Pubdate: Mon, 12 Mar 2001
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Contact:  341a 1st Avenue PO Box 400, Ladysmith, BC  V0R 2E0
Fax: Fax: (250) 245-2260
Author: John Anderson



Const. Colin Verbisky makes a number of misleading and false statements
about  marijuana in "Cops Corner" (January 30, 2001).

The claim that marijuana contains "cancer causing substances" is deceptive.
He would  do well to read the most comprehensive study ever done on the
effects of cannabis -  "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base"
published in 1999 by the  Institute of Medicine in the U.S and commissioned
by the White House.

This landmark report reviews of a vast number of scientific studies
regarding the effects  of marijuana.

The authors write, "proof that habitual marijuana smoking does or does not
cause  cancer awaits the results of well-designed studies". Upper
respiratory problems may  occur, but only with chronic smokers who
constitute a small minority of all marijuana  smokers. These potential
problems can be avoided by consuming marijuana in tea or  baked goods.

Cst. Verbitsky's categorization of marijuana as "dangerous" is patently
untrue. He argues that cannabis today is "1,000 times more potent than in
the 1970s".

This is a scare tactic which contradicts the RCMP's own estimates that "the
average THC  content of all samples analysed since 1995 is about six per
cent" - which is only 50 per  cent higher than the figures he claims.

Higher potency marijuana may be good news because consumers use less to
achieve  the same effects, thereby smoking less and reducing the opportunity
for lung damage.

The constable then claims that marijuana is "not a high at all". That's his
opinion which does not reflect the consumption patterns of millions of
cannabis users in the United  States and Canada. One third of all Americans
aged 11 years or older have tried  marijuana, and hundreds of thousands in
both countries use it recreationally.

Finally, the constable tries to use the "marijuana is a gateway drug to
cocaine" falsehood at the end of his column. He employs the same faulty
reasoning as in statements like "chewing gum leads to cigarette smoking".

Asking cocaine users if they have ever smoked marijuana will produce
different results than asking how many marijuana users try cocaine. Social
science surveys tell us that  only about three per cent of all marijuana
smokers go on to use cocaine. Marijuana is not now, nor has even been, a
"gateway drug" to harder substances.

As a member of the RCMP whose opinions many Canadians believe to be
authoritative, Const. Verbisky has an obligation to research and accurately
report on these issues.

John Anderson

Criminology Department
Malaspina U/C
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