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Published on October 9th, 2014 | from CAMH

Legalizing Marijuana : One Mother’s Perspective

Photo courtesy of 'drivebysh00ter' on Flickr

Photo courtesy of ‘drivebysh00ter’ on Flickr

A mother and supporter of the CAMH Foundation talks about her son’s experience with cannabis, and why she supports the recently-released CAMH Cannabis Policy Framework.

When I tell people that marijuana has ruined my son’s life but I think that it should be legalized, they are surprised. I understand that. It is a conclusion I reached only after much research and thought.

Ease of Access

My son started using marijuana when he was 13 years old. He bought it from another student at his high school, and from a neighbour’s teenage son. It simply could not be easier for teenagers to get marijuana than it is today. There are no restrictions and dealers do not ask for ID. By 14 my son was addicted and selling to his schoolmates and friends.

Keeping marijuana illegal does not keep it out of the hands of our youth. Instead, it provides them with a financial incentive to sell it to their friends. For those who are addicted, it provides them with the financial means to fund their addiction.

Harm Reduction

If we accept that we will never be able to completely stop marijuana use, then the only question becomes who do we want to control its distribution? The government or criminals? Legalization with regulation allows the government to:

  • make it more difficult for teenagers to obtain;
  • keep users safer by ensuring that:
    • marijuana is not laced with other drugs; and
    • restricting the maximum amount of THC it contains.

As long as marijuana is sold in an illegal market, the government has no control. Taxing it will take money out of the hands of drug cartels and give it to the government where it could be used to fund the treatment of substance use disorder and educate the public about the harms of use.

Exposure to the Criminal Element

When you checkout at the LCBO, they don’t offer to throw in some crack, MDMA, or meth, nor are you offered free samples. Teens who supply their classmates and friends with marijuana are exposed to criminals who want nothing more than to increase their sales of marijuana and other more dangerous illegal drugs.

The Burden of a Criminal Record

The vast majority of adults and youth who use marijuana will not become addicted to it. They are not a danger to themselves or others. How can we justify giving them a criminal record? To what end? A criminal conviction has major lifelong consequences for employment and travel which are grossly disproportional to the harm of smoking marijuana.

Much has been written about the importance of eliminating the stigma associated with mental health and addiction. The best way to do this with respect to addiction is to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all illegal drugs. It is wrong to criminalize anyone, particularly a teenager, for substance use disorder.

By analogy, prior to 1972 it was illegal in Canada to attempt suicide. Fortunately, we figured out that depression is a public health issue, not a criminal one. Many health professionals are now advocating the same approach to substance use disorder.

I look forward to the day when we can say, “Remember when we used to criminalize people with substance use disorder, instead of treating them?”

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6 Responses to Legalizing Marijuana : One Mother’s Perspective

  1. Stephen Kish says:

    This mother of a cannabis user mentioned above recognizes, as suggested by one of our own research investigations at CAMH, that cannabis can cause harm to those who use the drug.

    Yet she says “if we accept that we will never be able to completely stop marijuana use, then the only question becomes who do we want to control its distribution?”

    CAMH has made a reasoned and courageous recommendation by calling for a policy that includes legalization, regulation, and prevention.

    • Canadian Taxpayer says:

      Let’s get past the desire for anecdotal stories from anonymous mothers and seriously discuss this issue. This issue is likely to be of some concern to all Canadian voters, with the upcoming federal elections, and should definitely be of concern to all Canadian taxpayers. Let’s not get into arguments over whether marijuana is good, bad or ugly. This anonymous mother is right in accepting that “we will never be able to completely stop marijuana use”. Yet as another commentator has rightly stated below, that is true for numerous illegal substances. Thus, as Canadian taxpayers, we should focus on the total economic costs of illegal drug use and how any proposed policies will decrease said costs. The policy framework CAMH has just released is woefully lacking in providing estimates of the economic cost-reductions associated with their proposed approaches vs. those they have rejected (prohibition, decriminalization, legalization without strict regulation). Before being called a “reasoned and courageous” recommendation, the CAMH policy-framework needs much more work to clearly present the case for, not only the estimated reductions in health and social harms, but also estimates of total economic cost-reduction and how said policy will be assessed post-implementation to determine its success. With that type of analysis presented in their policy framework, and after giving it time to be critically reviewed, I would be happy to support (with my vote and tax dollars) such a policy recommendation.

  2. Sebastian says:

    You have to be joking… the government is a criminal!! People need to wake up.
    Who gets addicted to pot? unlucky, there is a 9% addiction rate. Unless they a mental illness like depression which may make them crave it to feel better, but the same could be done with alcohol.

    I think we need realise that alcohol is the real killer, and destruction of Society. Yet it is advertised and accepted everywhere!! But no, if we put a fancy label around a bottle full of poison its ok..

    And since when has the government cared about your health? Look at tobacco, alcohol, and dozens of dangerous prescription drugs!

  3. This mother, thankfully, has begun her ascent out of the clutches of “reefer madness.” However, she, like nearly all other enthusiastic authoritarians, cannot make the jump to understanding that every argument against prohibition applies even more so to substances which are more unpopular than cannabis. When societies cede control of ANY drug to black market forces, they are saying okay to the violence, access by youth, and loss of our most basic civil rights that prohibition always engenders.

    Controlling governments make the mistake of thinking that oppressive laws will decrease usage, yet numerous studies have shown this to be untrue. The Portugal experience, over ten years old, seems to be totally ignored by those whose business it is to be knowledgeable about such matters. There is no correlation between drug usage rates in societies and the viciousness that authorities employ hoping to deter such use.

    But the decades-long hysterical propaganda instilling fear into the average lawmaker and citizen alike, make it a good bet that we’ll need another Viet Nam’s worth of casualties before we are able to throw off the yoke of such shallow thinking.

    • CAMH says:

      Thanks for your comments, James. We reached out to the author of the blog and her response is as follows:

      “I am the author of the blog. Actually, I am advocating for a public health approach with respect to all illegal substances, not just marijuana, as set out in the two papers at the end of my blog.”

  4. THC Wiki says:

    I think camhblog is a very helpful blog for about knowing Legalized marijuana. thanks for this post and your blog share with us.

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