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BC Tops in Marijuana Use.

By admin | July 27, 2004

CanWest News Service
by Stuart Hunter and Ethan Baron.

As someone who has been jailed in every province, Vancouver marijuana activist Marc Emery considers himself a man with his finger on Canada’s pot pulse.

He said Wednesday’s Statistics Canada report, 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey, indicating more Canadian’s than ever are toking up shows the growing need for new legislation to make it easier for people to access marijuana and squeeze organised crime out of the drug scene.

The report says that the number of Canadians who admit to indulging in marijuana or hashish nearly doubled to 12.2 per cent between 1989 and 2002 – and the highest use rates were among teens. That was a substancial jump from 6.5 per cent in 1989 and 7.4 per cent in 1994.

“I think it’s pretty accurate,” said Emery, president of the BC Marijuana party. “I’d say there are about three million smokers at any one time who would be considered regular smokers or about 12 per cent. “I’t's ingrained in our national psyche to smoke pot at some point in your life and as these children grow up the numbers will continue to increase, so it’s going to continue to get larger and larger.”

Provincially, BC had the highest rate of cannabis use at 15.7 per cent, Nova Scotia was second at 13.7 per cent and Quebec was third at 13.5 per cent, according to the survey.

Many of the big gains were among youth.

Thirty-eight per cent of teens aged 18 and 19 reported smoking pot or hash in the previous 12 months while 29 per cent of teens 15 through 17 indulged.

That dropped to six per cent in adults 45 to 54 years old and virtually disappears after age 65. Men in nearly evrey age group were more likely to toke up than women.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Paul Martin and his newly minted cabinet plegded to re-introduce legislation aimed at decriminalising possession and use of small amounts when Parliament resumes in October. But with a minority government, passage depends on support from the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.

Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, BC’s former NDP premier, said he’s concerned about the reported rise in drug use but he’s also uncertain whether arguments that decriminalization would further increase marijuana use “have any validity.”

“My view is that, if you make something illegal, some people are more attracted to it,” he said.

“The big factor here seems to be supply,” he said. “I think it’s a societal thing and I don’t think draconian laws will make any difference. It’s talking to your kids and teaching them how to make good decisions.”

Solicitor-General Rich Coleman blamed BC numbers on the judiciary being soft on drug dealers, which has led to organised crime taking over the drug trade.

Wednesday’s study showed that of the three million pot smokers, half smoke up less than once a month, one in 10 per cent were daily tokers.

BC had the highest rate of cannabis offences.

The study also showed Canadians were less likely to use crack/cocaine, ecstacy, LSD, amphetamines and heroin. Just 2.4 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using the harder drugs, with crack-cocaine the drug of choice for 321,000 citizens or 1.3 per cent.

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