A new report from Montreal public health indicates a new drug that’s stronger than fentanyl has hit the city’s streets.

MONTREAL — A new drug that is even more powerful than fentanyl is circulating on Montreal’s streets, according to public health officials.

Isotonitazene, a chemically manufactured opioid, has killed at least one person in Montreal. Jean-Francois Mary of harm reduction organization Cactus Montreal said similar drugs are often made in illegal labs, where cross-contamination and dosage size are risky variables.

Mary said he believes part of the solution the problem posed by opioids is legalization.

“People die because drug traffickers have had to divert into substances that are more portent and more profitable, but this potency kills,” he said. “Look in the pharmacy, there are very dangerous substances that are prescribes, they are given and people sometimes abuse them. But we don’t have so many deaths from because the quantity is controlled. Even when people abuse them, they can know how much they took.”

He said illegally-made pills don’t let users know how much Isotonitazene or fentanyl they’re ingesting.

Montreal public health seized 2,000 astonishment pills in August and is advising users that naloxone can be used to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Naloxone kits are available at most pharmacies. Anyone calling 911 to report an overdose has immunity from simple drug possession charges under the Good Samaritans Rescuing Overdose Victims Act.  

Source: New drug on Montreal’s streets even more potent than fentanyl: public health | CTV News November 2020

Police forces in the province collected 795 blood samples from motorists suspected of driving while under the influence.

One year after the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in Canada, the black market for the drug — as well as its use behind the wheel — continues to keep Quebec police forces busy.

In 2018, police collected 795 blood samples from motorists suspected of driving while under the influence, and sent them to Quebec’s medical legal centre for processing. That’s 254 more than in the previous year.

The presence of cannabis was detected in 46 per cent of those cases.

The Sûreté du Québec says cannabis is the most commonly detected drug in its traffic stops.

The provincial force said that since legalization, cannabis was detected in the systems of 113 persons pulled over for impaired driving, compared with 73 cases a year earlier — an increase of 54 per cent.

More than 670 officers trained in drug use evaluation have been deployed across the province.

In a statement issued Thursday detailing its operations over the past year, the SQ said it had opened 1,409 investigations into the illegal production, supply and distribution of cannabis, which led to 1,458 warrants being executed and charges filed against 1,403 individuals.

Meanwhile, raids on illegal outdoor cannabis fields were carried out in August and September, and saw 37,000 plants seized.

Over the past year, the SQ seized 71,500 cannabis plants, 161 kilograms of cannabis, 15.8 kilograms of cannabis oil and resin, 23,460 units of edible cannabis and $180,000 in cash.

Source: October 2019

30 July 2019

I had forgotten how much I disliked cannabis until I found myself under its influence, in the rain, trying and failing to find Toronto’s Union Train Station so I could get to the airport and go home. The plan had been to enhance my mood for a long journey, floating back to the UK in a higher state of consciousness. In practice, I just got confused, wet and was lucky to make my flight.

I had intended to purchase the kind of low-THC, high-CBD weed that disappeared from Britain’s black market when skunk took over in the 1990s. Put simply, THC is the psychoactive component that gets you high but is associated with psychosis, while CBD is the antipsychotic component that gave cannabis its natural balance before it was bred out of the plant by drug dealers. Alas, laziness prevailed and I settled for a ready-rolled joint which my vendor candidly admitted was made up of scrapings from whatever they’d been chopping up that day.

In truth, the spliff had been bought on the ‘when in Rome’ principle. Recreational cannabis has been legal in Canada since last October and I was on a fact-finding trip with a BBC film crew and a cross-party group of MPs, including Norman Lamb, David Lammy and Jonathan Djanogly. In a few months time, Illinois will become the eleventh US state to legalise recreational marijuana. With the dominos falling, it is only a matter of time before a European country, possibly Britain, follows suit. We were there to see how it works.

Only two of us sampled the product. Norman Lamb received a knighthood for his work on mental health while we were there and marked the occasion by becoming the first British politician to be filmed buying and taking cannabis. I wish I could claim that it was a wild party, but the truth is more mundane. Struggling with jet lag and keen to get a decent night’s sleep, he tried a little cannabis oil. I am told the results were satisfactory.

Being male, middle-aged and more or less law-abiding, Sir Norman and I are demographically just the kind of chaps to dabble in the legal marijuana market. More people are consuming cannabis in Canada since it was legalised, with prevalence rising from 14 per cent to 18 per cent in the last year. In the first quarter of 2019, 646,000 people, most of them men and half of them aged over 45, tried cannabis for the first time. The most common reason given by these debutants for buying cannabis on the legal market is ‘quality and safety’. It is not so much that the law was an effective deterrent – everybody knew the police barely enforced it – rather that would-be consumers were put off by the idea of buying an unregulated product from a criminal supply chain.

The problem is that there are more than four million Canadians who are used to buying on the black market and have been given little incentive to stop. An illicit cannabis market that was worth $1,289 million in the last full quarter before legalisation was still worth $1,014 million in the first quarter of this year. The legal, recreational market was worth a mere £377 million. The illicit trade is proving hard to shake off.

Everyone I spoke to in Ontario was eager to point out that these are early days. Canada is only the second country to legalise cannabis (after Uruguay) and there were bound to be teething problems. There is a temporary shortage of both cannabis and shops from which to buy it. Toronto, a city of three million souls, has just four recreational cannabis shops. Nevertheless, the primary goal of legalisation was to take out the criminal element and so it is concerning that most of the country’s weed continues to be sourced on the black market.

Things are unlikely to improve until prices fall. The average gram of cannabis on the street costs $6.37. The average gram in a shop costs $9.99. Casual smokers might be prepared to pay ten bucks for government-approved cannabis, but the costs of switching to the legal market start to add up if you’re one of the two million Canadians who consume the drug at least once a week.

Marijuana is being produced on a truly industrial scale in Canada. Factories are turning seeds into six foot plants in a matter of weeks. The legal product could easily be sold cheaper than its illicit competitors, but over-regulation, taxation and a lack of competition have got in the way. Politicians hoped to smash the black market while regulating the product in such a way that it would not attract new punters. These two goals were never easy to reconcile, and neither has been achieved. High prices, plain packaging and restrictive licensing conditions have deterred long-term users from switching to the legal market while new customers have given it a try anyway.

Everything about Toronto’s cannabis shops feels regulated to the last inch. Browsing their shelves gave me a fresh appreciation for the subtle nudges of consumer capitalism. With logos and colours stripped from the packaging, there is nothing to signal quality, economy or potency; nothing to remember. The windows are blacked out. Edible and vaped cannabis cannot be sold. Small quantities of marijuana are held in over-sized plastic tubs, apparently to provide enough room for large yellow warning labels. The only concession to branding is that some of the tubs are white and some are black.

It all amounts to a concerted effort to suck the fun out of cannabis shopping, which makes sense if your aim is to deter people from buying the stuff, but not if your aim is to switch people from street cannabis to high street cannabis.

On an Indian reservation outside Toronto things could not be more different. Here, in a settlement of 4,100 people, there are no fewer than nineteen cannabis shops. Although it is illegal for visitors to take their shopping off-site, the authorities turn a blind eye to it as part of their efforts to atone for historic wrongs done to the indigenous population. As far as the proprietors are concerned, the unique selling point is their organic, homegrown product which they have reverse-engineered into the Indian way of life, but the real difference between these shops and their state-sanctioned counterparts is variety, low prices and an unabashed pride in selling something that is pleasurable.

All the weed sold here is unlicensed and therefore technically illicit, but when we visited, eight months after federal legalisation, it was doing good business. Until the Canadian government loosens up and allows a little more consumerism into its noble experiment, neither they nor the rest of the unlicensed sector have much to fear.

Source: Christopher Snowdon Spectator Magazine July 2019

Kevin Sabet was a drug control policy adviser in the White House for both Republicans and Democrats

When most people talk about Canada’s impending legalization of marijuana, they talk about the future. When Kevin Sabet talks about it, he worries about history repeating. 

“There are huge misconceptions, I often feel like we’re living in 1918, not 2018,” he said.” When I say 1918, I mean 1918 for tobacco when everyone thought that smoking cigarettes was no problem and we had a new industry that was just starting.”

In 1918, soldiers returning home from the trenches of the First World War brought cigarettes home with them and unwittingly sowed the seeds of one of 20th century’s biggest health epidemics. 

“We hadn’t had tobacco related deaths before the 20th century because we hadn’t had a lot of cigarettes, which actually gave us the most deadly form of tobacco we’ve ever seen. I feel like we’re like that with marijuana.”

Kevin Sabet is the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, a non-profit agency in the United States devoted to ‘preventing another big tobacco.’ (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)

A former drug control policy adviser to the White House under both the Democrats and Republicans, Sabet is the President and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a public health organization opposed to marijuana legalization and commercialization in the United States. 

He said the sudden about-face by Ontario’s newly-elected Progressive Conservative government away from a public monopoly on marijuana sales to a mixed public-private is “a really bad move.” 

“When I see the government monopoly being tossed out the window in favour of a private program that really puts private profit over public health.. I worry about that,” he said. “I think it’s a really bad move.” 

“They are moving from a government monopoly to private retail and that’s going to open the door to all the marketing and promotion and normalization that already is a huge problem for our already legal drugs.”

“We’ve seen how that turned out for pharmaceuticals like opiates, which are highly dangerous and we’ve seen how that turned out for tobacco and alcohol.”

Big investors lining up to cash-in on pot

With legalization still months away, there are growing signs that marijuana and big business are starting to become best buds. (Nicolas Pham/Radio-Canada)

In fact, Sabet points out, some of the same players have already expressed their willingness to provide Canadians with legal marijuana on a massive scale. 

Constellation Brands, the maker of some of the most popular wines and beers in the world, has already paid $5 billion for Canopy Growth, the world’s largest publicly traded licensed producer of marijuana in Smith Falls, Ont. 

Several notable Canadian brands have also expressed an interest in legal bud, including Molson, which has mused publicly about a THC infused beer and Shopper’s Drug Mart, which hopes to branch out in sales of medical marijuana online. 

“We’re already seeing the private market salivating in Canada, waiting to be that next addiction for profit substance and I don’t see how that helps us.” 

‘Not your Woodstock weed’

Why that worries Sabet is the combination of savvy corporate marketing and increasingly intense levels of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. 

“Today’s marijuana is not your Woodstock weed,” he said. “I think there’s a wild misperception about what today’s marijuana experience really is.” 

There are signs too that marijuana sold on the street is stronger than it used to be. According to a 2017 report from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, an American healthcare organization that helps people struggling with addiction, said the concentration of THC in marijuana has risen three-fold in the last two decades, from four per cent in 1994 to 12 per cent in 2014. 

Sabet notes that marijuana sold commercially in some states goes even further and is available in highly concentrated forms, such as hash, wax, or shatter with no rules or limits on the concentration of marijuana’s active ingredient. 

“It’s not four per cent THC, which is the ingredient that gets you high. It’s up to 99 per cent THC and there are no limits on THC,” he said. “I’m really concerned especially how today’s high potent marijuana is going to contribute to mental illness.” 

Potent pot and drug-induced psychosis

Anecdotally, one only has to look as far as the story of Mark Phillips, a lawyer from a prominent Toronto family, who pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in April, after he attacked a St. Thomas family with a baseball bat, calling them terrorists. 

During Phillips’ court appearance, his lawyer and psychiatrist said he was suffering from a drug-induced psychosis.

His lawyer, Steve Kurka told Justice John Skowronski that Phillips, whose mental health had been declining in the months and weeks leading up to the December 2017 baseball bat attack, smoked three or four joints before driving to London and then nearby St. Thomas, getting into arguments with people he believed to be Muslims targeting him along the way.

“[It] doesn’t shock me,” Sabet said of the Phillips case. “Today’s highly potent THC can have an aggressive violent effect. I’m not going to say everybody is going to have a psychotic breakdown. We’re going to see stuff like this become more and more common.”

Despite his concerns about pot, Sabet said he doesn’t want to see Canada go back to the days of arresting people for simple pot possession, nor does he see a problem with people growing the plant at home on a small scale either. 

“I don’t care about that,” he said. “The issue is when you make this a legal market and advertise it and throw it to the forces who are in the business of promotion. They are in the business of advertising and commercialization and pot shops next to your kid’s school and billboards and coupons and products, that’s my worry.” 

Sabet believes the real Reefer Madness is giving private companies control of retail sales, where they can use marijuana as a tool in their pursuit of profit at the cost of public health. 

“I worry that Canada is following the example of the United States in terms of this new industry which promotes, recklessly advertises, makes wild claims, ignores all harms and absolutely focuses on advertising to kids.” 

Source: Ontario’s new retail pot plan ‘puts profit over public health’ says former Obama drug adviser | CBC News August 2018

An investor in a major Canadian cannabis company has had longstanding ties, including business dealings, with influential Mafia members and drug traffickers, Radio-Canada has learned.

Another investor in the same company has links with a prominent member of the Rizzutos, the powerful Montreal crime family.

In still another case, an individual managed to sell his cannabis business to one of the big players in the industry, despite his connections to drug traffickers. In return, he received shares in the company and rented out space for a cannabis grow-op.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s legalization plan was supposed to cut out organized crime, but an investigation by Radio-Canada’s Enquête shows Health Canada has granted production licences to companies with individuals with links to the criminal underworld.

Enquête examined hundreds of documents as part of its investigation, including reviews conducted by Canadian securities oversight bodies. Enquête is not naming the companies or individuals involved.

For its part, Health Canada says it has not seen any cases of organized crime infiltration of more than 130 licensed cannabis producers since 2013.

To produce cannabis, those who hold certain positions in companies must first obtain a permit from Health Canada by taking a security screening.

Any past connections with individuals related to organized crime are part of the analyzed information.

Red flags raised

To secure a licence, Health Canada first checks if the individual has a criminal record.

Second, the RCMP consults police databases to review information that may indicate an applicant’s links to criminals.

Health Canada makes its final decision with the information provided by the RCMP.

The RCMP says it raised red flags on about 10 per cent of the applicants it was asked to check out in 2016 and 2017.

“It’s really criminal associations,” says Supt. Yves Goupil, who gives the example of a person “associated with individuals who have criminal records.”

In a statement, Health Canada said it can “categorically confirm” that it didn’t issue “security clearance to an individual when the RCMP provided evidence to the department that it was associated with organized crime.”

“Health Canada has found no evidence that organized crime has infiltrated one of more than 130 federally registered producers,” spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in an email.

Security checks only scratch the surface

Throughout the period in which Canada’s cannabis industry was developing, primarily for medical purposes, only individuals who directly ran the companies were required to obtain a security clearance.

This approach, says Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, demonstrates a naiveté about the workings of high-level organized crime.

“If there is someone who has a criminal record, it is not that person they will put to apply for the licence,” Carignan said. “It would be completely naive to think that.”

Last spring, Carignan and his Senate colleagues tried, unsuccessfully, to amend Bill C-45 on the legalization of cannabis in order to demand more transparency from companies entering the industry.

Several companies have opaque and complex structures.

“You never see who the real licence holders are,” said lawyer and tax expert Marwah Rizqy, who raised the issue before a Senate committee last spring and has since been elected Liberal MNA for the Quebec riding of Saint-Laurent.

