From Excalibur: http://www.excal.on.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2225&Itemid=2
B.C. smokes more dope
Written by Matthew Gauk, Canadian University Press Wednesday, 18 October 2006 52 per cent of B.C residents have smoked pot
VICTORIA (CUP) *- You'd better sit down for this one: British Columbians smoke a lot of pot.
Fifty-two per cent of B.C. residents have used cannabis, compared to 44 per cent of the rest of Canadians, according to a recent report published by the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. (CARBC). The report, Cannabis Use in British Columbia, was based on numbers from the 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey.
The report looked at use, perceptions and public opinion of cannabis in the West Coast province and the rest of Canada.
Jodi Sturge, a CARBC research associate and co-author of the report, found that the results confirmed what the scientific community already suspected. In fact, she would have predicted an even more dramatic difference between B.C. and the rest of Canada.
"We kind of have to think that people are using this drug in British Columbia especially, more than other places, and it's not going to go away," Sturge said. "If they're going to use it, maybe you have to think of policies that make it safer to use."
Sturge gives Australia as an example of a place where people who would otherwise be prosecuted for cannabis use are given penalties, such as tickets, as a method of intervention. She suggests that this might be more effective.
The report found British Columbians tend to use cannabis at home, and that more people report that they didn't pay for marijuana the last time they used it.
"This indicates the relaxed views people have towards the drug, and that it's more widely available in social groups here," said Sturge. British Columbians were also more likely to say that cannabis had a lower level of risk.
"When you're looking at the last cannabis purchase, more people in B.C. purchase around seven grams and the rest of Canada was around two-and-a-half," Sturge said. "So people are buying in bulk or in greater quantities."
Many facets of cannabis use are almost the same in B.C. as in the rest of Canada, however. The average age of first use in the province is 18.6 years of age, compared to 18.9 years elsewhere, even though accessibility and prevalence of use is much higher in B.C. The number of people who drive under the influence of cannabis is also similar.
"So, it's funny because the views are different, and the market is different and so on and so forth; however, the use is not much different," said Sturge.
According to the report, people aged 35 to 44 were more likely to have tried using marijuana than 15- to 20-year-olds. The use among older people was likely to be more moderate than those who are younger.
"I'm kind of curious, too, whether the people using it daily are using it for medicinal purposes," said Sturge. "There hasn't been any psychological investigation into (the respondents)."
The report cited another study, done by the Fraser Institute, that found the B.C. cannabis industry contributed to between one and 2.8 per cent of the provincial GDP in 2000, amounting to $130 billion. It also stated that taxing cannabis could contribute approximately $2 billion in revenue to the province.
"I think (the report) is good for an evidence-based debate," Sturge said. "If you went to see some health policy officials, you could say, ‘These are your users; this is how they're using it; this is how often they're using it.' It's an informed way of developing a policy."
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