Substance-abuse centre calls for Canadian pot-policy review

Substance-abuse centre calls for Canadian pot-policy review

The Health Canada-funded Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse is calling for a broad review of marijuana policy, including a closer look at the impact of legalization south of the border in Colorado and Washington.The centre says there is “momentum for policy change” when it comes to marijuana and wants Ottawa to fund an independent study of the economic and social effects of potential reforms, including decriminalization and legalization.“What we’re doing is highlighting the need for evidence to inform the discussion on legislative change,” said Rebecca Jesseman, the centre’s lead researcher on marijuana policy.The centre’s recommendation is contained in one of more than 400 prebudget submissions from groups and individuals made public Tuesday by the House of Commons finance committee, which is expected to begin public hearings later this month on ideas for the 2015 budget. The centre is an arm’s-length organization created as an Act of Parliament in 1988 that receives nearly all of its $6.6-million in funding from Health Canada.The call for such a review comes as the regulation of marijuana is shaping up as a key point of debate in the run-up to the 2015 federal election. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is proposing full legalization of marijuana, and the governing Conservatives have strongly criticized that position via political advertising.Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has nonetheless left the door open to changes that would shift enforcement toward ticketing rather than criminal enforcement. Mr. MacKay told reporters last month in Vancouver that he was considering whether to introduce new legislation that would allow police to issue fines rather than lay charges for marijuana possession.A spokesperson for Mr. MacKay’s office declined comment on the centre’s specific request for a study, but provided a statement criticizing Mr. Trudeau’s proposal. “The Liberal Party wants to make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity for Canadians,” said press secretary Clarissa Lamb. “We, on the other hand, want to protect children and teens from the harmful effects of smoking pot on their health and development.”The NDP favours decriminalization, a move that would end criminal charges for possession but would stop short of full legalization. NDP MP Libby Davies noted the Conservative-controlled health committee is wrapping up a study titled “Marijuana’s health risks and harms,” which she said was clearly biased from the start.“All they’re interested in is setting the stage politically for their own ideological view on this issue,” she said. “It is high time to have some kind of objective, thoughtful, relevant policy discussion about the need for drug-policy reform, beginning with marijuana.”In addition to reviewing the policy aspects, the centre also recommends an awareness campaign on the health effects of marijuana use among young Canadians.The proposed review would look at a ticketing option proposed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police as well as international approaches, listing the Netherlands, Australia, Uruguay, Colorado and Washington as examples; the two U.S. states only began allowing legal sales on Jan. 1 of this year.Liberal MP Marc Garneau said his party would welcome an independent review of the issue. “Anything that is going to shed some light from a science point of view or an evidence point of view is a good thing,” he said.The centre’s submission notes that many of the social impacts of marijuana use are related to the criminal justice system, with marijuana possession accounting for more than half of the 57,429 drug crimes reported by police in 2012.“These crimes impact Canada through costs to the criminal justice system, but also through the economic and social impacts associated with having a criminal record,” the report states.Source:

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