The black hole of trusts

It’s not uncommon for cannabis companies to be funded through family trusts.

Originally designed for estate and tax planning, trusts are an ideal way to hide individuals with interests in a business, said Marie-Pierre Allard, who studies tax policy at the Université de Sherbrooke.

“The beneficiaries of the trust are not disclosed publicly. It’s anonymous,” she said, adding that it is “one of the great vulnerabilities of the Canadian legal system.”

“If we want to eliminate the Mafia cannabis market, we cannot allow them to use tax havens or trusts to enter indirectly through the back door,” Carignan said.

A report by the federal Department of Finance and several international organizations identifies trusts as one of the vehicles most at risk for money-laundering in Canada.

In a Senate appearance last April, Rizqy suggested refusing to grant production licences to companies financed through trusts.

“Maybe it would be wise to deny the licence outright because you are not able to unequivocally establish that the security clearance is really valid,” said Rizqy.

The recommendation was not accepted. The federal cannabis legislation adopted this summer, however, did include more extensive background checks into individuals who back cannabis companies.

Too many requirements for the cannabis industry?

Carignan has faced criticism for his efforts to make cannabis companies more transparent.

Line Beauchesne, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa, believes Health Canada’s investigations are adequate and consistent with the government’s desire to ensure the quality of the product and to prevent smuggling.

“Why especially for the cannabis industry?” Beauchesne asked.

If there were to be new rules of transparency, “all industries moving into Canada” should be affected, she said.

She acknowledged, however, that Health Canada “is absolutely not equipped to conduct financial investigations.”

Its traditional role is to ensure a product meets certain standards.

“Health Canada’s job is to make sure that when I eat cheese, it’s cheese. When it’s eggs, it’s eggs. And when [it comes to] cannabis, it’s cannabis.”

The limits of police investigations

The number of audits to be conducted in the cannabis industry is so great investigators have to make choices, said the RCMP’s Goupil.

The work of police is complicated considerably when the sources of financing for businesses come from abroad, including from tax havens.

“Technically, there is nothing illegal there. But it’s hard for [the RCMP] and for Health Canada to go out and check in those countries,” he said.

“Often, it’s going to be the janitor who will sign the company documents or a law firm in country X. At some point, we cannot do the research. It’s a lot of investment, a lot of time, a lot of money,” Goupil said.

“We cannot have a fully bulletproof system. If organized crime has an opportunity to make a profit, it will exploit it. “

Tax havens are not the only barrier to police work. Secrecy also exists in some companies in Canada.

“We need to use other more advanced techniques such as physical surveillance and wiretapping that will help us identify who is behind the company and who operates it,” he said.

These survey techniques, however, require considerable resources and cannot be deployed for all cannabis companies.

“We cannot afford it.”

Source: Licensed cannabis growers have ties to organized crime, Enquête investigation finds | CBC News November 2018

The fact that 1 in 6 infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure should concern Canadians as they move to legalization on 17 October. The dangers of 2nd-hand, carcinogenic and psychoactive chemically-laden marijuana smoke were ignored by the Trudeau government in its push to legalize pot, Pamela McColl writes.


What About Us? October 17 2018

No amount of second-hand smoke is safe. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung diseases and other health problems.  Second hand-smoke is a cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The fact that one in six infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure should be of grave to Canadians as they too have moved to legalization.

The dangers of second-hand, carcinogenic and psychoactive chemically-laden marijuana smoke were ignored by the Trudeau government in their push to legalize pot. This government in fact sanctioned the smoking of marijuana in the presence of children.

The government did not commission an in-depth child risk assessment of the draft legalization framework, a study called for by child advocates across the country.

The Alberta Ministry of Children’s Services’ – Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act Placement Resource Policy on Environmental Safety states; that a foster parent must be aware of, and committed to provide a non-smoking environment by not allowing smoking in the home when a foster child is placed; not allowing smoking in a vehicle when a foster child is present; and not allowing use of smokeless tobacco when a foster child is present. As the Alberta government’s policy contains all-inclusive language of “non-smoking environment,” the same rules have been extend to legalized marijuana. Some children in the province of Alberta have been protected under policy while the majority of Albertan children and other children in Canada should rightly ask: “What About Us?”

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms secures the safety of children from threats to their health and their life. Section 15 of the Charter prohibits discrimination perpetrated by the governments of Canada. The Equality Rights section states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The provisions that protect children in foster care should extend to every child.

Section 7 of the Charter is a constitutional provision that protects an individual’s personal legal rights from actions of the government of Canada, the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The Cannabis Act fails to protect Canadian children’s right to security of the self. The right to security of the person consists of the rights to privacy of the body and its health and of the right protecting the “psychological integrity” of an individual.  Exposure to marijuana in poorly ventilated spaces exposes the non-user to the impact of a psychotropic high, including the distortion of one’s sense of reality.

Canada is a party to the Rights of the Child Treaty, the most widely ratified piece of human rights law in history.  The treaty establishes the human rights of children to health and to protection under law. Placing marijuana products and plants into children’s homes fails to protect their rights under international treaty obligations.

A petition, before the BC Government Legislative Assembly via the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, seeks to make all multi-unit dwellings in BC smoke-free. Smoke-free housing is needed to protect the non-user’s health. Smoke travels, it escapes and contaminates beyond a single unit. Law consists, primarily, in preserving a person from death and violence and in securing their free enjoyment of their property. The Cannabis Act fails to preserve the rights of non-users of marijuana. It rests with citizens to stand up for their rights and those of children. Be prepared this will be an ugly, costly and lengthy process.

“We think that the true rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings on his land and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it at his peril, and, if he does not do so, is prima facia answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape. “ House of Lords Rule. Doctrine of Strict Liability of Dangerous Conditions Rylands versus Fletcher – 1868. Successful argued in Delta, Canada 1983. Individual prevented from smoking in his residence.

Provincial governments can correct the mistakes made by the federal government. Concerned citizens must see that they do.

Pamela McColl –

Source: What about the children? | DB Recovery Resources October 2018

Pregnant women who smoke cannabis almost double the risk of their baby being born autistic, warns a new study.

In the largest ever study of its kind, researchers found that children whose mothers reported using cannabis during pregnancy were at greater risk of autism.

The incidence of autism was four per 1,000 person-years among children exposed to cannabis in pregnancy, compared to 2.42 among unexposed children.

‘There is evidence that more people are using cannabis during pregnancy,’ said senior study author Professor Mark Walker, of the University of Ottawa in Canada.

‘This is concerning, because we know so little about how cannabis affects pregnant women and their babies.

‘Parents-to-be should inform themselves of the possible risks, and we hope studies like ours can help.’

The researchers reviewed data from every birth in Ontario between 2007 and 2012, before recreational cannabis was legalised in Canada.

Of the half a million women in the study, about 3,000 (0.6 per cent) reported using cannabis during pregnancy.

Importantly, these women reported using only cannabis.

The team had previously found that cannabis use in pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of premature birth.

In that study, they found that women who used cannabis during pregnancy often used other substances including tobacco, alcohol and opioids.

Considering those findings, in the current study the researchers specifically looked at the 2,200 women who reported using only cannabis during pregnancy, and no other substances.

The findings, published in the medical journal Nature Medicine. showed that babies born to this group still had an increased risk of autism compared to those who didn’t use cannabis.

The researchers do not know exactly how much cannabis the women were using, how often, at what time during their pregnancy, or how it was consumed.

But as cannabis becomes more socially acceptable, doctors are concerned that some parents-to-be might think it can be used to treat morning sickness.

Dr Daniel Corsi, an epidemiologist at The Ottawa Hospital, said: ‘In the past, we haven’t had good data on the effect of cannabis on pregnancies.’

He added: ‘This is one of the largest studies on this topic to date.

‘We hope our findings will help women and their health-care providers make informed decisions.’

Autism is fairly common, but still poorly understood.

In the US, about one in every 59 children born will fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

About one in every 66 children in Canada are autistic and, globally, the rate is approximately one in every 160 children.

Research suggests that there is likely some genetic basis for autism,  which is about four-times more common among boys than girls.

But scientists believe exposures in the womb likely play a role as well.

The effects of cannabis are similarly poorly understood to the origins of autism.

Although doctors caution against it, cannabis use has not been linked to miscarriages in humans (though animal studies have suggested an increased risk) and evidence on the link between weed and low birth-weight is mixed.

Marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked, however, to up to 2.3 times greater risks of stillbirth.

The Ottawa Hospital study did not investigate how exactly marijuana use in pregnancy might lead to autism in a child, but scientists believe that the drug’s interaction with the so-called endocannabinoid system within the nervous system could play a role in the development of the behavioral condition.




Police forces in the province collected 795 blood samples from motorists suspected of driving while under the influence.

One year after the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in Canada, the black market for the drug — as well as its use behind the wheel — continues to keep Quebec police forces busy.

In 2018, police collected 795 blood samples from motorists suspected of driving while under the influence, and sent them to Quebec’s medical legal centre for processing. That’s 254 more than in the previous year.

The presence of cannabis was detected in 46 per cent of those cases.

The Sûreté du Québec says cannabis is the most commonly detected drug in its traffic stops.

The provincial force said that since legalization, cannabis was detected in the systems of 113 persons pulled over for impaired driving, compared with 73 cases a year earlier — an increase of 54 per cent.

More than 670 officers trained in drug use evaluation have been deployed across the province.

In a statement issued Thursday detailing its operations over the past year, the SQ said it had opened 1,409 investigations into the illegal production, supply and distribution of cannabis, which led to 1,458 warrants being executed and charges filed against 1,403 individuals.

Meanwhile, raids on illegal outdoor cannabis fields were carried out in August and September, and saw 37,000 plants seized.

Over the past year, the SQ seized 71,500 cannabis plants, 161 kilograms of cannabis, 15.8 kilograms of cannabis oil and resin, 23,460 units of edible cannabis and $180,000 in cash.

Source: October 2019


July 2017 Revised January 2018

Injury Prevention Centre: Who we are

The Injury Prevention Centre (IPC) is a provincial organization that focuses on reducing catastrophic injury and death in Alberta. We act as a catalyst for action by supporting communities and decision-makers with knowledge and tools. We raise awareness about preventable injuries as an important component of lifelong health and wellness. We are funded by an operating grant from Alberta Health and we are housed at the School of Public Health, University of Alberta.

Injury in Alberta

Injuries are the leading cause of death for Albertans aged 1 to 44 years. In 2014, injuries resulted in 2,118 deaths, 63,913 hospital admissions and 572,653 emergency department visits. Of all age groups, young adults, 20 to 24 years old had the highest percentage of injury deaths with 84.9%. Youth, 15 to 19 years of age had the second highest percentage of injury deaths with 76.4%.

1. Alberta is spending an estimated $4 billion annually on injury – that amounts to $1,083.00 for every Albertan.

2. Potential impact of cannabis legalization on injury in Alberta In 2018, the Government of Canada will legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. In the United States, some jurisdictions have similarly legalized cannabis for recreational use and have collected data on the changes in injuries due to cannabis use. Jurisdictions that have legalized the use of recreational as well as medical cannabis have experienced increases in injuries due to burns (100%), pediatric ingestion of cannabis (48%), drivers testing positive for cannabis and/or alcohol and drugs (9%), drivers testing positive for THC (6%) and drivers testing positive for the metabolite caboxy-THC (12%) when comparing pre- and post-legalization numbers.

3. (pg. 149) Of greatest concern are the traffic outcomes. “Fatalities substantially increased after legislation in Colorado and Washington, from 49 (in 2010) to 94 (in 2015) in Colorado, and from 40 to 85 in Washington. These outcomes suggest that after legislation, more people are driving while impaired by cannabis.”

4. (pg.155) Alberta can expect to see similar changes in injuries when the new laws take effect. The objective of this document is to recommend policies for inclusion in the Alberta Cannabis Framework that will minimize negative impacts of cannabis legalization on injuries to Albertans. Our focus is on:

* Preventing Cannabis-Impaired Driving

* Preventing Poisoning of Children by Cannabis

* Preventing Burns due to Combustible Solvent Hash Oil Extraction

* Preventing Other Injuries due to Cannabis Impairment

* Developing Surveillance to Identify Trends in Cannabis-Related injury

* Implementing a Comprehensive Public Education Plan

Injuries due to cannabis impairment in Alberta can be expected to rise following the legalization of recreational cannabis use. To mitigate the negative effects of legalization on injuries in Alberta, the Injury Prevention Centre recommends the Government of Alberta take the following actions for:

Preventing Cannabis-Impaired Driving

Impose administrative sanctions at a lower limit than Criminal Code impairment

Mandate a lower per se levels for THC/alcohol co-use

Increase sanctions for co-use of alcohol and cannabis

Separate cannabis and alcohol outlets by the creation of a public retail system for the distribution of cannabis products

Support Research to Improve Enforcement Tools

Apply sufficient resources to training and enforcement

Conduct public education regarding cannabis-impaired driving .

Preventing Poisoning of Children by Cannabis

Uphold federal legislation regarding packaging

Support public education on cannabis poisoning’

Preventing Burns due to Combustible Solvent Hash Oil Extraction

Prohibit the production of cannabis products using combustible solvents if it fails to appear in federal Bill C45.

Implement public education regarding the dangers of producing cannabis products using combustible solvents

Preventing Other Injuries due to Cannabis-Impairment

Inform the public about the risks of other activities when impaired

Develop Surveillance to Identify Trends in Cannabis-Related injury

Collect and analyze emergency department, hospital admission and death data for injuries involving cannabis impairment

Develop and implement a comprehensive public education campaign about the safe use of cannabis

Source: Jan. 2018

Haven Dubois, 14, died in accidental drowning on May 20, 2015, coroner says

Family members hold a picture of Haven Dubois, 14, who was found in cardiac arrest in a Regina creek on May 20, 2015. (CBC)

Richelle Dubois, the mother of 14-year-old Haven Dubois, says she is determined to learn more about the circumstances surrounding her son’s death. “I’m not done with this until I’m satisfied that they’ve looked into everything,” Dubois said Wednesday following the release of a coroner’s report that looked into the May 20, 2015 death of Haven. “I need to make sure that they’ve done their job properly.”
According to the report, the Regina boy was found drowned. The report said boys who were with Haven on that day told the coroner that he suffered a bad reaction to marijuana.
The boy’s mother Dubois has expressed concerns the death might have been connected to gangs. Police said foul play had been ruled out. Richelle Dubois said last fall she had waited a long time for the coroner to complete her report on her son Haven’s death. (CBC)
Coroner Maureen Stinnen interviewed a number of boys who were with Dubois, who said he was at school in the morning before getting into a car with friends.
“They apparently smoked some marijuana and they indicated that Haven began ‘freaking out,'” Stinnen’s report said. One of the youths Stinnen interviewed said it was Dubois’s first time smoking drugs. After getting out of the car, Dubois continued suffering ill effects and started walking away from the school, F. W. Johnson Collegiate.

