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Marijuana at a Legal Crossroad?

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Canada, by many international measures, is frequently lauded as one of the best places in the world to live. Reports cite good prospects in employment, education, medical care and lifestyle, all within borders that are spacious and attractive. Despite these many advantages, a high percentage of the population seeks escape in the use of mind-altering drugs. The most widely used illegal substance here is cannabis, or marijuana.


A Growing Concern?

The scale of marijuana use is alarming. A 2014 report stated: "The number of youth (22 percent) and young adults (26 percent) who used marijuana in 2013 was more than two and a half times that of adults 25 and older (8 percent)" ("Marijuana and Youth," Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse).

Though many mistakenly consider marijuana harmless, the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada has for years presented reputable scientific studies showing the dangers and the social and economic costs of this drug. Yet, despite health experts' endorsement of these studies, social pressure is driving the political agenda toward legalizing this dangerous drug. Political forces on the left have coalesced around this goal, claiming that legalization and regulation would afford better controls than enforcing prohibition.

But who is right? Are concerns about cannabis unfounded? Surely, many will assume, if cannabis use is so widespread, it must not be very harmful to society. After all, Canadian youth have the highest rate of marijuana use of any country in the developed world, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (ibid.).

Some enthusiasts advocate the use of marijuana for "medical" purposes, though most medical experts are sceptical. Notice this 2014 statement from the Canadian Medical Association:

"The CMA still believes there is insufficient scientific evidence available to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes. It also believes there is insufficient evidence on clinical risks and benefits, including the proper dosage of marijuana to be used and on the potential interactions between this drug and other medications" ("New 'Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations': What Do Doctors Need to Know?").

In a letter explaining the group's position to Canada's Minister of Health, the CMA similarly stated that there "remains scant evidence regarding the effectiveness of the herbal form of marijuana"  ("Letter to Minister Aglukkaq," February 28, 2013).

Earlier this year, the Edmonton Journal reported on research from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: "Teens who start smoking marijuana early and do so frequently risk lowering their IQ scores…." The article goes on to state that: "'The growing body of evidence about the effects of cannabis use during adolescence is reason for concern,' said Amy Porath-Waller, the CCSA's lead researcher on the issue. 'I think we should be very concerned.… There is a need to take a pause and consider that this is the future of our country. We certainly want to prepare our youth so they can be productive members of society in terms of employment so there certainly is reason that Canada needs to be concerned about cannabis use among young people.' Equally concerning, she said, is the perception among many Canadian youth that cannabis is benign and has no effect on their ability to drive or their performance in school" ("Teen pot use can lower IQ: study," April 15, 2015).

"Where there's smoke…"

According to a Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse policy brief, clinical evidence links marijuana usage with cognitive impairment and increased risk of psychosis—a risk that increases with earlier age and higher levels of use. The brief also warns: "Experience in the United States indicates that decreased regulation, including flexible arrangements for personal or designated growers and retail sales, is likely to result in increased rates of diversion [misuse]) ("Marijuana for Medical Purposes," July 15, p. 8).

The Partnership for a Drug Free Canada (PDFC) raises other medical issues. For instance, marijuana smokers exhibit many of the same symptoms as tobacco smokers. These can include abnormal incidence of chest colds, increased coughing and phlegm production. A 2015 PDFC report states: "Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers" ("Marijuana").

Some doctors will point out that the hotter-burning temperature also can result in increased loss of the cilia in the lungs, which can lead to diseases such as emphysema. It is interesting to note that, for years, the Canadian Cancer Society has lobbied against tobacco smoking, and has won widespread public support—yet the same people who wisely oppose tobacco smoking often seem not to care that in marijuana they have a substance found to be many times more deadly to the human lung.

We have seen that medical associations resist the use of so-called "medical marijuana," as there is no solid clinical evidence that the drug is effective. Required dosages for specific ailments are not researched, concentration of the active ingredient THC varies with plant samples (making dosages impossible to determine), and there are the negative side effects, which include addiction. For those who insist on the medical benefit of THC, physicians point out that dosage-controlled, carefully measured medications already exist: dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®).  Physicians can already prescribe either of these medications. So, why is there such a cry for medical marijuana?  Could it be that the approved, clinically monitored medications allow the THC to act on the body but do not give the user a "high"?

A Deeper Purpose

Political leaders ought to be driven by a sense of what is good for their citizens, yet those who pander to groups who only want hedonistic pleasure—or who possibly have entrepreneurial interests eventually involving convenience store shelves and glamorous packaging—may be more interested in their own welfare than that of the nation.

Marijuana use is illegal in Canada for a good reason: it is harmful to its users, and to the nation. It, and other drugs like it (and others even more deadly) rob the individual of potential, and leave behind broken dreams and shattered lives.

It is a tragedy when people, young or old, view "getting high" as their primary pleasure in life. Such people are living without knowing any purpose for their human existence. Yet there is such a purpose that can be known and achieved. Our sober human mind is a treasure, brilliantly designed by a great Creator—one who plans to offer mankind an awesome future with potential undreamed of in the human sphere.  To learn more, request our free booklet, The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? No chemical known to humanity can begin to deliver the wonderful sense of fulfillment God makes available to those who learn to take pleasure in living His way.

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