Cannabis may well be one of the most studied of all plants. Yet even scientific evidence is contradictory.
Some of the conclusions that emerge from the research may shock some of you.
Studies indicate that the vast majority of cannabis smokers never progress to other drugs.
While it is true that most users of hard drugs have also used cannabis before these other drugs..., other factors, mainly psychosocial, would better explain progression to other drugs.
Between 8 and 10 per cent of cannabis users may develop some psychological dependency, a much smaller proportion than for many other drugs, illegal and legal, and comparable to prescribed medications.
For most dependent users, stopping use for a few days is usually sufficient to eliminate any symptom of addiction.
Cannabis, like any other drug, has potential negative health effects. But (it) also has positive effects. These include relaxation, euphoria and sociability. Cannabis also has therapeutic applications.
Many of us perceive that a significant proportion of ordinary criminality is related to drugs. Nevertheless, the relationship between drugs and crime is more complex. This relationship does not apply in the case of cannabis.
It is impossible to estimate the total costs of cannabis criminalization. The most recent Auditor General's Report mentions that the annual cost of fighting illegal drugs for federal agencies alone is over $500 million.
Cannabis, like other drugs, impairs motor and coordination abilities.
Drivers under the influence of cannabis are more cautious and less aggressive and drive more slowly than drivers under the influence of alcohol.
Some witnesses before the committee and individuals writing to us are concerned that a more "liberal" drug policy would mean increased use, especially by youth.
Studies show that in the Netherlands, despite a more liberal approach than other countries', the proportion of youth using cannabis is not higher. In fact, it is in the middle of the pack.
Does cannabis use affect academic performance or social abilities? Studies indicate that problem young cannabis users are also problem alcohol users, manifesting other "risk-taking" behaviour. These are therefore symptoms of other underlying problems rather than causes.
Much to our surprise, public policies have little impact on use levels and patterns.
Prohibition and criminalization entail a criminal record for simple cannabis possession, fuel a black market that brings young people into contact with criminal elements and force them to hide to avoid police scrutiny.
Public policies also entail other negative effects. Prohibition makes public health approaches, balanced information, prevention and quality control of substances difficult, if not impossible.
National policies on drugs find much of their legitimacy in the international conventions and treaties.
Yet these international agreements evolved in the absence of any significant drug problem in the developed countries that pushed them.