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Newshawk: Herb
Pubdate: Wed, 16 May 2001
Source: Guelph Mercury (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 Guelph Mercury Newspapers Limited
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The Canadian Medical Association Journal is no ordinary newsletter.  It is not in the habit of giving free expression to radical, off-the-wall opinions simply to provoke discussion.

No, by most accounts, the Canadian Medical Association Journal is staid and cautious.  It is conservative, given over mainly to research reports.  It is solemn to the point of nausea.

So when it proposes ( as it does in an editorial this week ) that marijuana possession be decriminalized, that's news.  When it backs this stance by arguing that the social and legal fallout of being arrested for marijuana possession far outweighs the minimal health effects of the drug's moderate use, that's even bigger news.

Contrast this stance with the overcautious pussy-footing that accompanied Health Canada's announcement last month on the subject.  It suggested absolutely no big break with the traditional prejudice against marijuana and marijuana-users.  As announced by Health Minister Allan Rock, new rules would allow certain people -- those who are either very ill or close to death -- to inhale.  Otherwise, marijuana would continue to be treated as an illegal substance for all other citizens.

Specifically, if you can produce convincing evidence that you'll be dead within a year, Rock ( in his generosity ) will let you have legal access to reefers, if you can find and pay for them.  If you are having severe pain, nausea, anorexia, seizures, spasms or you are weak from diseases such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis or severe arthritis, however, legal availability becomes somewhat more difficult.  To earn the right to smoke pot, you have to present a statement from a medical specialist declaring that conventional treatments have been applied and have been found wanting.

What bureaucratic nonsense, says the Canadian Medical Association Journal.  Editor Dr.  John Hoey says marijuana is a relatively innocuous drug whose main source of harm to the average user is in the tar it contains.  In that respect, it is on par with tobacco.  But in another important respect, it is not on par with tobacco, for it contains absolutely no nicotine.

Of course, the Canadian Medical Association Journal does not set Canadian government policy.  Rock does, and he's clearly committed to the notion that marijuana is a vile, dangerously addictive substance that, when bought and smoked, normally transforms ordinary citizens into drug-crazed criminals and suppliers into thieves.

That notion may be wrong, but it's going to keep the police and the courts busy for the foreseeable future on its behalf.

That's too bad, for as Hoey points out, even a small, almost medically harmless stash of marijuana can easily ( and unjustifiably ) result in "that indelible social taboo: a criminal record."

An influential medical journal tells the federal government to lighten up. 

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