The legalization of marijuana is not really a partisan issue but in Canada a vote in came down to party lines. The House of Commons voted to legalize marijuana last week. They’re following the party line of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Margaret Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s mother is a victim of marijuana-induced mental illness. At various times, she is quoted as saying that her bipolar disorder came from using marijuana.
Justin Trudeau should know far better than anyone else as to why marijuana is dangerous. His mother lost custody of her three children because of her marijuana use and associated behaviors. She has said that her recovery from the illness came from staying away from marijuana.
Trudeau’s disconnect between his political actions and his own knowledge is rather unbelievable.
Popularity first, protecting the public last
People and politicians who support legalization seem to be affected by money, polls and lobbying groups.
Some politicians who support legalization know it’s a public health risk, but have inscrutable reasons for supporting it. For example, Massachusetts state Senate president Stan Rosenberg was the only high-ranking state official to openly support a ballot to legalize marijuana. Just one month after voting for the amendment, he suggested raising the legal age for purchasing marijuana to 25. At that time, he said that he has seen neurological studies indicating that the brain is not fully developed until age 25. He noted that smoking large quantities of marijuana can affect brain development and have a lifelong impact. Instead of saying it after the fact, Rosenberg should have delivered that message to voters.
Advocacy Groups Propose More Stringent Two-Tiered Approach Popular in Europe
The Canadian Government has promised that its C-46 bill to strengthen impaired driving laws will protect Canadians from drug impaired drivers after marijuana’s legalization. But an opposition brief filed today by DUID Victim Voices with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Parliament disagrees. The thoroughly-documented brief says C-46 is fundamentally flawed and threatens to make matters worse for victims of impaired driving. “Proper justice for DUID victims is not possible when perpetrators are not found guilty of driving under the influence and thus sentenced to a lesser crime,” says Ed Wood, founder of DUID Victim Voices.
C-46 seeks to establish per se levels for drugs based upon a belief that the same kind of per se levels that have been successful in dealing with alcohol-impaired driving can also work with drugs. That belief cannot be supported by any scientific studies. In particular, marijuana is so unlike alcohol chemically, biologically and metabolically, that the brief warns it is irrational to use a prescribed per se level for marijuana’s ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
DUID Victim Voices, an advocacy group for the victims of drug impaired driving, proposes that the bill be rewritten to support a tandem per se approach which is based on scientific research. “Adoption of defined drug per se levels that cannot be scientifically supported not only can also prevent victims of impaired driving from seeing justice, it also threatens public credibility and acceptance of the law,” Wood explains.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana of Canada is also supportive of the brief. “We endorse this rejection of Bill C-46. Survey data shows that young Canadians are not cognizant of the risk of driving impaired by marijuana. The country needs a massive public education program, which could take 15 years like the one for drunk driving awareness.” adds Pamela McColl of SAM Canada.
Alcohol per se levels work reasonably well where alcohol is the only impairing substance due to the following facts. Unfortunately, these facts are also unique to alcohol, don’t always apply to other drugs, and don’t apply at all to marijuana’s THC.
Alcohol leaves the body linearly and at a slow and predictable rate, but:
On average, the maximum blood THC level is decreased by 73% from its peak level within 25 minutes of beginning to smoke a joint. The median time between a crash and taking a driver’s blood sample is two hours, so laboratory tests tell us nothing about the blood THC level at the time of the crash.
Levels of alcohol in blood are similar to levels in the brain, but:
Marijuana’s THC is fat-soluble. It is very rapidly absorbed from the blood by highly perfused fatty tissues like the brain, heart, liver and lungs. Consequently, blood levels of THC tell us nothing about the levels of THC in the brain, which is the only place that really matters when trying to evaluate impairment. THC can even be found in the brain when none can be detected in blood.
Blood levels of alcohol correlate very well with measured levels of impairment, but:
Laboratory blood levels of THC do not correlate at all with either brain levels of THC or impairment measurements. A recent American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety report concluded, “A quantitative threshold for per se laws for THC following cannabis use cannot be scientifically supported.”
Because THC is so quickly redistributed from the blood to the brain and other organs, the majority of stoned drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs test below current proposed per se levels and would therefore escape OWI per se prosecution.
Having most stoned drivers escape prosecution may be an acceptable social policy for non-consequential OWI arrests, but many OWI cases involve death or serious bodily injuries. Permitting the majority of those cases to escape prosecution is a miscarriage of justice that should not be tolerated.
Rather than a defined per se limit, DUID Victim Voices suggests that “tandem per se” be used to prove the crime of OWI per se. Using this approach, a person would be guilty of OWI per se under the following sequence of conditions:
The driver was arrested by an officer who had probable cause, based on the driver’s demeanor, behavior and observable impairment to believe that the driver was impaired; and
Proof that the driver had any amount of an impairing substance in his/her blood, oral fluid, or breath.
The tandem per se approach is consistent with the recommendation of the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety. It is similar to two-tier systems in place in Germany, France, Belgium and Finland.
DUID Victim Voices represents the interests of the victims of drugged driving, providing fact-based education and a victim perspective to decision makers and to the general public. Visit the website, duidvictimvoices.org. Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada is a bipartisan alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy.Visit learnaboutsam.ca to learn more.
by Pamela McColl, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
We are greatly disappointed that Canada used its precious time on the global stage to promote the legalization – and thus commercialization – of cannabis. This statement sent a powerful message from our government that profits come ahead of public health.
Not mentioned was the global call among scientists this week that cannabis harms should be widely publicized. This new call to action has been released from scientists around the world, reflecting “a growing consensus among experts that frequent cannabis use can increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people and lead to a range of other medical and social problems. ” according to the TheGuardian. It was reported that researchers now believe the evidence for harm is strong enough to issue clear warnings. This is in line with a recent World Health Organization report on the harms of cannabis.
Legalizing cannabis creates the potential for broad scale development, manufacture, and marketing of marijuana products.
This dynamic becomes even more pernicious when coupled with the higher addiction rates among underage marijuana users. One of the best ways to develop and capture heavy users is to encourage use at the earliest age possible, when dependence is more likely to develop. This mirrors business strategy by the multi-billion-dollar tobacco industry
It is therefore no surprise that the marijuana industry is borrowing another page from the tobacco playbook by marketing colorful, kid-friendly edible marijuana products. These “edibles,” such as the ones shown below—including marijuana-laced candies, lollipops, gummy bears, and sodas—already account for roughly 50% of the Colorado marijuana market.
Additionally, these market dynamics explains the marijuana industry’s efforts to drive potency of its products as high as possible. As noted earlier, the average potency of smoked marijuana has increased at least six-fold since the 1960s (to around 14% in the US), with edibles and concentrates pushing the rate even higher, up to 95%. The industry has also opposed recent attempts to cap potency at 15% in Colorado.
As a network of more than 300 NGOs have said this week at the UN, we need to prevent, not promote, drug use and addiction. Instead of promoting the use of a dangerous drug, this is what should have been Canada’s theme too.
MBMP, a company in Victoria, British Columbia, is selling hand-made, medicated, “winterized” chocolates to many of the dispensaries in BC. The problem is that butane and ethanol are being used in the manufacturing of these “food” products and they are being sold without proper labeling and ingredient lists.