Dark side to mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON editor@CBN­com­pass.ca

While there are many look­ing for­ward to the im­pend­ing le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana, some are less en­thused. The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the U-Turn Drop-In Cen­tre in Car­bon­ear wor­ries that le­gal­iza­tion of the drug will cre­ate prob­lems for youth and lead to a wider ac­cep­tance of drug cul­ture.

Jeff Bourne knows a thing or two about the trou­ble caused by ad­dic­tion. An ad­mit­ted ad­dict now sev­eral years sober, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Car­bon­ear’s U-Turn Drop-In Cen­tre has put in a lot of time help­ing oth­ers find ways to over­come bat­tles with drugs and al­co­hol.

While there are many who might wel­come news the fed­eral govern­ment is look­ing to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, Bourne isn’t among them.

“I don’t feel com­fort­able my­self, per­son­ally,” the Vic­to­ria na­tive told The Com­pass last week. “Num­ber one, years ago mar­i­juana was taboo. It was bad to be do­ing it. Now we’ve come to a place in so­ci­ety where it’s ac­cept­able. In 20 years down the road, is co­caine go­ing to be le­gal­ized and ac­cept­able?

Bourne says com­pared to what it was years ago, mar­i­juana is on the verge of be­ing clas­si­fied as a hal­lu­cino­gen. That’s due to higher lev­els of tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (THC) in the drug. Ac­cord­ing to the Govern­ment of Canada’s Healthy Cana­di­ans web­site, stud­ies have found the av­er­age level of THC in mari- juana has in­creased by 300 to 400 per cent over the last few decades.

“The stuff that the govern­ment grows and puts out there, the THC level isn’t go­ing to be so high,” said Bourne. “So if you go to a cor­ner store and buy it, you’re not go­ing to get your bang for your buck, so you’re go­ing to go and buy it off your buddy down the cor­ner. So the ones that smoke it daily that are used to this high THC level are not go­ing to be the ones buy­ing it from the store when it’s le­gal­ized, be­cause they’re not get­ting their fix.”

Bourne also has con­cerns about what le­gal­iza­tion will mean for youth. He wor­ries that le­gal­iza­tion will help cre­ate more drug ad­dicts down the road.

Not for pub­lic places

Kevin Coady from the New­found­land and Labrador Al­liance for the Con­trol of To­bacco has his own con­cerns about le­gal­iza­tion.

“We’re cer­tainly keenly in­ter­ested, be­cause we’ve had the bat­tle of try­ing to get peo­ple to re­al­ize they can’t light up their cig­a­rettes wher­ever they feel like it, and they should avoid do­ing so around young peo­ple be­cause of the mes­sage it sends. I think it would be the same thing for the mar­i­juana use.”

Coady, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, ex­pects there will be a need for pro­grams to help those who find them­selves need­ing to elim­i­nate mar­i­juana from their lives, just as there are smok­ing ces­sa­tion ser­vices out there for the pub­lic. Pro­grams tar­get­ing youth will also be nec­es­sary, he reck­ons.

“Our goals for our group in­clude pro­tec­tion, preven­tion, ces­sa­tion and de­nor­mal­iza­tion we’d like to be a part of any group or dis­cus­sion that would pre­vent young peo­ple from ever start­ing the use of mar­i­juana, and then of course pro­tect­ing peo­ple from the se­cond-hand smoke from the mar­i­juana, same as cig­a­rettes. And the ces­sa­tion for those who get hooked and want to quit.”

Ul­ti­mately, Coady hopes the fed­eral govern­ment han­dles le­gal­iza­tion re­spon­si­bly and ap­pro­pri­ately to avoid cre­at­ing new prob­lems.

“I think they need to do a bit of home­work on it, be­cause there’s so much work that has gone into cor­rect­ing the mis­takes of the to­bacco ac­tiv­ity. It would be ter­ri­ble if we opened up all those doors again and then have to close them.”

Bourne be­lieves le­gal­iza­tion will open up a se­ri­ous can of worms and leave gov­ern­ments scram­bling to deal with the de­mands placed on ad­dic­tions ser­vices.

“I’ve been around the rooms of re­cov­ery for a while, and I came across peo­ple that lost their jobs, their houses, their fam­i­lies — the whole nine yards — just be­cause of a draw of mar­i­juana. That’s the only drug they did, but they lost ev­ery­thing they had.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO COUR­TESY RCMP

The im­pend­ing le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana will not come with­out some costs ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal ad­dic­tions ex­pert.

Coady

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