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(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Dec. 4, 2006)

Marijuana lobby takes another hit

  By John Martin

Life just got considerably more difficult for potheads, stoners and other pro-marijuana activists seeking the legalization of their favorite herb.  The Australian National Council on Drugs just released a report that reviews the findings of several hundred studies looking at the evidence-based effects of marijuana.  And the results are damning for legalization and decriminalization advocates who have long argued that marijuana is essentially harmless, especially relative to tobacco and alcohol.

The report highlights the dangers cannabis can have on users predisposed to cardiovascular and respiratory problems.  There is evidence linking the development of cancers in the children of cannabis-using mothers.  Research shows cannabis may precipitate psychosis, anxiety and schizophrenia in vulnerable people.  There is compelling evidence that cannabis may aggravate depression and increase the risk of suicide, especially for adolescent girls. Regular users experience higher rates of aggression and violence than others.

Cannabis use is highly associated with impaired academic performance, school absenteeism and earlier school leaving.  Early use is a predictor of immature sexual activity, unplanned pregnancy, poor parenting and abortion.  Adolescent use is associated with delinquency, crime and deviant peer affiliations above and beyond the illegality of marijuana.  Overall, emotionally, users are more likely to be dissatisfied with life.

One in ten users develop some degree of dependence. Heavy users report problems including tolerance, withdrawals, craving and other social and psychological issues.   Regular adolescent users are more likely to be maladjusted, interpersonally alienated, emotionally distressed and have low impulse control.  Marijuana use is associated with decreased blood flow to the area of the brain that regulates attention and cognition.

The report also includes unflattering evidence regarding driving performance, which makes the federal governmentís announcement to crack down in this area most welcome.

The pro-marijuana lobby is fond of rattling off the potential therapeutic uses of cannabis. While there are some reports marijuana may be useful in addressing conditions including nausea, weight loss, pain, neurological disorders, glaucoma and asthma, any benefits appear to be short term and of limited application.

Clearly marijuana is here to stay and itís inevitable that the legislation will eventually change.  Enforcing the laws in this area is problematic and inefficient given the lackadaisical attitude of the courts.  But the debate is being conducted in a dishonest and insincere manner.

Just as governments were guilty of knowingly misstating the facts and promoting the ridiculous hysteria associated with the reefer madness era, pro-marijuana activists are being anything but truthful.  They consistently dismiss evidence-based research confirming the harmful effects of cannabis while inventing fictitious storylines about the medical benefits.  This partly explains why the pro-pot lobby, unlike other activists, has been relatively unsuccessful at influencing law and policy on this matter. 

Another reason may be users tend to not get a whole lot done before late afternoon.



John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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