Left alone on a bench

“Witnesses indicate he was ‘spinning in circles’ with his arms crossed at his chest,” the report said. One witness said he sat for a while with Dubois on a bench in a park, but left him alone so he could go get a skateboard and backpack. When the boy returned, Dubois wasn’t at the bench.
A friend said he last saw Dubois walking north by the creek in the area where his mother had discovered the body. Over the noon hour, Dubois was found face down in about a metre of water. Efforts to resuscitate him failed.
Dubois had no history or depression or suicidal tendencies, the coroner said. However, a toxicology report indicated he had the active component of cannabis in his blood.

Reactions to marijuana vary, coroner says

“The effect of marijuana on individuals varies considerably, from minor effects such as general feeling of well-being, to agitation and paranoia,” the report said. “These effects are subject to dose, age and experience of the user. Even in low doses, marijuana can precipitate a panic reaction and irrational behaviour.”
Stinnen said the case was thoroughly investigated by the Regina police and while “questions remain,” there were no indications of foul play. She concluded that Dubois’s death was an accidental drowning with drug use a “significant contributing factor.”

Mother seeks more information

Richelle Dubois said Wednesday she feels she did not get enough information from police about their investigation. “It’s so easy for them to brush it aside. It’s just another dead Indian to them,” Dubois said. “That’s how I feel; that we’re just another Indian family.”
According to a spokesperson from the police, officers met with Dubois three times. Dubois said the findings of the coroner, noting how marijuana can lead some people to panic and act irrationally, provide a possible explanation for her son’s death, but she still has questions.
“l know this isn’t the end of it,” she said. “This little two and a quarter page [report] isn’t the end of it.” Dubois added she has made a formal request to view police reports on the case.


The Liberal government, thanks to Justin Trudeau’s mindless statements during the federal election of 2015, became committed to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. The purpose of this initiative was to encourage millennials to vote for the Liberal Party.

Like many of its other policies, the Liberal government was clueless about the unintended consequences of this promise. For example, it has yet to solve the problem that has arisen because Canada ratified UN drug treaties that prohibit the use of marijuana. Further, S. 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) specifically states that it is the responsibility of governments to protect children from the use and trafficking of drugs:

33. Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in their illicit production and trafficking of such substances.

The CRC defines “child” as anyone under 18 years of age. However, once marijuana is legalized, it becomes normalized and becomes acceptable. As a result, adolescents under the age of 18 years will have access to it, as they have easy access, today, to cigarettes.

The Liberals are merrily proceeding with their legalization of marijuana, ignoring their treaty obligations as well as many other serious problems inherent with the legalization.

Unfortunately, the government thinks it cannot back down from its proposal on marijuana as its credibility is already seriously on the line with its accumulating failures on other policies. These include the defeat of electoral reform; the enormous, accumulating national debt, far in excess of what had been promised; the incompetence of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry; failure to provide transparency and honesty, insisting on continuing with its pay-for-access scheme for corporate high rollers; the flaunting of regulations by Trudeau to vacation with billionaire, the Imam Aga Khan, in the latter’s private island, and the $10.5 million award to terrorist Omar Khadr, who killed an American soldier and blinded another in Afghanistan. Under all these circumstances, it is not unreasonable to describe the Trudeau government as dumb and dumber, as the Liberal blunders are piling up.

Despite this, on April 13, 2017, the Liberal government tabled legislation on marijuana. It provides only a vague and little considered framework for the sale, distribution and possession of it. This framework is based on the federal government’s use of its criminal law provisions to supposedly provide “protection of public health”. This is why Trudeau has been going across the country loudly proclaiming that the objective of his marijuana legislation is “to reduce harm to Canadians” and to “decrease the black market of marijuana”. These comments are nothing more than mindless prattle.

The government is ignoring the reality of recreational marijuana use which occurred in Colorado when it legalized recreational marijuana in 2013. Since that time, Colorado has experienced:

· Marijuana use by Colorado youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years old increased by 20%; this was 74% higher than the national average of that age group;

· Marijuana use of university age youths increased by 17%;

· Marijuana use by adults age 26+ years old increased 63% in comparison to an increase nationally of 21%;

· In 2014 when retail marijuana businesses began operating in Colorado, there was a 32% increase in marijuana related traffic deaths. During the same period of time, alltraffic deaths increased by only 8%. Marijuana related traffic deaths were approximately 20% of all traffic deaths;

· There was a 29% increase in the number of marijuana related emergency room visits in 2014 and a 38% increase in the number of marijuana related hospitalizations;

· During the years 2013-2014, the average number of children exposed to marijuana was 31 per year. This was an increase of 138%;

· According to the Colorado Attorney General, legalization of marijuana did not reduce black market marijuana activity “the criminals are still selling on the black market…. We have plenty of cartel activity and plenty of illegal activity that has not decreased at all”; and

· Homelessness in Colorado surged by 50% with 20 to 30% of newcomers living in shelters, having moved to Colorado to have easy access to marijuana.

Trudeau and his government apparently haven’t even read their own Health Canada Website, which lists the risks of marijuana to include:

· Risks to health, some of which may not be known or fully understood. Studies supporting the safety and efficacy of cannabis for therapeutic purposes are limited and do not meet the standard required by the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada.

· Smoking cannabis is not recommended. Do not smoke or vapourize cannabis in the presence of children.

· Using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair concentration, ability to think and make decisions, reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including ability to drive. It can also increase anxiety and cause panic attacks, and in some cases cause paranoia and hallucinations.

· Cognitive impairment may be greatly increased when cannabis is consumed along with alcohol or other drugs which affect the activity of the nervous system (e.g. opioids, sleeping pills, other psychoactive drugs)

The warning goes on to list specifically when cannabis should never be used by anyone:

· under the age of 25

· who has serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease

· who has a personal or family history of serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder

· who is pregnant, is planning to get pregnant, or is breast-feeding

· who is a man who wishes to start a family

· who has a history of alcohol or drug abuse or substance dependence

In June 2016, ignoring this crucial information, Trudeau established a Task Force to make recommendations on marijuana use. The Committee was headed by former Liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan. The bad news was that the nine-member Committee included the controversial Dr. Perry Kendall, who, both as Ontario Medical Officer of Health and BC Provincial Health Officer, has advocated for legalization of drugs. In June, 2010, Dr. Kendall claimed that the use of the drug ecstasy can be “safe” when consumed “responsibly”. In 2016, Dr. Kendall called for the decriminalization of personal drug use and possession.

The Committee’s Report, released in December, 2016, could have been written by the marijuana industry. It is void of concerns for public safety and, if implemented, will cause damage to generations of Canadians to the benefit of the marijuana industry.

The Committee recommended that the age of majority, that is 18, be set for the use of marijuana (nineteen years for those in provinces where that is the age of majority).

On May 29th, 2017 an alarmed Canadian Medical Association (CMA), in an editorial in its Journal, stated that current research shows the brain doesn’t reach maturity until around age 25. The CMA editorial referred to the fact that the 9% risk of developing dependence over a lifetime rises to 17% if marijuana use is started in the teen years.

The CMA recommends that the government raise the legal age for buying marijuana to 21, and that it restrict the quantity and potency of the marijuana available to those under 25 years of age.

The Canadian Paediatric Society position paper on the effects of cannabis on children and youth cites serious potential effects, such as: increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis; diminished school performance and lifetime achievement; increased risk of tobacco smoking; impaired neurological development and cognitive decline; and a risk of addiction.

In 2010, Canadian youth were ranked No. 1 for cannabis use among 43 countries in Europe and North America. Are we trying to maintain this record?

The federal Task Force also recommended that individuals be allowed to possess 30 grams of marijuana and be permitted to cultivate marijuana for non-medical purposes providing it is limited to four plants per residence, and has the maximum height limit of 100 centimetres. No doubt the police will be knocking on doors with their measuring sticks to ensure that the width and height of the marijuana plants conform to the law.

Just like the Big Tobacco Industry before it, the Big Marijuana Industry is pumping up its corporate growers, in anticipation of grabbing billions of dollars in the growing, distribution and selling of pot across the country. Tobacco smoking is the second biggest risk factor for early death and disability after high blood pressure. Fortunately, because of intense advertising against tobacco smoking, its prevalence has dropped from 35% to 25% among men and from 8% to 5% among women. What on earth then, are we doing by reversing ourselves and adding dangerous marijuana smoke to the deadly mix?

Provinces Concerned About the Marijuana Proposal

Each of the provinces will be required to implement its own rules and restrictions in respect of the distribution and sale of marijuana. This means the provinces will have the last say on the method of sale and point-of-sale restrictions, having regard to the key objective of the federal legislation – supposedly, to prevent or reduce harm to Canadians. In deciding their own rules, Houdini wouldn’t be able to accomplish this. Neither are the provinces likely to reap the supposed vast profits from the sale of marijuana. The provinces are rightly skeptical about any such windfall since taxes on pot are expected to stay low to ensure the regulated market elbows out illegal dealers.

It is significant that on November 1, 2016, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), Jean-Denis Frechette, released a 77 page study entitled, “Legalized Cannabis: Fiscal Considerations”, which states that the federal government may have little fiscal space to heavily tax cannabis the way it does tobacco, without pushing the legal price well beyond that of currently illicit pot. Price legal pot too high and the black market will continue to flourish; too low and governments could be seen to be encouraging its use.

The PBO projects that sales tax revenue in 2018 could be as low as $356 million and as high as $959 million, with a likely take of about $618 million based on legalized retail cannabis selling for $9 per gram – in line with current street prices.

In addition, health care costs are expected to soar with the legalized use of recreational marijuana. As an example, a new study presented to the Pediatric Academic Societies in 2016, found that one in six toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with coughing, wheezing and other symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure.

The Liberal government hopes to have this marijuana muddle all sorted out by July 1, 2018, disregarding the harm to society caused by this legislation. What seems to matter to this government, only, is that millennials vote for the party in the 2019 federal election – even if they are all spaced-out from the use of marijuana!

The Liberal government is reckless and utterly irresponsible in bringing this marijuana legislation forward.

Reality Volume XXXVI Issue No. 10 October 2017 Source:

Legalisation of cannabis is likely to lack priority for this new government.

There is one benefit to MMP, it is that the whackier campaign ideas tend to perish in the coalition negotiation process.

That hasn’t entirely been the case this time, the worst example being the Green Party’s promise to initiate a referendum on the subject of legalising cannabis (by 2020).

This would seem to be a case of a party formulating policy in the hope that it will garner votes as opposed to genuinely believing it will be beneficial. That view is reinforced by Green leader James Shaw’s assurance last week that he had never smoked cannabis, adding the illuminating comment, “It isn’t good for you, is it?”

“We know that cannabis is a carcinogenic, as is tobacco. Unlike tobacco, however, it is also linked, beyond dispute, with mental illness and poor academic achievement.”

Too right it isn’t. There is enough evidence to support that to stupefy an entire nation, which makes it all the more extraordinary that he would not only propose a referendum in the first place, but would stick to his guns when it came to striking a deal with Labour.

All the more extraordinary because Mr Shaw’s party is one of the leading lights in the drive to make New Zealand tobacco-free by 2025. (Presumably the term smoke-free is now redundant).

If all goes according to his plan, a substance that harms the physical health of the user will disappear just in time to be replaced by another substance that does even more damage, physically, emotionally and intellectually, than tobacco ever has.

We know that cannabis is a carcinogenic, as is tobacco. Unlike tobacco, however, it is also linked, beyond dispute, with mental illness and poor academic achievement. From there it can be held accountable for reducing the user’s ability to find employment, and everything that goes with that, including poverty, for themselves and their dependents.

The drive for legalisation has taken a turn (for the worse) this time around because of strident appeals to recognise its medicinal benefits. It might well dull pain – it certainly dulls most of the user’s senses – but there is a undoubtedly deliberate blurring of the lines by the drug’s supporters between medicinal cannabis, which does not include its mind-altering properties, and the ‘benefits’ to be gained by allowing its cultivation/possession and consumption in the traditional manner.

People have long waxed eloquent about cannabis as a pain killer, usually from the dock as they are in the process of being sentenced for growing the stuff. If personal experience of that is anything to go by, its fans tend to show all the signs of long-term use, which might make them happy but has reduced their role in society to that of passengers.

It might well be true that cannabis does not represent any great threat to the physical or mental health of a middle-aged dope smoker who indulges on an occasional basis. The same cannot be said for those who start young, and there, Mr Shaw, lies the rub.

We have been told for years, most often by the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml – there’s an oxymoron for you) that legalisation would of course need to be accompanied by strict controls that would keep it out of the hands of young people.

That assurance has been given to the writer on numerous occasions, but no one has ever been able to explain how any such measures would stand any chance of success, given our experience with tobacco and alcohol.

Neither of those substances may be legally purchased or used by minors, but both are. No one in this country has yet been able to devise controls that prevent that, and the same, inevitably, will apply to cannabis. Prove to us that you have cracked that, Mr Shaw, and people might start listening to you.

The best reason for not legalising cannabis was offered to this newspaper some years ago by a teacher at Kaitaia College. He said the college was home to any number of bright, determined, ambitious young people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives, and had mapped out exactly how they were going to achieve their ambitions.

They knew that even a minor cannabis conviction would nobble those ambitions, and for that reason alone wouldn’t touch the stuff with a barge pole.

No one the writer knows has ever come up with a better reason for not legalising it. And no one will. If it is legalised future generations of bright, ambitious young people will assuredly dabble in it, to their (and our) cost.

Even if they don’t succumb to regular use it will rob them, to some degree, of their potential, to a far greater degree than flirting with alcohol or tobacco ever would.

We don’t hear Mr Shaw, or anyone else, suggesting that our children should have greater access than they already do to alcohol and tobacco, for good reason. How they can be prepared to countenance access to cannabis defies explanation.

Perhaps Mr Shaw’s political interest in this issue outweighs any concern he might have for future generations. Perhaps the legalising of cannabis has such appeal to his voter base that he can accept the inevitable collateral damage. Hopefully he is in a very small minority, and will remain so.

And don’t buy the hoary old story that our prisons are full of people who wouldn’t be there if cannabis was legal. Those who insist that this is true have either been doing too much personal research into the ‘benefits’ of sucking on cannabis cigarette all day or are deliberately trying to deceive.

No one is in jail in this country today purely because they have been caught using cannabis. One or two might be there because they were caught growing or dealing it on a substantial scale, but possession of cannabis, whatever the law might say, is no longer an imprisonable offence in this country, and hasn’t been for a very long time.

There will be some who are in jail on convictions that include possession of cannabis, but it won’t have been the drug that put them behind bars. They will have offended in other ways. To say that people are in jail because of personal possession is a blatant lie.

Some elements of the current debate are certainly worth pursuing, including that drug addiction in general should be regarded as a health issue rather than a criminal matter. And there is no doubt that drug treatment facilities are woefully inadequate. But again, this is where the pro-cannabis logic collapses.

We know the harm cannabis does; we know it leads to dependence on much harsher chemical substances; we know that people who become addicted, to whatever substance, are unlikely to get the help they need to get off it. And we know that the damage done, by cannabis and other drugs, is permanent. Dead brain cells don’t grow back.

Yet here we are talking about legalising it. It makes no sense whatsoever to even consider it. A handful of people might genuinely believe that it will ease their pain, or, in medical form, will reduce the severity of some far from common conditions (again, the use of medical marijuana is a separate issue), but legalising cannabis for all and sundry will not benefit society in any imaginable way.

