University of Western Ontario Gazette
Volume 92, Issue 41
Hurting or healing - should marijuana be legalized?
© Dipesh Mistry/Gazette
By Dara Kacarevic
By Dara Kacarevic
"I'll have a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, a stick of butter and... oh
yeah, some marijuana, please."
Can you imagine walking into your neighbourhood store and making such a
request without having the sales clerk even bat an eyelash? If marijuana is
legalized, it won't be quite that easy, but at least you won't get thrown in
jail for its possession.
Marijuana, pot, weed, ganja, reefer, grass, dope or whatever you want to
call it, has become an extremely hot topic of conversation. The legalization
of marijuana would put a smile on a great many faces. However, those who say
they benefit from the drug, medicinally, would feel the greatest triumph.
"Personally, I can do things when I use [marijuana] that I couldn't
otherwise," says Lynn Harichy, who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes and
is the owner of London's Cannabis Compassion Center. "If I didn't use it I
would end up in an asylum or a home. I need it to be legalized so I can live
without the fear of losing my house and my children because I use the
Many patients with terminal illnesses such as AIDS, cancer and glaucoma use
marijuana to relieve nausea and vomiting, Harichy says. She also adds
marijuana, medicinally, is beneficial for anyone who is prescribed large
amounts of pills.
"As of right now, I have doctors calling me all the time, asking for the
stuff. They can't get it from anywhere else and they know it will relieve
their patients of unnecessary pain and discomfort," Harichy says.
Sean Rose, an employee of The Toronto Hemp Company, concurs with Harichy's
views of legalization. Rose says the criminal aspect of marijuana is the
root of the problem and legalizing marijuana will reduce the problems with
which it is associated.
"Legalization [of marijuana] is more a necessity than a benefit from the
medical side of things," Rose says. "The benefits of legalizing marijuana,
from a personal standpoint are, well, I love to smoke the stuff!"
Rose also notes the benefits resultant of hemp legalization. "You can get a
permit, now, to purchase hemp. It's a benefit because of all the things that
can be made from it," he says.
>From an ecological perspective, Rose says by the time a regular tree is a
foot tall, a hemp plant is full grown and ready for use. Also, he adds that
a great deal less hemp than trees are required to make products.
Robert Metz, president of the Freedom Party of Ontario, also supports the
legalization of marijuana, but says the only drawback associated
legalization is the fear it instills in many people. Metz says that the only
way to reduce this "fear factor" is by educating people about the
misconceptions surrounding the legalization and use of marijuana. What these
people are forgetting, he says, is drug use has been around for thousands of
"The biggest supporters of prohibition of drugs are the pushers and
governments. For them, keeping drugs illegal is a good thing because of its
monetary value. The U.S. government has been caught with its pants down many
times over drugs," says Metz.
Metz also adds the government does not want marijuana legalized because of
the arbitrary power it bestows on police for search and seizure purposes. He
says the police use marijuana as a way of gaining entry to the premises of
those suspected of other, more serious offences.
Furthermore, Metz says the government would like to keep marijuana illegal
for purely selfish reasons and they have no concern for the medical benefits
which could result from legalization. "Marijuana legalization may cause a
decrease in the use of other drugs, such as alcohol, which poses a problem
for the government because they have a lot of vested interest in alcohol,"
In response to whether marijuana legalization will lead to the legalization
of other drugs, Metz is positive. "Yes, I hope so, but you can't forget that
each drug has its own battle to fight. The benefits of marijuana are
different from other drugs, so you can't use it to back up other drugs."
Rose concurs on this point. "The legalization of marijuana may serve as a
precedent for issues of compassion, but not for anything else," Rose says.
"That [question] leads to the whole idea of a 'gateway' drug [a drug that
leads to the use of stronger drugs], which is untrue. Yeah, [marijuana] will
be [a gateway drug] for people with really addictive personalities, but, I
mean, so will a bowl of cereal for some people."
Metz says he feels there are a number of common misconceptions concerning
marijuana legalization and use. "People think that legalization will
increase, in users, the characteristics found in alcohol abusers. That's not
true. Marijuana is a docile, friendly and passive drug whereas alcohol is an
"Marijuana doesn't take away your sensibility like alcohol does. Of all the
drugs we decided to legalize, alcohol was the worst choice. It has a much
worse mind-altering effect than marijuana. It's funny, you'd almost want pot
to be stronger. In the case of alcohol, they're trying to make it weaker
with their 'light' beers," adds Metz.
Harichy says the misconceptions about marijuana are quite strong. "Between
medical and recreational use, it is not a 'bad' drug. People think that
marijuana kills, but it doesn't. In order to [overdose] you'd need to smoke
5,000 pounds of it – and who can do that?"
Marinol and cesamet, two drugs which contain THC (tetra-hydro-cannabinoid),
the active ingredient in marijuana, have already been legalized. Harichy
says pharmaceutical companies want marijuana to also be legalized as long as
they can make it synthetically. "They won't make any money off of
[marijuana] if it's not [made synthetically]," she says.
"[Pharmaceutical companies] have been working on different ways of making
marijuana in a suppository, but that doesn't make any sense. The fastest way
to make it get into your blood stream and feel the effects, is to smoke it,"
Harichy says. "God is the manufacturer of it and they can't patent it."
Does legalization of marijuana warrant the amount of attention it has been
given? "Anything they're working on is very important, but nothing is as
important as this, except for maybe keeping more hospitals open. It can make
a person's last minutes in life more bearable," Rose says.
"Drug laws are the problem, not the drugs," Metz says. He adds he feels drug
legalization demands priority because a great deal of money is spent
annually on keeping those guilty of marijuana possession in jail. In his
opinion, the absurdity lies in the fact violence is not a factor in a very
high percentage of these crimes.
Bonnie Fox-McIntyre, spokesperson for Health Canada, says Health Canada is
still waiting for evidence supporting beneficial claims of marijuana use,
without which legalization cannot occur.
"Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, marijuana is under the same
category as heroin, opium, codeine and tranquilizers," Fox-McIntyre
contends. "Currently, there are many controlled substances available for
medical purposes. However, in order to obtain approval, the drug needs to
have a sponsor. The sponsor has to provide evidence of [the drug's]
effectiveness for medical purposes. To date, we have not received any
pertinent evidence concerning marijuana use.
"People claiming it does this and does that for them isn't good enough. We
need to know if it's effective, if it does what they say it does and what
the safe levels are," she adds.
Fox-McIntyre does, however, say that Health Canada is following a two-year
study being done at the University of California, on the short-term effects
of cannabinoids in HIV patients. If the results are positive, they can be
used as support for the effort to legalize marijuana. However, the study
must be replicated in Canada for it to be submitted as evidence.
Concerning marinol and cesamet, Fox-McIntyre says sponsors had evidence to
back up the claim these drugs reduce nausea and vomiting, so they were
approved. "Under the regulatory framework of Canada, Health Canada has to
substantiate the claim. We would love to look at some substantial evidence.
'I tried it and it works for me,' just isn't good enough."