I read with interest your article headlined A war worth fighting ( The Okanagan Saturday, March 24 ). There was a discussion regarding marijuana decriminalization. Before I go any further, I must say I do not use marijuana, but defend in court those who use or grow marijuana.
I wish to clear up some misconceptions which may arise from the comments of Const. Terry Jacklin. First, his comment with respect to not decriminalizing marijuana because there is already enough of a problem with alcohol and other illegal drugs seems to suggest a connection between marijuana use and criminality.
Second, Jacklin asserts that marijuana is a "window drug," meaning the use of marijuana leads a person to use harder drugs. Jacklin states that 70 per cent of the people who use cocaine started with marijuana. That may well be, but does not lead logically to the conclusion that the use of marijuana caused the subsequent use of cocaine.
I also do not know where Jacklin gets his statistics from, but the courts in British Columbia have heard cases where marijuana fact and fiction has been an issue, and after listening to many experts, the following findings of fact with respect to marijuana were found:
* The occasional to moderate use of marijuana by a healthy adult is not ordinarily harmful to health, even if used over a long period of time;
* There is no conclusive evidence demonstrating any irreversible, organic or mental damage to the user, except in relation to the lungs.
* There is no evidence demonstrating irreversible, organic or mental damage from the use of marijuana by an ordinary adult who uses occasionally or moderately;
* Marijuana use causes alteration of mental function and should not be used in conjunction with driving, flying or operating complex machinery;
* There is no evidence that marijuana use induces psychosis in ordinary, healthy adults who use marijuana occasionally or moderately. The evidence of marijuana psychosis appears to arise only in those having a predisposition toward such a mental illness;
* Marijuana is not addictive;
* Marijuana is not a highly reinforcing type of drug, like heroin or cocaine. Physical dependence is not a major problem. Psychological dependence, however, may be a problem;
* There is no causal relationship between marijuana use and criminality;
* There is no evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug;
* Marijuana does not make people aggressive or violent;
* Assuming current rates of consumption remain stable, the health related costs of marijuana use are very, very small in comparison with those associated with tobacco and alcohol.
The Ledain Commission of Inquiry into the non-meidcal use of drugs ( 1972-73 ) chaired by Gerard Ledain ( later Justice Ledain of the Supreme Court of Canada ) found, after four years of public hearings and research, that simple possession of marijuana should not be a criminal offence.
The harm that marijuana may cause was summarized in Regina vs. Malmo-Levine as follows:
* There is a probable harmful effect of cannabis on the maturing process in adolescence;
* There are implications for safe driving arising from impairment of cognitive functions and psycho-motor abilities;
* The possibility that the long-term heavy use of cannabis may result in a significant amount of mental deterioration and disorder;
These findings made by the court in Regina vs Malmo-Levine and by the Ledain Commission are supported by statistics and research of experts in the field.
I hope this letter gives a more balanced view with respect to the use of marijuana and its effects.
Ian N. McAndrews, Penticton