There can be absolutely no question that legalising cannabis will, in fact, do enormous harm, and any politician who is unaware of that, or is prepared to trade that harm for electoral success, has no place in Parliament.


Canada’s Liberal government has stated that marijuana will be decriminalized by July 2018. This means the removal, or at the least, a lessening of laws and restrictions related to marijuana use and associated pot services.

While people on both sides of the debate have strongly held and differing opinions, the protection of youth is an area of agreement.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, has been illegal in Canada for close to 100 years. Marijuana can’t be produced, sold or even possessed. If caught, one faces fines, jail time or both.

Despite this, Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Over 40 per cent of Canadians have used cannabis during their lifetime. Furthermore, studies conducted by Health Canada indicate that between 10.2 and 12.2 per cent of Canadians use cannabis at least once a year.

As changes in cannabis regulation occur, new research has been conducted. The findings are, in a word, alarming. According to published research, someone who uses marijuana regularly has, on average, less grey matter in the orbital frontal cortex of the brain. Other research has found increasing evidence of a link between pot and schizophrenia symptoms.

A major factor is the potency of cannabis, which has gone through the roof for the last two decades. In the 1960s, THC levels were reported to have been in the one-to-four-per-cent range. Research reported in the science journal, Live Science, in 21014 indicates that marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, THC, in random marijuana samples, rose from about four per cent in 1995 to about 12 per cent in 2014. In a more-recent article, the leader of the American Chemical Society stated: “We’ve seen potency values close to 30-per-cent THC, which is huge.”

Despite these clear and increasing dangers, the Government of Canada’s stated objective is to “legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis for non-medical purposes.” Unfortunately, the government’s approach has serious flaws.  Most importantly, their approach lacks protections for youth, despite this being another specifically stated objective of the Canadian government’s new law.

While supporters of cannabis often compare it with alcohol, a legal, but carefully controlled substance in Canada, there is an important difference. Cannabis is commonly consumed by smoking, which leads to significant, second-hand affects and, as a result, second-hand structural changes in the brain.

In my neighbourhood, cannabis-users in one house, taking advantage of the decreasing legal response to cannabis in B.C. these days, happily smoke the substance on their back deck, only to have the blue smoke waft across to the trampoline next door, where my younger brother and his friends often play.

The government’s proposed new policy actually encourages youth exposure by making it legal for citizens to grow cannabis in their homes. There is no mention of the protection of children living in those residences, where cannabis is grown, consumed and potentially sold.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police makes this point well. They warn that allowing home-grown cultivation will fuel the cannabis black market and that the four-plant limit proposed under the legislation is impossible to enforce. The chiefs further note that home cultivation is a direct contradiction to the government’s promise to create a highly regulated environment that minimizes youth access to the drug.

The biggest concern that the youth of Canada should have about the government’s approach to decriminalization is, however, drug quality — potentially with deadly results. The opportunity for tampering is obvious. A high school friend and classmate of mine casually uses cannabis and landed in the hospital for a few weeks. She believes that some of the cannabis she used was laced with another substance. I often wonder how close my friend came to dying like another of our fellow students at New Westminster Secondary School.

Canada isn’t ready for the decriminalization of cannabis. The Canadian government, and our health-care and legal systems, aren’t fully prepared for the problems and long-term effects that’ll have serious consequences for our youth. Important issues, including second-hand effects and basic safety, not to mention enforcement and legal implications, have yet to be fully defined and planned for. The federal government’s plan to decriminalize pot, as it stands now, doesn’t provide enough protection for Canada’s young people.

Mitchell Moir is a Grade 12 student at New Westminster Secondary.

Source:   23rd June 2017

During the 2015 election, the Liberals campaigned on a plan to greenlight marijuana for recreational use to keep it out of the hands of children and the profits out of the hands of criminals.

The party’s election platform said Canada’s current approach — criminalizing people for possession and use — traps too many Canadians in the justice system for minor offences.

Last month, the government spelled out its plans in legislation, setting sweeping policy changes in motion.  The new law proposes setting the national minimum age to legally buy cannabis at 18 years old. It will be up to the provinces should they want to restrict it further.

Is it true, as Wilson-Raybould and the Liberals suggest, that legalization will in fact keep cannabis out of the hands of kids?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below)

This one earns a lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth. Here’s why:


There is no doubt cannabis is in the hands of young people today.

In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of teenage and early-age adulthood use of marijuana, says Dr. Mark Ware, the vice-chair of the federally-appointed task force on cannabis and a medicinal marijuana researcher at McGill University.

“We don’t anticipate that this is going to eliminate it; but the public health approach is to make it less easy for young adolescents, young kids, to access cannabis than it is at the moment,” he said.

Bonnie Leadbeater, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria who specializes in adolescent behaviour, said as many as 60 per cent of 18-year-olds have used marijuana at some point in their lives.

The aim of a regulated, controlled system of legalized cannabis is to make it more difficult for kids to access pot, Ware said, noting the principle goal is to delay the onset of use.

So will a recreational market for adults coupled with a regulatory regime really keep pot out of the hands of kids?


Public health experts — including proponents of legalization — say that probably won’t happen.

“I don’t exactly know what they are planning to do to keep it out of the hands of young people and I think some elaboration of that might be helpful,” Leadbeater said. “It is unlikely that it will change … it has been very, very accessible to young people.”

Benedikt Fischer, a University of Toronto psychiatry professor and senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, agrees the expectation that legalization will suddenly reduce or eliminate use among young people is counter-intuitive and unrealistic to a large extent.

“The only thing we could hope for is that maybe because it is legal, all of a sudden it is so much more boring for young people that they’re not interested in it anymore,” he said.

Increasing penalties for people who facilitate access to kids will help discourage law-abiding Canadians from doing so, says Steven Hoffman, director of a global strategy lab at the University of Ottawa Centre for health law, policy and ethics.

“That being said, when there’s a drug, there’s no foolproof way of keeping it out of the hands of all children,” Hoffman said. “For sure, there will still be children who are still consuming cannabis.”

Cannabis will not be legal for people of all ages under the legislation, he added, noting this means there may still be a market for criminal activity for cannabis in the form of selling it to children.

In Colorado, officials thought there would be an increase in use as a result of legalization, according to Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer at the Department of Public Health and Environment, but he said there’s been no increase among either youth or adults.    Nor has there been a noticeable decrease.

“What it looks like is folks who may have been using illicitly before are using legally now and teens or youth that were using illicitly before, it’s still the same rate of illicit use,” he said.


Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said the Liberal government could provide a more nuanced, realistic message about its plans to legalize marijuana.

“To suddenly go over to the rhetoric … that strict regulation is going to keep it out of the hands of young people doesn’t work,” he said.

“There’s a better chance of reducing the harm to young people through a … public health, regulatory approach. That’s ideally what they should be saying.”

Careful messaging around legalized marijuana — like the approach taken by the Netherlands — could make cannabis less of a tempting forbidden fruit for young people, said Mark Haden, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia.

“What we know is that prohibition maximizes the engagement of youth, so if we did it well and skillfully and ended prohibition with a wise approach and made cannabis boring, it would keep it out of the hands of kids,” he said.

“It isn’t completely baloney, it just hasn’t gone far enough in terms of a rich, real discussion. It is just political soundbites.”

For this reason, Wilson-Raybould’s statement contains “a lot of baloney.”


The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

· No baloney – the statement is completely accurate

· A little baloney – the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

· Some baloney – the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

· A lot of baloney – the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

· Full of baloney – the statement is completely inaccurate

Source:   4th May 2017

Fifty years on, I still wince in recalling those two frightened high school kids I saw hauled into an Oshawa courtroom and handed stiff jail terms, two years less a day, for possessing miniscule amounts of marijuana.

They weren’t dealers. They were just teens dabbling in the latest thing, but they had the misfortune of being the first “drug arrests” in a tough, beer-swilling automotive city that was close to hysteria over the arrival of dirty, long-haired hippies and their damn weed.

Those kids would be senior citizens now, but I still wonder what became of them. Were their lives ruined by that jail time and the criminal records that followed them everywhere? Or did they move on and become brain surgeons and bank presidents?

I get the argument behind decriminalizing marijuana consumption. Nobody should do jail time for simply consuming a product less damaging, at least to the liver, than alcohol. If deterrence was the intent of those harsh marijuana sentences, they utterly failed. By the early 1970s, it was all but impossible to attend a social gathering without being handed a joint and expected to partake, at least a polite puff or two, or be labelled a pariah.

But the pendulum has swung. The anti-weed hysteria of the late ’60s has become raging 21st-century fury that anyone would dare voice concerns about the fallout of Justinian Canada becoming only the second nation to give marijuana its full blessing.

Mayor Drew Dilkens ran afoul of the pot crusaders and their missionary zeal three weeks ago when he described, in this space, how a trip to Denver, Colo., where marijuana was legalized four years ago, left him worried about the possible impact on a border city like Windsor. On the 16th Street pedestrian mall, he had encountered throngs of aggressive “riff-raff and undesirables.” Denver’s mayor has gone even further, decrying the area’s “scourge of hoodlums.”

Enraged readers dumped on Dilkens. They ripped him for being out-of-touch with the times and failing to recognize a potential tourism bonanza for our downtown. They mocked him for being concerned for his safety in Denver and wailed that he was trying to deny them their precious medicinal marijuana.

Never mind that Dilkens never mentioned medical marijuana and didn’t say whether he’s for or against legalization. Facts don’t matter. All that matters is that he wasn’t out front leading the marijuana welcoming parade, pompoms in hand, and that merited condemnation.

The most interesting message Dilkens received after the column appeared came from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

“As a Colorado sheriff who’s had to deal with the impacts of commercialized marijuana, I will tell you that your concerns are warranted,” wrote Justin Smith, the outspoken sheriff of Larimer County, population 334,000, an hour’s drive north of Denver.

“Since we approved commercial marijuana production and sales, we’ve been overrun by transients and transient-related crime. In the last three years my jail population has soared by more than 25 per cent. Six years ago, transients accounted for one-in-eight inmates in my jail. Today, they account for one-in-three inmates and many have multiple pending cases. Our county prosecutor predicts a 90 per cent increase in felony crime prosecutions over the last three years.

“Decriminalized marijuana has proven to be anything but safe and well-regulated in my state,” the sheriff warned. “If I could give your country any words of wisdom, they would be, don’t sell the future of your country to the pot industry.”

Too late, sheriff. The industry, now in the clutches of powerful corporations and feverish investors, is slathering over the immense profits to be made now that our flower child PM has given them the all clear.

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel joked a few nights ago that Canada is becoming “the stoner in America’s attic.”

Funny, yes.   But insightful as well.  Next summer, when the stoners and those who feed off them occupy our downtown, which will be enveloped in the acrid stench of burning weed, we’ll see who’s laughing.



* Cannabis collisions resulted in 75 deaths and 4407 injuries in 2012.

* There were up to 24,879 victims of property damage only cannabis collisions in 2012.

* Cannabis collisions costs ranged from $1.09 to $1.28 billion CAD in 2012.

* Cannabis collision harms were particularly high amongst those ages 16–34 years old.



In 2012, 10% of Canadians used cannabis and just under half of those who use cannabis were estimated to have driven under the influence of cannabis. Substantial evidence has accumulated to indicate that driving after cannabis use increases collision risk significantly; however, little is known about the extent and costs associated with cannabis-related traffic collisions. This study quantifies the costs of cannabis-related traffic collisions in the Canadian provinces.


Province and age specific cannabis-attributable fractions (CAFs) were calculated for traffic collisions of varying severity. The CAFs were applied to traffic collision data in order to estimate the total number of persons involved in cannabis-attributable fatal, injury and property damage only collisions. Social cost values, based on willingness-to-pay and direct costs, were applied to estimate the costs associated with cannabis-related traffic collisions. The 95% confidence intervals were calculated using Monte Carlo methodology.


Cannabis-attributable traffic collisions were estimated to have caused 75 deaths (95% CI: 0–213), 4407 injuries (95% CI: 20–11,549) and 7794 people (95% CI: 3107–13,086) were involved in property damage only collisions in Canada in 2012, totalling $1,094,972,062 (95% CI: 37,069,392–2,934,108,175) with costs being highest among younger people.


The cannabis-attributable driving harms and costs are substantial. The harm and cost of cannabis-related collisions is an important factor to consider as Canada looks to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis. This analysis provides evidence to help inform Canadian policy to reduce the human and economic costs of drug-impaired driving.

Source:  Estimating the harms and costs of cannabis-attributable collisions in the Canadian provinces     Drug & Alcohol Dependence , Volume 173 , 185 – 190

The Director of the NDPA, Peter Stoker, visited Vancouver East Side in 1999.  It was tragic to see drug dependent men and women living rough on the streets – in the alleys behind the main road – injecting in public.  A team of police officers called The Odd Squad worked the area and did everything they could to help these people – producing a great video called ‘Through the Blue Lens’ – we took this video into schools and it was the most powerful drug prevention message we had ever used.  We would urgently ask you to see this video on You Tube –

The article below is covering the same story – 19 years later.  Isn’t it about time that Canada began to promote good drug prevention instead of relaxing their drug laws? 

As overdose deaths spike, provincial health officials say more overdose prevention sites will soon open across the province.

The number of overdose deaths related to illicit drugs in British Columbia leapt to 755 by the end of November, a more than 70-per-cent jump over the number of fatalities recorded during the same time period last year.

In August, 50 people died of drug overdoses in British Columbia.  In September, 57 died. In October, the number jumped to 67 — an increase that worried health officials, who had thought that increasing the supply and training for administering the overdose reversal drug naloxone was making a difference.

In November, drug overdoses caused 128 deaths — 61 more than the previous month, and nearly double the October total. That spike has brought the total number of deaths between January and November to 755, the highest number ever recorded by the BC Coroner and a 70 per cent increase over this time last year

“We’re quite fearful that the drug supply is increasingly toxic, it’s increasingly unpredictable, and it’s very, very difficult to manage,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner, referring to the increasing prevalence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl being added to many illicit drugs.  “Those who…attempt to use drugs safely, it’s almost impossible.”

With advance notice from the coroner that November numbers would be much higher, provincial health officials announced three weeks ago that several overdose prevention sites would open in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria. People can go inside the sites to inject drugs, and are given first aid if they overdose.

An unofficial safe consumption site located in the alley behind the Downtown Eastside Market off East Hastings Street.

Health officials have insisted the sites are temporary and are not supervised injection sites, which are currently difficult to open because of a strict Conservative-era law that current federal health minister Jane Philpott has promised to change.

If there is any good news to be found within the grim statistics, it is that no deaths have occurred at any of those overdose prevention sites. And no one has died at a volunteer-run tent that has been operating since September, without official permission or government funding, out of an alley in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. People can smoke or snort drugs at that site, not just inject.

“We’re pretty steady, we get about 100 people a day,” said Sarah Blyth, the Downtown Eastside market coordinator and one of the organizers of the tent. “We’re coming up to welfare (day)…it’s happening this Wednesday, so I imagine up until Christmas it’s going to be pretty busy.”

