Pubdate: Wed, 12 May 2004
Source: Stettler Independent (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 Stettler Independent
Author: Emile-J. Therien
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Dear Editor,

As you are aware, some Canadians fear that decriminalizing possession of 
small amounts of cannabis will lead to a rise in pot-smoking drivers. 
Whether or not this will happen is an open question. The fact is, we 
already have a serious problem and it must be addressed.

A study entitled The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in 
Amsterdam and in San Francisco appears in the May 2004 issue of the 
American Journal of Public Health. Funded by the US National Institute on 
Drug Abuse and the Dutch Ministry of Health, it found no evidence that 
criminalization either decreases or increases use. The researchers found 
strong similarities in patterns of marijuana use in Amsterdam and San 
Francisco, despite vastly different national drug policies. They also found 
that decriminalization appears to reduce the so-called "gateway effect."

The study casts grave doubt on the idea that criminalization is an 
effective deterrent -- or a wise direction for public policy. Yet, in 
Canada there is pressure to expand the use of the Criminal Code as a 
preventive tool. The premise seems to be that criminal penalties will act 
as a deterrent because they are severe. Some advocates may feel retribution 
is important.

 >From a safety standpoint, criminalization is an unwise direction for 
public policy. The federal government's decisions not to criminalize 
spanking or cell phone use by drivers recognize that there are more 
appropriate ways to prevent potentially harmful actions.

Over and over (most recently in the above-cited study), research has shown 
that people are less likely to offend when they perceive that they will be 
caught. Most chronic offenders -- the ones who cause the most harm -- do 
not think about consequences before they act.

This in no way diminishes the need to address the issue of drivers who are 
impaired by pot or other substances. However, we suggest that measures 
outside the Criminal Code may hold the best potential to achieve reductions 
in deaths and injuries.

Emile-J. Therien, President, Canada Safety Council
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager