POT USE DOUBLES, OTHER DRUG USE UP TOO
TORONTO (CP) - It seems more Canadians than ever are going to pot -
smoking up, toking up and generally embracing the sweet weed.
In fact, the proportion of Canadians who admit to indulging in
marijuana or hashish almost doubled over 13 years - and the highest
rates of use were among teens, a report released Wednesday by
Statistics Canada suggests.
That translates into about three million Canadians, or 12.2 per cent,
who used cannabis at least once in the previous year, the federal
agency said in its 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey. In 1989, the
figure was 6.5 per cent.
But the increase wasn't confined to just cannabis, which includes
marijuana, hashish and hash oil. The survey also found that a higher
proportion of Canadians were taking other illegal drugs: cocaine or
crack, ecstasy, LSD and other hallucinogens, amphetamines (speed), and
Overall, 2.4 per cent of the survey's almost 37,000 respondents, all
aged 15 or older, reported using at least one of these other drugs in
the previous year, up from 1.6 per cent in 1994.
And 1.3 per cent, or an estimated 321,000 Canadians, had used cocaine
or crack, making it the most commonly used of these illicit, harder
Cannabis use was most prevalent among young people, and it peaked in
the late teens.
Almost four of every 10 teens aged 18 or 19 reported having smoked pot
or hash in the previous year. The proportion among 15- to 17-year-olds
was three in 10.
The hike in marijuana's popularity comes as no surprise to Edward
Adlaf, a research scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health in Toronto, which has reported similar trends.
"We've been finding during the '90s among students - and these are
seventh graders to 12th graders - that fewer and fewer students
perceive great risk in using cannabis," said Adlaf.
A loosening-up in attitudes towards pot also has likely contributed to
more people smoking up - or admitting that they do. An Ipsos-Reid poll
in May 2003 suggested 55 per cent of Canadians thought smoking pot
should not be a criminal offence.
Students say pot is easy to come by, and police are reporting
increased seizures of marijuana plants.
This survey was done in 2002, the year before an Ontario court judge
made a precedent-setting ruling that possessing a small amount of pot
was not illegal.
Prime Minister Paul Martin said his government is committed to
marijuana decriminalization and will reintroduce legislation after
Parliament resumes in October.
Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, while concerned about the reported rise
in drug use, said Wednesday he's unsure whether arguments that
decriminalization would further increase marijuana use "have any validity."
"My view is that, if you make something illegal, some people are more
attracted to it," he said. "It's just the high in getting something
in a stealth(y) fashion ... If you allow people to possess it in small
quantities for personal use, the allure kind of disappears for some."