A sign on the front door of VANDU’s storefront at 380 E. Hastings advertises that the location is an overdose prevention site, with volunteers trained in first aid

“A lot of people use during Christmas,” Blyth added. “Not everybody’s Christmas is as happy as others.”  At the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users storefront further down East Hastings Street, Linda Bird confirmed the overdose prevention site located there has been busy, with around 60 people a day passing through. Volunteers, who are paid a small stipend by Vancouver Coastal Health, work two to four hour shifts. Overdoses are common, small stipend by Vancouver Coastal Health, work two to four hour shifts. Overdoses are a small stipend by Vancouver Coastal Health, work two to four hour shifts. Overdoses are common, Bird said.

“A lot of them are taking this very, very seriously,” Bird said of the volunteers. “It’s a crisis and a lot of them have seen their friends dropping.”

Vancouver Coastal Health has announced a fourth overdose prevention site in Vancouver, while Fraser Health has added more sites in Langley, Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.

Overdose deaths in November were nearly double the number seen in October

Health authorities in the Interior, Vancouver Island and the north are also planning to open sites in the future, said Perry Kendall, B.C.’s health officer.  “We’re still struggling in many communities with the idea of having these (overdose prevention) sites open,” Kendall said. “That doesn’t help.”

He urged the federal government to introduce the new legislation as soon as possible.

“You must use (drugs) in the presence of somebody who can help you,” Lapointe emphasized. “We are seeing people die with a naloxone kit open beside them, but they haven’t even had time to use it. We are seeing people die with a needle in their arm or a tablet nearby…You must go somewhere where someone is able to give you immediate medical assistance.”


I was just a year old when I had my first experience with opioids. I was born with a hiatal hernia, which constricted my esophagus and caused me to reflux like crazy. I couldn’t keep breast milk down and I became malnourished, tiny and weak. One night, my parents, Gayle and Morty Gebien, rushed me to the hospital. I was dehydrated and spitting up everything they tried to get me to eat or drink. The doctors told my parents to prepare themselves for the possibility that I wouldn’t live through the night. They brought me into surgery and gave me morphine for the pain. Maybe that’s where it all began.

I’ve always had a difficult time coping with stress. I sucked my thumb until I was eight years old. I started smoking at age 14 and never stopped. In high school, I was a pothead, and so were most of my friends. I dropped acid and did ecstasy a handful of times. Academically, I was apathetic, skipping class often and bringing home terrible report cards. One day, when I was 17, I went golfing with friends. When I got home, my back began to ache, a dull pain like a hand wrapping around my spine and squeezing it tight. I didn’t know it then, but I had a herniated disc. I lay down on the floor of my bedroom, and it felt like my vertebrae were shifting beneath me. Eventually, the sensation passed, and I got up.

The next year, I started volunteering at a hospital in Richmond Hill, folding blankets, mopping floors and stocking shelves. That’s when I first considered becoming a doctor. I studied science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, but my grades weren’t strong enough to get me into medical school, so I moved to Montreal and did a master’s in molecular biology at McGill. After that, I went to med school at the University of Queensland in Australia and did my residency in emergency medicine in Michigan.

In 2007, I visited my parents on vacation in Florida. I slept on the couch and, during the night, I displaced the disc in my back. The pain was much stronger than what I’d experienced in high school. My mother, who had prescriptions for her own back issues—she’d slipped on wet stairs a few years before I was born—gave me a powerful opioid called Dilaudid to soothe it. I knew I liked it too much. The back pain melted away, but so did everything else. It was like taking a happy pill. I immediately felt calm, relaxed, brighter and more wakeful than usual. Later that month, I sprained my thumb playing hockey. I went to the hospital, where the doctor asked me if I wanted codeine-based Tylenol 3s or oxycodone-based Percocet. I chose the latter. I knew Percs were the stronger of the two and I wanted to know just how strong. The feeling was great—similar to how I’d felt on Dilaudid that morning in Florida. My first bottle of Percocets—30 tiny white pills—lasted about a year.

In 2008, following stints as a cruise-ship doctor and an air-ambulance physician, I landed an ER job in Saint John, New Brunswick. At the bar one night, I met a blond girl named Katie, a personal support worker at a pain clinic. I was taken by her eyes, a light bluish-grey I’d never seen before. It took me a couple of tries, but, eventually, she agreed to go out with me. In February 2009, I moved back to Toronto to take a job as an ER doctor at the York Central Hospital, and Katie and her two-year-old daughter soon followed. They rented an apartment at Bathurst and Steeles, and began settling into a routine.

I found a new doctor in Toronto who prescribed me another 30 Percocets for my back, and I started taking them more often. After a few weeks, the pain subsided, and I stopped using them, but I stashed the extras, maybe half the bottle, in my medicine cabinet. One Friday night, some buddies came over for a few beers and some PlayStation golf, and I popped a few Percocets. It wasn’t some big decision, but, in hindsight, I realize that was the moment I crossed the line. It was the first time I took them purely recreationally. They gave me a fuzzy, happy feeling I couldn’t access any other way. Soon, I was dipping into my bottle once every few weeks—if Katie and I were going camping with friends or if I needed a boost of energy to play with Katie’s daughter after a long shift. She couldn’t tell when I was high and, at first, neither could Katie. The following year, in early 2011, we learned that Katie was pregnant with a boy and we bought a five-bedroom stone house at Bathurst and Sheppard.

My parents lived a short drive away and were proud grandparents. They were over at least once a week, but my mom and Katie didn’t get along. Katie felt they were too involved in her daughter’s life—they weren’t biologically related, after all. My mom would get upset if Katie’s daughter didn’t call her on her birthday. A series of slights, real and imagined, between my mother and Katie culminated in an exchange of profanity-laden emails. I became the rope in a vicious tug-of-war. My mother would tell me to assert myself and “be a man.” Katie would say I wasn’t standing up for her. Eventually, Katie asked me to choose between her and my parents. I was dedicated to making my life with Katie work, so I told my parents that they weren’t welcome at the house anymore. Shortly after that, Katie and I flew to Las Vegas to get married. A little more than a year later, she gave birth to our second child together, a girl. My parents weren’t there for the birth, which broke my heart.

Over time, I began to rely on the pills not just to help my back pain but also to cope emotionally. Initially, I went to my doctor every couple of months, then once a month and then every couple of weeks. He recommended that I exercise, lose weight and see a physiotherapist, but he always filled my prescription. He never told me it was too much.

In August 2012, I got a job as an emergency room doctor at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie. Katie and I bought a spectacular five-bedroom house on the waterfront, at the end of a cul-de-sac. We had a dock and a boat. I was making roughly $300,000 a year. I bought Katie a Lexus SUV, which we eventually traded in for an Audi Q7. But our marriage was deteriorating. We were arguing all the time—about my family, about my parenting. I’d reprimand her daughter for misbehaving, and Katie would undermine me, saying, “Daddy’s just had a bad day.” Katie had also noticed my drug use, which had gone from two pills a day to as many as eight. We fought about it at least once a week.

She wanted me to get help, but I always refused. Seeking help would have meant two things: one, admitting that I had a problem; and two, admitting that I was no longer in control. The pills helped me get through my days, and I wasn’t ready to let that go. Sometimes I slept in my car to avoid another fight.

The first time it occurred to me that I might have a drug problem, I was standing next to a lumber pile in Rona, waiting for my contractor to pick out aluminum framing for our basement renovation. I felt irritation wash over me, totally unprovoked. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but I popped a Percocet and immediately felt relieved. I wondered if I had been experiencing withdrawal symptoms, but I felt ashamed even considering it. I dealt with patients every day and didn’t see myself as one. Throughout my career as a doctor, I was trained to believe I was infallible. As far back as medical school, we were told that, no matter what, you don’t call in sick; you show up. So, even though I knew I was in trouble, I didn’t ask for help.

As the months went on, I continued using. That May, I was visiting my folks when I started having withdrawal symptoms. I asked my mom for a few fentanyl patches and she obliged, thinking that I just needed relief for my back pain. She had a prescription for the opioid, which is up to a hundred times more powerful than morphine. The intensely potent drug is usually doled out in surgery or given to patients with chronic pain who have built up a tolerance to other opioids. The transparent squares, which at the time looked a little like clear Band-Aids, contained two layers: one with the slow-release drug and one that’s skin adhesive. I slapped one on my back and stashed the others for later.

About a week later, I got home after a long shift and typed, “How to smoke fentanyl” into Google. My kids were with their nanny at the park near our house. I went to the garage and cut a patch into one-centimetre squares. I lined each piece up on a larger square of tin foil, then I held the lighter under the first piece, watched the puff of smoke come up and inhaled. The sweet smell of burnt plastic filled my nose and travelled deep into my lungs. It was as if I were being pushed by a powerful but gentle wave. Calm washed over me. My anxiety and fear were gone. I slowly lowered myself backward into a chair. I was higher than I’d ever been. Imagine a surge of confidence kicking in, a worldly reassurance that all of your problems will just dissolve. A soft happiness sets in, then a creativity spike. You feel totally alert, more awake and sharper than ever. Everything around you feels warmer. Now, imagine those sensations happening within a few milliseconds of each other. And that’s what it’s like to smoke fentanyl. I sat there, eyes glazed, staring out at the street for 20 minutes. I was in heaven.

Gayle Gebien, above, gave her son a few fentanyl patches for his back pain. He took them home and Googled “How to smoke fentanyl”

A drug like fentanyl doesn’t inject your body with new feelings; it borrows from the ones you already have. When the high starts to wear off, the positive sensations retreat and the negative ones become amplified. And addicts have no shortage of negative emotions. A dark cloud descends upon your brain. You become scared, anxious, agitated. The warmth rolls away and leaves you in cold sweats, shivering. Self-loathing kicks in, followed by guilt, fear, sadness, paranoia. Coming down off that first rush, my body began to ache. All I could focus on was escaping those feelings as quickly as possible, and the only solution was to smoke again. And again—each iteration sinking me deeper into dependency. From that day on, I smoked fentanyl at least six times a day and sometimes as many as 15 times.

The scariest part was that, as a doctor, I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I didn’t care. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids on the market. It can be smoked, injected or dissolved under your tongue. The federal health minister, Jane Philpott, has called Canada’s opioid problem a national public health crisis. In Ontario, 162 people died of fentanyl overdoses in 2015. In B.C., 332 people died in the first nine months of 2016.

Doctors are part of the problem. One of the most common complaints we get from patients is that we under-treat chronic pain. And, because pain is subjective and difficult to diagnose, we tend to take patients’ word for it when they say they’re in pain. Late last year, the College of Physicians and Surgeons announced it was investigating 86 doctors for prescribing daily opioid dosages that wildly exceeded national guidelines. One patient was prescribed the equivalent of 150 Tylenol 3s per day. Some of those cases occur because patients undergoing cancer treatment or living with multiple sclerosis may need very high dosages. But, in other cases, like mine, there’s rampant abuse of the system.

When I think about it now, I’m disgusted that I kept drugs in the same house as my children. At first, I locked up my patches in my toolbox in the garage. Later, I would smoke in the shower stall in our basement and hide my fentanyl under the sink behind the pipes. I convinced myself that, by taking those precautions, I was being a responsible father. I was high-functioning, but, still, my kids were getting a stoned daddy, even if they were too young to realize it. I wanted to believe that I was like any other doting dad—I took my kids to the beach in the summer, dunking the little ones in the water and wading hand in hand with the eldest. I took them apple-picking in the fall and tobogganing in the winter. The only difference was that, 15 times a day, I’d head to the basement to smoke up. That I was high around my kids is one of the hardest things for me to forgive of myself.

That summer, my cravings were ruthless, and I had no legitimate access to patches. I knew I couldn’t write prescriptions in my own name, so I came up with a plan: I began to write prescriptions for Katie, then I’d go to the pharmacy to pick them up. But I didn’t want pharmacists getting suspicious of Katie, so I began to recruit other pretend patients. I had become friendly with one of the contractors renovating our basement. At one point, I asked him: “Can you do me a favour?” I explained that I needed someone to pick up my fentanyl and that I could supply him with Percocet if he agreed, which he did. I’d write two prescriptions in his name: one for fentanyl and one for Percocet. He’d get them both filled and keep the Percs. One night, my supply was dry and I was going through withdrawal. Katie and I were arguing, and I left the house. I got in a taxi and went into town. I was so desperate that I began going from taxi to taxi, knocking on windows and asking strangers, “Are you interested in doing a swap? I can get you Percocet, but I need you to pick up some fentanyl for me.” The first three weren’t interested. The fourth was.

From August to October, I also cajoled two assistants and a nurse into giving me painkillers from the hospital. I never offered to pay them; I just told them I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t write prescriptions in my own name. I put them in a terrible position and I minimized the stakes. “Oh, it’s not a big deal,” I said. They saw I was hurting and agreed. (They were later fired for it.) Over 16 months, I acquired 445 patches of fentanyl with fraudulent prescriptions, smoking about a patch a day.

At home, my relationship with Katie was in tatters. Instead of offering support, Katie would yell at me, and I would yell back or retreat in silence. “You’re smoking again,” she would shout when she caught me going downstairs. She threatened to leave. She called me a junkie.

I never smoked before work. But I did wear a patch to stave off withdrawal symptoms. Twice I had to leave work because my cravings were too intense to keep going. I lost more than 30 pounds, my cheeks were sunken and I became irritable and jittery. Once, a colleague asked me if I was okay. I told her there were problems at home and left it at that. She didn’t ask again.

My mom had noticed my ragged state and, unbeknownst to me, called and told the hospital I might have a drug problem. My supervisor and the hospital’s chief of staff called me into a meeting and asked me if I had any problems they should be aware of. I lied. I said that things were rocky with Katie but, otherwise, no. They gave me pamphlets on addiction and mental health, and I went back to work.

I decided to change tactics. For the next four months, I forged prescriptions from other doctors in my own name. I’d go to the pharmacy and sweet-talk the staff—it was usually the same guy—into not faxing my prescription over to the hospital. Pharmacists hate to bother busy doctors, and I played on that. Every time I went to get one filled, I threatened everything: my job, my family, my freedom. I didn’t care.

One Sunday in November 2014, the pharmacist was too busy administering flu shots to speak to me and faxed the prescription. I could have tried harder to intervene, but, for some reason, I didn’t. My endless scheming had worn me down. The doctor who happened to pick it up in the ER was the same doctor whose signature I’d forged on the script, which requested a dozen patches. I didn’t know it then, but the doctor reported me to my supervisor. After 20 minutes of nervously waiting, I was waved over by the pharmacist. “We’ve run out of supplies, actually,” she said. She gave me what she claimed were her last few patches, and I went home none the wiser. Two days later, the chief of emergency and the chief of staff greeted me in the doctors’ change room. They told me that they knew about the false prescriptions, that the pharmacy had called the police and that I couldn’t work—I’d be going on unofficial leave without pay, and my medical licence would be suspended. I was scared shitless. The shame of being caught in a tangle of lies was overwhelming. I was afraid for my family, afraid I’d lose my job, afraid of what other people would say. I should have felt lucky to be alive—at that point I was a bag of skin and bones—but I just felt dizzying fear for the future. And yet, on top of all that was an unexpected wave of relief. My life had just come crashing down; at least I couldn’t deny it anymore.

I was arrested at home. Police charged me with three counts of forgery and gave me a notice to appear in court. Three days later, I went to Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, a facility recommended to me by a psychiatrist at my hospital, for five weeks. My parents covered the $10,000 bill. There, the doctors decided I should go into a rapid wean, a process intended to produce intense withdrawal and, with it, a deterrent to using drugs again. First, doctors gave me Suboxone, a pill used to get addicts off opiates. The drug satisfies some of the body’s narcotic cravings but doesn’t get you high. Coming off the Suboxone was vicious, as my endorphin levels plummeted and my brain began to rewire itself. I thought I was going to die. When I tried to walk, my body curled inward, neck down, arms tight to my chest, in a position known in rehab as the Suboxone shuffle. My ears were ringing. My body temperature began to swing like crazy: one moment I’d soothe my chills in a hot shower and the next I’d be running aimlessly outside, rubbing snow on my face. I remember telling the doctor that I couldn’t handle the pain. He agreed to give me another two milligrams of Suboxone to stave off my withdrawal. I knew that would only delay the inevitable, but, at that point, I didn’t care—I was so desperate I considered throwing myself in front of a bus. My body felt like it was disintegrating. Lifting a spoon to my mouth was tiring; walking up a ramp left me winded. The next day, I thought I was progressing, but, 32 hours later, I was still in the throes of withdrawal. I lay down on the hospital bed in my room to take a nap. When I woke up four hours later, the weakness was gone, my limbs had uncurled and my gait returned to normal. The week from hell was over.

On my 14th day in rehab, Katie brought the kids to visit. She told them that I was sick, and they assumed Homewood was a regular hospital. I’ll never forget my son asking why I wasn’t coming home with them that day.

My return from rehab was strange. Katie was exhausted from caring for the kids by herself for five weeks, and we were soon back to our bickering. I was sleeping on the couch and I was still on leave from my job, so my days were empty.

There’s a grieving process that comes with addiction, and I was grieving the loss of my drug of choice. The cycles of shame, self-loathing, rationalization and apathy returned. So I did what I always did to cope: I wrote a prescription for fentanyl using one of my old prescription pads. I didn’t realize the police were monitoring me.

Within a week, I was back to getting high 15 times a day. On the morning of January 4, I lost track of how much I’d smoked. I overdosed and collapsed in my basement shower stall. My face was a putrid shade of green, drool was dribbling down my chin and my dry tongue was hanging from my open mouth. I was barely breathing when Katie walked in. She had seen me high many times before, and she could spot the telltale bursts of energy, hoarse voice and constricted pupils, but that day was different. I’d been downstairs for longer than usual, and she hadn’t seen my face like that before. I remember her screams tearing through the fog in my head. “I’m calling an ambulance,” she cried. I jolted awake, flailing my arms as my paraphernalia went flying. I gasped for breath a few times, head lolling, then lunged for the toilet and vomited. “I thought you were dead,” she said. I told her I didn’t need an ambulance and, eventually, she stopped insisting, worn down from so many arguments. A few hours later, I was back in the stall lighting up another patch.

At 7 a.m. on January 19, 2015, 10 officers from the Barrie drug crimes unit showed up at my front door. If I have a rock bottom, I hit it that day. I woke to my three dogs barking and peered out the window to see the cops on the front steps. I opened the door in my underwear. “Sorry to do this, but your life is never going to be the same,” one of them said to me. I asked for a minute to put the dogs out in the backyard, and the officer

agreed. Another went upstairs to tell Katie she would be arrested, too, wrongly thinking she was involved. They let me put my clothes on and have a cigarette in the garage. They handcuffed me as we were walking outside, so that my kids wouldn’t see if they came downstairs. I was taken to the police station and charged with 72 counts of trafficking—for compelling the pharmacist to supply drugs under false pretences—plus six counts of forging prescriptions.

From January 19 to February 5, I was in jail at the North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene awaiting my bail hearing. I was despondent. There was a stairwell on the second storey that overlooked the unit’s concrete floor, and I figured that if I jumped headfirst I would die. I told one guy I’d made friends with about my plan, and he pulled me aside. “Wait a second, motherfucker,” he said. “You’ve got your wife, your kids. That’s the most selfish thing you could do.” I went back to my cell. I hadn’t been using long enough after my first stint in rehab to go through acute withdrawal again, but I had the munchies like crazy, a sign of early recovery. I had an appetite so ferocious I’d chug the syrup that came with our French toast in the morning. My cellmate let me eat some of his snacks, too—Rice Krispies Treats, ketchup chips, Twix bars.

With the help of my parents, I made the $80,000 bail, but one of the conditions was that I live with my mom and dad at their Yonge and Sheppard condo. I went home briefly to collect my things. Katie wanted a stable environment for the kids, so she moved them back to New Brunswick 10 days later. I was devastated but didn’t have a choice. In April, I enrolled in Renascent, a clinic at Spadina and Bloor, for my second stint in rehab. I stayed for four weeks. During my daily walks in the neighbourhood, every time I saw a homeless person, I’d think to myself that I was closer to becoming one of them than I was prepared to admit. I was nearly out of money, my marriage was probably over and my network of friends had dwindled. I was initially represented by Marie Henein and Danielle Robitaille, the lawyers who represented former attorney general Michael Bryant and CBC host Jian Ghomeshi. I put the first payment of $35,000 on a line of credit but changed lawyers shortly after. I was still paying the mortgage on our home in Barrie and couldn’t keep up with their retainer.

In August, I walked into the Vitanova Foundation recovery centre in Woodbridge, another government-funded facility, not knowing how long I would be there. The centre offered a free rehab program and dorm-style residence, and, as the weeks passed, I felt my strength and clarity returning.

Three months later, on November 2, 2015, my 45th birthday, I got a call from my dad telling me that my mom had died. He’d found her in bed, non-responsive, wearing three 50-milligram fentanyl patches that we think she applied by accident. Her usual dose was a 25-milligram patch. It was the worst day of my life. I redoubled my efforts to stay clean. I checked out of Vitanova and moved back into my father’s condo. I slept on the couch and have continued to for the past two years. I FaceTime with my kids every couple of days, but it feels like no way to be a father. I’m on social assistance and help my dad with rent when I can—his pension isn’t enough to support both of us. Our Barrie home sold shortly after my mom’s death, and I gave most of the money to Katie, knowing that I might not be working much in the next few years. I run a flooring company with an old friend to make extra cash. And I’m still drug-free.

But my body hasn’t fully recovered: my short-term memory is spotty, I have hearing loss in my right ear and, for the first time in my life, I suffer from panic attacks. I apologized to the City of Barrie for betraying the trust of its residents. And I’ve done some outreach work, speaking to officials at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Toronto Public Health about how to tackle the opioid epidemic.

In April 2016, I filed for bankruptcy. Katie sent divorce papers a few months later. I had been hoping we’d find a way to make it as a couple, but I understood. In February, my biological kids came to stay with me for a week. I got to see my son—now five years old—skate for the first time; my little girl, who’s four, was so excited with the Hatchimal we picked out at Toys’R’Us that she carried the box around with her everywhere and showered me with hugs. I didn’t explain what was going on—I just said I’d talk to them soon. They’re too young to understand what happened. I worry about what they’ll think of me when they do find out. I hope they can be proud of my recovery, but that day is a long way away.

In December 2016, I pleaded guilty, and, as part of the deal, Katie’s charges were finally dropped. I’m awaiting my sentence. The Crown wants me locked up for eight years; my lawyer is arguing for house arrest. Most likely, the judge will settle on a multi-year prison term. My dad has early-stage Alzheimer’s, and I’m concerned about how he’ll cope while I’m gone. I worry constantly about Katie and our kids, too. I’m embarrassed that my life has become a cautionary tale, but I’m thankful that I got caught. Had I not been arrested, I’m certain I’d be dead right now.

When I get out, I will have to face the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ discipline committee, as is standard in cases like mine. My medical licence is currently suspended, and they’ll probably revoke it entirely. If they don’t, I plan to practise again, ideally in the area of addiction. I became a doctor so that I could help people. I messed up my life, but I can still help others avoid the same fate.

Correction  March 30, 2017

An earlier version of this story indicated that Darryl Gebien’s stay at Renascent was covered by OHIP, when in fact the fees there are covered by the Ministry of Health, as well as the centre’s foundation.


Ontario opted not to follow B.C.’s lead on harm reduction, rejecting the idea of creating safe injection sites similar to the one in Vancouver. Postmedia News files

In December, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-37 in response to an epidemic of illicit drug use. The bill facilitates the creation of additional supervised injection sites by reducing previously established restrictions.

The decision to promote supervised injection sites is in line with the latest philosophy guiding addiction management — that of harm reduction. Proponents claim harm-reduction institutions will save lives while averting hundreds of thousands in medical and criminal-legal expenses.

Much in the harm-reduction philosophy is laudable — the desire to destigmatize and protect those with severe illnesses for one — but the field is slipping into dangerous, almost Brave-New-World territory.

In Toronto and Ottawa, supposedly inveterate alcoholics receive calculated amounts of alcohol hourly throughout the day at designated wet shelters and managed alcohol programs. Residents line up on the hour to receive just enough house-made wine to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. Some drink almost three bottles of wine daily with little to do in between scheduled drinks.

Vancouver, which was Canada’s first city to establish a safe injection site in 2003, has now progressed to experimenting with “heroin-assisted treatment” as a means of further protecting addicts from the harms of tainted street drugs. Participants receive pharmaceutical-grade heroin injections two to three times daily. Recently, in place of heroin, the more innocuous-sounding but no less potent opiate, hydromorphone, is being administered instead.

Is their drug use no longer a problem because they’re off the street? And where exactly do the patients go from here?

Most lay supporters of harm-reduction policy assume a gradual attempt is made to wean the addict off the substance of abuse. Proponents claim that harm reduction isn’t about “giving up” on the addict but is actually a temporary stepping stone towards the ultimate goal of recovery.

But the reality is different.

Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, who established Ottawa’s managed alcohol program, offers a more sober portrayal of the goals of harm reduction. In a Fifth Estate documentary, he compares his program for those with chronic and severe addictions to palliative care. He agrees his facility is a place for alcoholics to “die with dignity” as opposed to dying on the streets. One resident featured in the episode had been using the program’s services for four years; he was only 24 when he first entered the managed alcohol program.

No doubt, the medical community is frustrated by the high failure rates associated with abstinence-based treatment programs but the criteria for determining when an addict now warrants a harm-reduction approach is unclear. Addiction does not follow a linear natural history akin to metastatic cancer; rather, there exists a variable trajectory and the possibility for recovery is always there.

However, Turnbull’s admission points to an uncomfortable belief underlying the harm-reduction philosophy — the view that some addicts are without hope of ever leading a full, productive life free of drug use.

It may be true that, for some, the best we can do is safe, controlled sedation. But the medical community and society should not be so quick to condemn many others to the compromised mental prison that is the life of the addict.

Proponents argue that harm reduction and abstinence are not mutually exclusive, and some even suggest that harm-reduction institutions actually improve recovery rates. But this is a fiction and is without evidence.

Harm-reduction researchers have conveniently neglected to investigate any potentially negative findings of their policies. Their studies focus exclusively on the obvious benefits such as decreased overdose deaths, cost savings, and so-called “treatment retention.” That addicts will remain “in treatment” longer when freely administered their drug of choice is not surprising, but that this is in their best interests is highly questionable.

Politicians insist supervised injection sites and managed substance programs are effective “evidence-based” interventions, but these assertions are problematic when the evidence only tells half the story.

Canada is quickly moving towards an addiction defeatist infrastructure. Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Victoria are all following Vancouver’s lead in constructing further supervised injection sites. Widespread creation of managed substance programs is the next logical step of the harm-reduction approach. Unless vigilance is exercised, we risk relegating addicts to a half-conscious state whereby life is maintained but not really lived.

It is both tragic and ironic that the activist responsible for implementing widespread harm reduction policies in Toronto, Raffi Balian, recently died from an accidental overdose while attending a harm-reduction conference in Vancouver. His death highlights the inadequacy of half measures when dealing with the insidious and powerful disease that is addiction.

Jeremy Devine is a medical student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine and a CREMS research scholar in the medical humanities and social sciences

Source:     2nd March 2017

More than 900 people died in British Columbia last year from illicit drug overdoses, but the provincial health minister says the toll could have been far higher and he warned the federal government Wednesday the epidemic is spreading across Canada.

The arrival of the powerful opioid fentanyl pushed the provincial death toll to a new peak of 914 overdose deaths in 2016. The BC Coroners Service reported the figure is almost 80 per cent higher than the 510 deaths due to illicit drugs in 2015.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said December was the worst month at 142 deaths, the highest monthly death total ever.

“The introduction of fentanyl to our province is a game-changer,” Lapointe told a news conference. “We’ve now got this contaminant in the illicit drug system that is not manageable.”

Health Minister Terry Lake said B.C.’s death toll would have been much higher if it had not been for overdose prevention measures undertaken by the province and the often heroic efforts by first-responders and others who rushed to provide aid to victims.

“The evidence suggests many, many more lives would have been lost had we not done what we have done,” he said.

Lake said he has records of 96 overdose reversals at community overdose prevention sites where addicts can use drugs under supervision of health officials. There were no overdose deaths at the Insite safe-injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, he said.   “We’ve seen the mobile medical unit, over 600 overdoses treated,” he said.

The B.C. government declared a public health emergency last spring in an attempt to reduce the rising numbers of drug overdose deaths.  The B.C. Centre For Disease Control also launched a take-home naloxone program for residents to reverse the effects of opioids.

The government also announced late last year that overdose prevention sites would be established in communities across the province where people could take illicit drugs while being monitored by trained professionals equipped with naloxone.

Lake said the federal government should declare a nationwide public health emergency, saying the problem is spreading across the country.

“It would focus, from a national perspective, action on this epidemic,” he said. “We haven’t had any additional funding from Ottawa to help us with this. Declaring a national public health emergency would focus all Canadians on an issue that is wracking B.C. at the moment.”

Lapointe couldn’t forecast an end, saying it will require long-term vigilance and programs on the part of governments, health providers, first-responders, families and drug users themselves.

She said she recognizes that those who are dependent on illicit drugs aren’t going to be able to abstain, but she urged them to take the drugs in front of someone who has medical expertise or at least with a sober friend.

An average of nine people died every two days from overdoses last month, she said.

“We know that this represents suffering and devastation in communities across our province.”

The coroner’s service said fatalities aren’t just happening among those who use opioid drugs, such as heroin.

“Cocaine and methamphetamines are also being found in a higher percentages of fentanyl-detected deaths in 2016,” Lapointe said.

People aged 30 to 49 accounted for the largest percentage of overdose deaths last year, and males accounted for more than 80 per cent of the overall toll.  Dr. Perry Kendall, the province’s chief medical health officer, said the number of deaths is difficult to confront.

“This was unexpected and disheartening,” he said. “We still have not as yet been able to reverse the trend. This is frankly a North America-wide problem.”

He said he will review European drug treatment programs that prescribe heroin-like medicines to addicts.

Source:  THE CANADIAN PRESS Published on: January 18, 2017 |

Since marijuana is currently illegal in all but physician-approved circumstances, there have been no properly constructed clinical trials of smoking this drug in Canada, writes Lawrie McFarlane of the Victoria Times .

