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Use growing like a weed

POT FANS HAVE DOUBLED: STATSCAN

By JASON BOTCHFORD, TORONTO SUN

TORONTO MARIJUANA activist Eric Wood doesn't need a Statistics Canada study to know more people than ever are refusing to pass on the grass. The manager of a cannabis production facility for a Toronto compassion club said support for a legalization festival he's helping to organize this year is exploding.

"We are going nuts with this festival as it seems to be growing exponentially every day," said Wood of his Aug. 21 Canabian Day Festival. It started last year as a small legalization rally and has grown into a three-city event that will attract thousands to Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. "We are now being approached by sponsors who want to have their logos on our ads, flyers and posters."

The StatsCan survey had people buzzing yesterday because it showed the number of Canadians, age 15 or older, using marijuana has nearly doubled in 13 years.

Michael Tjepkema, a StatsCan analyst, said a reason for an increase is that pot is more acceptable now.

LAWYERS, DOCTORS

Wood can point to lawyers, doctors, and teachers who smoke pot and support legalization efforts and provide anecdotal evidence to support Tjepkema's assertion.

"The dim-witted, lay about stoner stereotype is an inaccurate and damaging representation of the cannabis community," an Ontario teacher said yesterday. "I've known, and continue to meet doctors and teachers, successful entrepreneurs, mail carriers and social workers, even a priest, who all prefer a joint and tea to a gin and tonic."

StatsCan's study indicates about a third of the population admits to trying cannabis at least once and more people were taking five other drugs: cocaine or crack, ecstasy, LSD and other hallucinogens, amphetamines (speed), and heroin.

Overall, 2.4% of Canadians 15 or older reported using at least one of these drugs in the past year, up from 1.6% in 1994. An estimated 321,000 people, or 1.3%, had used cocaine or crack, making it the most commonly used of these other drugs.



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