Pubdate: Tue, 08 May 2012
Source: Surrey Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Surrey Leader
Author: Evan Wood


In your recent article, "Mayors echo call for pot reform" (The Leader,
May 1), Surrey Mayor Diane Watts indicated that she would not support
marijuana reform because drug dealers are targeting kids. Though her
observations are correct, the evidence shows that her conclusions are

To help prevent children and teenagers from obtaining marijuana we
need to regulate the cannabis market under a public health framework,
rather than blindly hope that the experiment with alcohol prohibition
will not be repeated with marijuana.

In today's unregulated cannabis market, organized crime has taken over
the production, distribution and marketing of marijuana. As a result,
children and teens are targeted by dealers and have easy access to the
drug. Regulation, as proposed by Stop the Violence BC and our
supporters, would allow government to regulate the potency and
implement strict limitations about how cannabis is sold and who it is
sold to.

We can look to the successful policies which have limited tobacco
access to young people for guidance.

Enforcing cannabis prohibition laws does not have any bearing on rates
of cannabis use and instead creates the 'forbidden fruit' effect,
making cannabis more appealing to young people. For instance, although
Canada has seen a 70 per cent increase in cannabis-related arrests
from 1990 to 2009, this increase in anti-drug law enforcement has not
made cannabis less available to teenagers and young adults in British

According to the 2009 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey,
27 per cent of BC's youth (aged 15-24) used cannabis at least once in
the previous year. The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey
reported that annual cannabis use among Ontario high school students
has doubled since the early 1990s, from less than 10 per cent in 1991
to more than 20 per cent in 2009.

In a study released in the U.S., where marijuana prohibition has been
aggressively enforced for decades, it was found that teen marijuana
use continues to rise. While teen marijuana use increased by eight per
cent between 2008 and 2011, teen tobacco use decreased by 19 per cent.

For youth today, accessing marijuana is easier than accessing alcohol
and tobacco. The evidence is clear - marijuana prohibition does not
prevent criminal gangs from targeting kids. Politicians should be
guided by the evidence when developing public policy, rather than
supporting a policy that supports the growth of increasingly violent
organized crime groups who are increasingly effective at marketing
drugs to kids.

Evan Wood,


Professor of Medicine, University of BC

Founder, Stop the Violence BC
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