The greatest public-health disaster our species ever brought upon itself began in Europe 400 years ago — the introduction and use of tobacco.

In the 20th century alone, 100 million people died from cigarette smoking worldwide. And while the incidence rate has fallen in western countries, it remains high in Third World nations. Six million tobacco users still die each year. The cause of smoking deaths is not, primarily, the active ingredient in tobacco — nicotine. Rather it is the chemicals that comprise tobacco smoke — among them various tars, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde.  Collectively, these chemicals cause a host of fatal maladies, including cancer, heart disease and emphysema. In short, a perfect horror show.

Now at this point, you’re probably saying: Tell me something I didn’t know. Well, here it is: Many of those same chemicals form marijuana smoke, and we are about to legalize the consumption of this drug. It’s not clear yet which forms of use might be authorized. If smoking is not among them, we might yet avoid another public-health calamity.

True, there are worrisome effects that come with consuming marijuana by other means, among them elevated pulse rates and memory loss. But these are minor matters, by comparison.

However, if smoking marijuana is blessed for general use, we might have an entirely different situation on our hands. For here is what is currently known with medical certainty about the health impacts of lighting up a joint: Nothing.  Since marijuana is currently illegal in all but physician-approved circumstances, there have been no properly constructed clinical trials of smoking this drug.

For the same reason, there have been no robust after-market research projects, in which users are tracked down years later, and their health status compared with that of non-users. Yet this is an essential process in revealing whether drugs that appear safe at first blush turn out to have serious side-effects downstream.  There have been suggestions that marijuana might act as a gateway drug to such potent narcotics as heroin and fentanyl. But whether these are anecdotal or fact-based, no one really knows.

There is also the matter of what is called the dose effect. Cigarettes have a high dose effect, meaning the risk of illness increases exponentially the more you consume. Hence the toxicology maxim: “The dose is the poison.”  So what is the dose effect of smoking marijuana? Again, we simply do not know and this is no small concern.

Generally speaking, it seems fair to assume that making an addictive substance more readily available will increase consumption rates. So what happens if people begin smoking 20 marijuana joints a day?  What happens if manufacturers find ways to strengthen the active ingredient — THC — while making their product less harsh? That’s what cigarette companies did.

In short, we are on the brink of approving a form of drug use, the medical consequences of which remain uncertain, but which might involve inhaling carcinogens. You would think the history of tobacco might have taught us something about fooling with addictive substances before we know the facts. In particular, you might think we would have learned how difficult, if not impossible, it is to close a Pandora’s box like this after it has been opened.

Once a government-sanctioned infrastructure of production, marketing and distribution is erected around marijuana, and millions of additional users are recruited, there will be no going back, regardless of whatever medical verdict is finally rendered. That’s principally why we continue to license tobacco production, despite its many ills.

I recognize we already turn a blind eye to occasional or “recreational” use of marijuana. But between turning a blind eye and conferring on this drug an official stamp of approval lies a world of unknown harm.

— Lawrie McFarlane is a columnist for the Victoria Times Colonist

Source:  2nd Jan 2017

If medical marijuana is a step toward legalization, just make it legal — or at least decriminalize it — and don’t dump it all on doctors. Making physicians the gatekeepers of legal marijuana is not fair to doctors and is not conducive to public health.

The problem is that marijuana has been prescribed by the courts, not by health-care professionals.

“Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada,” says the Health Canada website. “The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician.” Many physicians are reluctant to take on that responsibility.

“We have Health Canada telling us that marijuana is not a medicine, we have our malpractice insurance company telling us to be very cautious because nobody is taking responsibility for the safety of it,” says Dr. Chris Simpson, a Queen’s University cardiologist and incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Simpson doesn’t dismiss marijuana — he says “many compelling anecdotes” indicate that marijuana can help patients with HIV, hard-to-treat seizures and other conditions. But, he adds, “we have people out there saying marijuana can cure cancer, which seems quite improbable.”

“Somewhere in between those two extremes is the truth, and I think we need to find the truth, and the way to do that is with the appropriate research.” Testifying before a parliamentary health committee in May, Dr. Meldon Kahan, medical director of the substance-use service at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, detailed a long list of harmful effects from cannabis use. They included impairments in attention, increased anxieties, psychosis and cancer.

“Widespread cannabis prescribing by physicians will increase the social and psychiatric harms of cannabis,” Kahan said, calling for the development of evidence-based guidelines for prescribing smoked marijuana.

“Guidelines will give physicians solid grounds on which to make prescribing decisions. Physicians are facing a deluge of requests to prescribe cannabis, and guidelines will give them the support they need to refuse to prescribe cannabis when medically unnecessary or unsafe.”

Because Health Canada allows marijuana to be prescribed by physicians, that enhances the public perception that marijuana is not only harmless, but therapeutic.

“The evidence suggests otherwise,” Kahan said. “Smoked cannabis has negligible therapeutic benefits.” Would marijuana pass the scrutiny of the University of B.C.’s Therapeutics Initiative, established to examine the effectiveness of prescription drugs? It uses solid evidence and rigorous scientific research, and it has saved lives. Marijuana should undergo the same scrutiny as to its potential benefits and harms.

But medical marijuana is not treated the same as other drugs. Science has little to do with it.

“The current means of ‘prescribing’ violates all of the usual practices of medicine,” wrote Maryland psychiatrists Dinah Miller and Anette Hanson in a 2012 Baltimore Sun commentary. “What other medication do we authorize for a year, with no stipulation as to frequency, dose or certainty that there has been a positive response without side effects?”

If marijuana can relieve the agony of someone with severe chronic pain or terminal cancer, who would withhold it? But let’s face it, the biggest demand for pot is as a recreational drug, like alcohol and tobacco. It should be handled the same, with regulations as to its production and distribution. We should not clog our courts and jails with pot-smokers.

By all means, investigate its potential for good, but let’s not pretend it does no harm.

Source: 9th August 2014


Amy Reid followed three Surrey teens as they took a stand against pot and bumped heads with the Prince of Pot

From left, Surrey teens Jordan Smith with twins Connor and Duncan Fesenmaier at the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 20. The high school students were protesting the use and legalization or marijuana. (Photos: AMY REID)

VANCOUVER — There were the inquisitive stoners, the happy-go-lucky potheads and the young punks yelling “smoke weed everyday.”

As thousands flocked to the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 20 for the 21st year, in celebration of the unofficial stoner’s holiday, it was the usual scene. Bags of blunts right out in the open, people sparking joints everywhere you look and plenty of cookies and other edibles with the green stuff baked right in.

But there was a new voice at the ganja gathering this year: Three Surrey high school students weren’t there to light up. Wearing anti-pot T-shirts and sporting gas masks, twins Duncan and Connor Fesenmaier and Jordan Smith from Princess Margaret Secondary took the trek to Vancouver to protest the use of marijuana and spread their anti-legalization message.

As one man quite accurately dubbed them, they’re the “bud busters.” I hooked up with the guys at King George SkyTrain station. On the train ride, I asked what they thought would happen at the rally. Connor wasn’t sure. “The VPD (Vancouver Police Department) didn’t want us to go,” he said. “They said it wasn’t the smartest thing, that it could start a riot or start a problem.”

As we got off the SkyTrain at Granville, the boys opened up their bag and put on their gas masks. “They’re the good ones,” said Connor. On the street, people recognized the boys from the news, where they spoke out after they say their vice-principal at Princess Margaret Secondary told them to remove the shirts while at school. Some pointed and laughed, others were more aggressive.

“You have to recognize you can’t change the opinion of some people,” Connor said. “You have to let it bounce off like rubber.” The closer we get to the art gallery, the stronger the smell of pot – and the insults – becomes.

“Are you ready for some abuse?” asked a cop as we were steps away from entering the event. And they were.

The boys took all kinds of nasty verbal abuse throughout the day. Many people took to toking up in front of them and blowing smoke in their faces. It didn’t seem to faze them. Polite and diplomatic all the way through, they talked to anyone who would listen.

The hate is something they’ve already experienced online, both through their Facebook page Canadians Against the Legalization of Marijuana and also via email, where they were slammed with insults and even death threats.

“Everyone thinks it’s all passive, free-loving hippies… but they’re angry,” said Connor. Pamela McColl is a director on the advisory council of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada, an anti-marijuana-legalization group. She said she’s proud of what the boys were doing.

“We had hesitation because of safety,” she said of having the boys come out to protest 420. “But they’re young people who want to have a voice – and they should have a voice.” In the mid-afternoon, Connor noticed people were getting angry toward them.

“The police presence definitely keeps them at bay a bit,” he said.“I do feel scared, I do feel scared in the sense of watching my back.”

Connor, the unofficial spokesperson of the trio, said when he was first offered a joint, he said ‘no,’ wanting to arm himself with knowledge before trying it. After doing some research, including through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a U.S. government research institute, he said he knew where he stood.

“They had tons of research and facts and it was all done scientifically,” he said. “It was scary.” All three boys are with SAMC, which believes legalization will usher in Canada’s new version of big tobacco, that use will increase and that public and social costs will well outweigh the tax revenues the government receives.


Shortly before 4:20 p.m., the “Prince of Pot” himself found his way to Connor, where the two took to debating facts on marijuana as a crowd formed around them.

“You’re presuming marijuana impairs people,” Marc Emery said after hearing Connor’s stance. “Getting high… is being self-aware. That’s why people get enhanced sounds of music and enhanced sounds of nature when they’re high.” Connor argued the negatives outweigh the positives.

“But how do you know?” Emery fired back. “You’re believing a government study, right? This is the same government that’s lied to us consistently about every war, about the effects of drugs, about their secrecy, about their surveillance.”

Connor said many argue it’s not addictive and it’s not dangerous, adding, “you don’t need to die for something to be dangerous.”

Emery said Connor sounded like a “pompous, sanctimonious teenager,” while Connor told Emery he sounded like a “self-indulged hippie.” While the parties didn’t agree on much, they shook hands before parting.

Emery said he doesn’t understand the boys’ protest. “What they’re doing is laying a judgment trip on people, telling them what they’re doing with their own body is bad. I don’t know if anybody has a right to really go around doing that,” he said.

“Marijuana is extremely unique in that it’s useful for dozens and dozens of applications, medical, fibre, euphoria, soaps, lotions, it’s just incredible. There’s really nothing else like it on the planet. So for them to choose marijuana to come here and protest against shows that they’re just not well informed.”

Emery said he’s never seen pot protestors at the event before.

“You’re allowed to not smoke pot every day of the year. There’s only one day for us and it’s this day. We’re here just to ask for the dignity of being treated like first-class citizens and not second-class citizens.

“He’s here judging us and I think he’s wrong.”

Connor said he’s glad he got to debate marijuana with Emery. “I was kind of hoping I would. I think it went well, but of course he had his entourage with him.”

And after all was said and done, the boys were all glad they went, with plans to return next year. “We’re definitely a strong force,” said Connor. “We know our science, we know we’re right and we just have to put that out there.”


Vancouver police make arrests at Weeds marijuana store amid regulation debate

The political showdown between the Harper government and Vancouver intensified Tuesday in advance of city council’s consideration of a plan to strictly regulate the fast-growing pot dispensary business.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG

Vancouver police officers raided a marijuana dispensary in Kitsilano on Wednesday, one day after city councillors voted to send a plan to regulate the illegal shops to public hearing.

Police began investigating Weeds Glass and Gifts at 2916 West 4th Avenue in March after a 15-year-old allegedly bought marijuana-infused edibles at the shop, according to a Vancouver Police Department news release.

Officers armed with a search warrant seized evidence during the raid, arrested staff and identified customers. They were all released pending further investigation, according to the release.

Don Briere, the owner of 11 Weeds Glass and Gifts shops in Vancouver, said in a statement he supported police and believed they were just doing their job. “The 4th avenue store was raided today because there was an employee who might have sold to a minor and I do believe overdosed on it. The employee will be reprimanded and most likely fired for it,” he said. The shop will reopen after police leave, according to the statement.

Police warned operators and staff at marijuana dispensaries in the VPD release, stating they could be subject to criminal charges while owners or landlords could potentially face asset forfeiture. Sergeant Randy Fincham, a VPD spokesman, used the analogy “the tallest nail gets hit first” to describe the department’s policy on marijuana earlier this month. He said officers deal first with drug dealers who supply to children, draw community concern and complaints, or are violent or prey on marginalized people.

The federal government opposes the city’s plan to regulate pot shops and told police Tuesday they should crack down on them instead. A Weeds Glass and Gifts shop on Kingsway was raided last August “for operating in an unsafe manner,” according to VPD. A month later, officers raided Budzilla at 2267 Kingsway for selling products “to virtually anyone that walked in the door.” Earlier that year police raided Jim’s Weeds Lounge at 882 East Hastings St., alleging that marijuana was being purchased at the store then sold to neighbourhood youth.

The department has obtained nine search warrants for marijuana dispensaries in the past 18 months, according to police.

Source: 29th April 2015

June 6th. 2015

Dear Jessica McDonald

President and CEO BC Hydro:

I am writing to bring to your attention the fact that there are 93+ illegal marijuana dispensaries operating in the City of Vancouver. If your company is supplying these illegal businesses with hydro power you should seriously consider seeking advice from your legal counsel for being in conflict with the drug laws of Canada and laws pertaining to and potential penalties for facilitating criminal enterprises.

You will find it of benefit to review several court cases that have been filed by plaintiffs in the State of Colorado. These pleadings advance claims for damages from parties who are engaged in aiding and abetting marijuana businesses operating in violation of federal law. The Canadian Federal Government has verified, and made well publicized public statements that the marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver are illegal enterprises. BC Hydro customers should not be known illegal operations.

In Parksville BC, the RCMP closed down a marijuana dispensary and issued a warning to the landlord that if they rent to the company or a company conducting illegal business they could face charges under the provisions of Canadian law that prohibit any business from profiting from crime.

It is the position of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada – a national organization with representation from the medical and legal sectors, that these illegal businesses should be closed and federal drug laws be respected, adhered to.

We ask BC Hydro to comply with Canadian Federal Drugs Laws. We ask that BC Hydro disconnect all hydro service to these illegal businesses immediately and a public statement be made of this action. We respectfully also request that a letter be sent to the Mayor and Council, and the Federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose that clearly states your actions on this matter.

Pamela McColl

Member of the Advisory Council of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada


Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAMC) Mission:

The mission of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAMC) is to promote a health-first approach to marijuana policy that neither legalizes marijuana, nor demonizes its users. SAMC’s commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy is based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety. At SAMC we reject dichotomies — such as “incarceration versus legalization” — that offer only simplistic solutions to the highly complex problems stemming from marijuana use. Our aim is to champion smart policies that decrease marijuana use, like prevention and early intervention. Yet in rejecting legalization, we also do not believe that low-level marijuana users should be saddled with criminal records that stigmatize them for life.


SAMC’s Vision is to:

  • inform the public on the science of today’s marijuana;
  • have an honest conversation about reducing the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to criminal records;
  • prevent the expansion of a Big Tobacco-like industry that will target children and vulnerable populations;
  • promote scientific research on marijuana in order to obtain scientifically-approved, cannabis-based medications.


