CAMH calls for legalization of pot, Blair says he is 'encouraged' by public health approach
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, October 9, 2014 2:35PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 9, 2014 3:14PM EDT
Canada's largest mental health and addiction research centre is calling for the legalization of marijuana and the implementation of a number of tight controls and regulations surrounding the sale of the drug.
In a policy paper released on Thursday, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) argues that the laws surrounding marijuana make it impossible to effectively regulate the drug and in fact exacerbates the “health harms of Cannabis” while “creating social ones as well.”
“The current regime of prohibition has failed. A lot of people use marijuana and we have no way to regulate their use and minimize the harm,” Dr. Jurgen Rehm, director of social and epidemiological research at CAMH, told CP24 on Thursday afternoon. “Only within a government monopoly can we regulate the sales of marijuana. We will be able to better control who is getting it and we will be able to control the potency of marijuana and get people away from the illegal markets.”
Rehm told CP24 that by legalizing marijuana and creating a government-run dispensary similar to the LCBO, the government would be able to generate much needed revenue that could be put towards education campaigns about the dangers of habitual use of the drug.
According to CAMH , some of the health problems associated with frequent cannabis use include problems with cognitive and psychomotor function, respiratory problems and mental health problems.
“We cannot regulate, we cannot impact the use for public health reasons if the substance is still illegal,” Rehm told CP24.
Though possession of Cannabis is illegal in Canada, Rehm estimated that about 40 per cent of Canadians have used the drug in the past.
Speaking with reporters ahead of a Toronto Police Services Board meeting Thursday, Police Chief Bill Blair said CAMH is doing a “great service” by providing an evidence-based policy discussion that will “inform the public discussion” surrounding the drug going forward.
“I am very encouraged by the public health approach advocated by CAMH and by recognition that the regulation of Cannabis also has value in public policy. I think it is an important discussion,” he said.
Blair added that he does “see the limitation” of the current approach to marijuana, though he cautioned that any legalization or decriminalization would have to include provisions to prevent organized crime from being able to profit from sales of the drug.
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