SAMC Will Advocate For:

  • a complete Health Canada assessment of the impact of marijuana use on Canadian society;
  • a public health campaign focused on the harms of marijuana, including the devastating impact on mental and physical health, especially for youth;
  • sensible policies that do not legalize marijuana


SAMC’s Actions Will Consist Of:

conducting information briefings for the public and decision makers about the science of today’s marijuana and the evidence of effectiveness for different law makers;

  • engaging with the media, key stakeholders, the business community, families, and other sectors of society on the issue of smart marijuana policy;
  • advocating, alongside leaders in the medical and scientific fields, for smart marijuana policies that do not legalize nor demonize marijuana;
  • advocate for medical education addiction and the harms of marijuana.


Marijuana and Public Health:

People often refer to their own experiences with marijuana, rather than to what science has taught us. No matter what people think about the drug and the policies surrounding it, it is vitally important to be well-versed in the science and public health and safety impacts of marijuana use and addiction:

  • Today’s marijuana is four to five times stronger than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • One in eleven adults and one in six adolescents who try marijuana for the first time will become addicted to marijuana.[1]
  • Because their brains are in development, marijuana acutely affects young people before age 25. Marijuana use directly affects memory, learning, attention, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 28 days after abstinence from use.[2]
  • Marijuana use can contribute to psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.[3]
  • Marijuana use can reduce IQ by six to eight points among those who started smoking before age 18.[4]


Marijuana and the Criminal Justice System

Statistics show that very few people are actually in prison for simple marijuana-only possession. Majority of offenders in Canada who are sentenced to prison have a prior criminal history or are found in possession of marijuana while committing other serious offences such as impaired driving or domestic violence. For instance, in 2011 in British Columbia, only 3% of founded cases of marijuana possession were cleared by a charge. And of that 3%, only seven cases (1.3% of the 3%) resulted in a custody sentence.[5]


Marijuana and Big Business

Tobacco companies lied to Canada for more than a century about the dangers of smoking. They deliberately targeted kids and had doctors promote cigarettes as medicine. And today we are paying the price.  Tobacco use is our nation’s top cause of preventable death and contributes to about 37,000 deaths each year. Tobacco use costs our country at least $17 billion annually — which is about 3 times the amount of money our state and federal governments collect from today’s taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. If it is legalized, marijuana will be commercialized just as tobacco was. The examples of tobacco and alcohol should teach us that legalizing any third substance would be a public health disaster


Hall W & Degenhard L. (2009). Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use.  Lancet, 374.

Andréasson S, et al. (1987). Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 2(8574).

Meier, M.H. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pauls, K., et al. (2013). The nature and extent of marijuana possession in British Columbia. University of Fraser Valley Center for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research.


Source:  June 2015

[1] Wagner, F.A. & Anthony, J.C. (2002). From first drug use to drug dependence; developmental periods of risk for dependence upon cannabis, cocaine, and alcohol. Neuropsychopharmacology 26.

[2] Hall W & Degenhard L. (2009). Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use.  Lancet, 374.

[3] Andréasson S, et al. (1987). Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 2(8574).

[4] Meier, M.H. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[5] Pauls, K., et al. (2013). The nature and extent of marijuana possession in British Columbia. University of Fraser Valley Center for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research.

At least three Canadian police forces are publishing the addresses of busted marijuana grow houses.  What?  You haven’t heard about the latest potential nightmare for home buyers and homeowners who rent their property?  A marijuana grow house is a home that has been physically altered to facilitate the production of marijuana.  The alterations include cutting into hydro power sources in order to steal the extra electricity needed to power the high-wattage lights that help the plants grow.  The ventilation in the house is often reconfigured to remove the strange smells that are produced by the marijuana plants.  Regular spraying of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides on the plants in very high concentrations also contributes to a chemical contamination of the premises.  And, let’s not forget that there is an awful lot of water used on those plants and the resulting moisture generally leaves the house with a serious mould problem.

Guess how many grow ops are in Canada?  Well, the Canadian Real Estate Association estimates as many as 50,000 across the country, and climbing.  These houses, and other premises, are purchased or rented by organized criminals who essentially trash the house for as long as they can get away with it and leave behind a property that may have no hope of being repaired.  In some cases, the mould and structural damage is so extensive that the house must be torn down.  In some cases, these criminals buy the property.  In other cases, they rent or sublet from innocent people.  In one case, a man had an opportunity to work abroad.  He rented his home to a respectable couple who, in turn, (without the owner’s permission) sublet the property unwittingly to grow op criminals.  The homeowner returned from abroad to find his house ruined.

The profit is certainly attractive for the criminals. It is estimated that one residential grow op will house 1,600 plants and produce a $1.6 million profit in one year.  Here are the shockers for the owners of the property: most homeowners’ insurance policies will not cover the cost of repairing damage caused by this type of criminal activity, and the estimates from the Insurance Bureau of Canada suggest that the average cost of repairing a home that has been used as a grow op—if it can be repaired at all—is about $40,000.

How can you recognize a marijuana grow house?  The following list is taken directly from the website of the Toronto Police (who, unfortunately, are extremely familiar with the grow house phenomenon).  Consider the following:

* The house does not appear lived-in.  Someone visits but only stays for short periods of time.

*   Activity inside the house seems to take place at odd hours

* The exterior appearance of the property, such as the lawn and small repairs, is neglected.

* People using the property often back into the garage and enter the home through the garage

*  Garbage is minimal and may contain used soil and plant material.

*   Windows are covered.

*   Bright light escapes from windows, and windows are often covered with thick         condensation.

*  There are sounds of interior construction.

*  Timers are set inside the residence.

*  There is a strong “skunk-like” odour coming from the property.

*   Items being brought into the house include soil planters, fans and large lights.

*  Garbage bags are not left for the regular collection, but are transported away from the property.

*  In the winter, there is no snow on the roof even when other houses in the area are snow-covered.

*  There are unusual amounts of steam coming from the house vents.

A surprising indicator that a property might be a grow op is not that it smells of skunk but that it smells too good.  Criminals often overuse fabric softener in dryers and vents in order to mask the smell of the plants.  So, an excessive or frequent smell of fabric softener in the air may actually be a clue that the property is a grow op.

The problem is so extensive that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has started to develop National Remediation Guidelines for rebuilding or restoring a property that has been used as a grow house.

Now, here is where is gets particularly frightening for potential homeowners—real estate agents do not always tell potential buyers that a property was used as a grow house.  Unscrupulous real estate agents will ensure that the real homeowner, who is aware of the grow op problem, is never available to meet with potential buyers.  The agent will profess that he or she has no direct knowledge of whether the property was used as a grow op and the homeowner, of course, is never around to answer questions.  In a very active market, a potential buyer might be discouraged from making an offer that is conditional upon a home inspection.  In haste to buy a house at a bargain price, the purchaser may find that they bought nothing but trouble.  At least one Toronto real estate lawyer is recommending that any offer to purchase a resale home contain a clause whereby the seller of the property warrants and represents that the property was not used for the growth or manufacture of any illegal substances during their period of ownership, and that to the best of the seller’s knowledge and belief, the use of the property, and the buildings and structures thereon, has never been for the growth or manufacture of illegal substances.  If the vendor balks at putting such a clause in, you know that you are probably dealing with a grow house or a former grow house.

This brings us full circle to the fact that police forces are now publishing the addresses of busted grow houses.  If you are in the market for property, you must beware.  Check the police list: a house that seems to be a bargain may be anything but.  In addition to having the seller warrant that it was not used as a grow house, insist on a building inspection by a certified home inspector.  The people who are trying to unload former grow houses will slap on a lot of paint and plaster to cover up the mess that was left behind by the criminals.  A certified home inspector will see right through it.  If an agent or a vendor of property is rushing you to buy without a home inspection, alarm bells should be going off.

On top of turning the actual buildings into disasters, these grow houses are contributing a lot of cash to criminal activity in Canada.  Their presence in a neighbourhood increases the risk of violence and residual crime.  Their theft of electricity leads to higher utility bills.  These properties are much more likely to have fires than normal homes, and the tampering with electrical power access can create electrocution hazards on the property.  If all of that is not horrifying enough, police have found that some grow houses have been booby-trapped to injure or kill trespassers and emergency service workers.

If you suspect that there is a grow op house in your neighbourhood or you know of one, contact the police and let them deal with it.  Remember, the people running that grow house are criminals and will do anything to ensure that they are not caught.

Source:  2007 and 2014

Filed under: Canada,Social Affairs :

Ten years ago this week, Insite, North America’s first supervised drug injection site, opened at 139 East Hastings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, thanks mainly to two men, Dr. Julio Montaner and Thomas Kerr of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

It’s an amazing story. Since 2003, folks in Canada’s most drug-infested neighbourhood have been buying heroin, cocaine and crystal meth on the street, strolling into InSite and shooting-up under the watchful eye of government nurses. All in the name of harm reduction, a philosophy of addiction treatment through enablement. How’d they do it? Early last decade, Montaner and Kerr lobbied for an injection site. In 2003, the Chretien Liberals acquiesced, gave the greenlight to B.C.’s Ministry of Health, which, through Vancouver Coastal Health, gave nearly $1.5 million to the BC Centre (that’s Montaner and Kerr, you remember them) to evaluate a three-year injection site trial in Vancouver. Voila! InSite was born. If the three-year trial was successful, or in other words, if InSite’s chief lobbyists, who received $1.5 million from taxpayers to study its pros and cons, concluded that InSite was a good fit for Vancouver, the provincial government would consider funding it in perpetuity. Amazing. Through Freedom of Information legislation, I obtained a copy of the $1.5 million contract, which tasked the BC Centre to “evaluate the process, impacts and economic elements” of InSite and note “any adverse events that may occur.” Yet every study produced by the BC Centre since 2003 has cast InSite in a positive light. Every study. And the BC Centre is very protective of its conclusions. For example. In 2009, the BC Centre released a report summarizing 33 InSite studies, all co-authored by Thomas Kerr, all singing InSite’s praises. At that time, I interviewed Kerr who bristled at my questions, claiming that his researchers “passed the test of independent scientific peer review and got our work published in the best medical journals in the world, so we don’t feel like we need to be tried in the popular media.” I asked him about the potential conflict of interest (lobbyists conducting research) and he ended the interview with a warning. “If you took that one step further you’d be accusing me of scientific misconduct, which I would take great offense to. And any allegation of that has been generally met with a letter from my lawyer.” Was I being unfair? InSite is a radical experiment, new to North America and paid for by taxpayers. Kerr and company are obligated to explain their methods and defend their philosophy without issuing veiled threats of legal action.

In the media, Kerr frequently mentions the “peer review” status of his studies, implying that studies published in medical journals are unassailable. Rubbish. Journals often publish controversial studies to attract readers — publication does not necessarily equal endorsement. The InSite study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a favourite reference of InSite champions, appeared as a “letter to the editor” sandwiched between a letter about “crush injuries” in earthquakes and another on celiac disease. Yet Kerr thunders away like Moses. Where did he obtain this astonishing sense of entitlement? Two words: the media. The reportage on InSite by Vancouver’s print and broadcast media does not meet, by any definition, basic standards of professional journalism. It’s been shameful. When the BC Centre stages a press conference, it’s always the same formula. A handful of Kerr-authored studies and an obligatory recovering addict who owes his life to InSite. The reporters in attendance nod along and write or broadcast the same story with the same quotes and BC Centre statistics.  If a story involves an InSite skeptic such as Dr. Don Hedges, an addictions expert from New Westminster or David Berner, a drug treatment counsellor with more than 40 years of experience, it almost always includes a familiar narrative propagated by the BC Centre. InSite opponents are blinded by ideology; conservative moralists who care little about the poor and addicted. InSite proponents, on the other hand, are pure and unburdened, following the facts and relying on science. Really? What kind of “science” produces dozens of studies, within the realm of public health, a notoriously volatile research field, with positive outcomes 100 per cent of the time? Those results should raise the eyebrows of any first-year stats student. And who’s more likely to be swayed by personal bias? InSite opponents, questioning government-sanctioned hard drug abuse?  Or Montaner, Kerr and their handful of acolytes who’ve staked their careers on InSite’s survival?  From 2003 to 2011, the BC Centre received $2,610,000 from B.C. taxpayers to “study” InSite.  How much money have InSite critics received? There has never been an independent analysis of InSite, yet, if you base your knowledge on Vancouver media reports, the case is closed. InSite is a success and should be copied nationwide for the benefit of humanity. Tangential links to declining overdose rates are swallowed whole. Kerr’s claims of reduced “public disorder” in the neighbourhood go unchallenged, despite other mitigating factors such as police activity and community initiative. Journalists note Onsite, the so-called “treatment program” above the injection site, ignoring Onsite’s reputation among neighbourhood residents as a spit-shined flophouse of momentary sobriety. Where’s the curiosity? Where did these reporters learn their craft? The BC Centre won’t answer your questions? Then ask the politicians who, unlike Montaner and Kerr, operate inside the bounds of democratic accountability. If InSite works in the Downtown Eastside, Mayor Robertson, why not Dunbar, Mount Pleasant or West Point Grey? If, God forbid, you had a child who became addicted to drugs, Minister Lake, would you refer him to InSite? Premier Clark, your government funds InSite yet shuns many abstinence-based treatment programs. Why? And so on. For the record, my opposition to InSite is based on the countless conversations I’ve had

with Downtown Eastside residents over the past decade, as a journalist, volunteer and friend. In my judgement, public money is better spent on treatment and recovery facilities outside the neighbourhood, which is where the vast majority of addicts settle when they finally decide to quit using drugs. Ten years later, despite any lofty claims, for most addicts, InSite’s just another place to get high.

Source:    19th Sept 2013

Filed under: Canada,Drug Specifics :

Bipolar disorder patients who also have substance misuse disorders are at an increased risk of suicide compared with patients who are non- drug dependent or do not abuse drugs, suggest Canadian and Italian scientists.

It is estimated that between 25 and 60 per cent of patients with bipolar disorder make at least one suicide attempt during the course of their illness. Despite this, few studies have examined the clinical predictors of suicide attempts in these patients.

Researchers administered the Structural Clinical Interview for DSM-IV to 336 patients with a diagnosis of bipolar I, bipolar II or schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type).

The team, from the University of Toronto and the University of Milan, then compared clinical predictors of suicide attempts in attempters and non-attempters. They found that 26 per cent of the subjects had made at least one suicide attempt.

Lifetime co-morbid substance use disorders were diagnosed in 34 per cent of the subjects, while lifetime comorbid anxiety disorders were diagnosed in 26 per cent of the subjects.

Significantly, patients with a lifetime comorbid substance use disorder (that is, drug abuse and dependence) had a 40 per cent lifetime rate of attempted suicide compared with a rate of 24 per cent for those without the comorbidity.

The team speculates that the relationship between lifetime comorbid substance use disorder and suicide attempts may have a genetic origin and/or may be explained by severity of illness and trait impulsivity.

They add that further research is needed to examine severity of illness, impulsivity and the temporal link between substance use and suicide attempts.

Source:  21.07.2013

A report by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS on harm reduction programs and Insite released last month is not science; it’s public relations.  Authors Drs. Julio Montaner, Thomas Kerr and Evan Wood have produced nearly two dozen papers on the use of Insite. They boast of good results in connecting addicts to treatment but convincing evidence is lacking.

The current campaign reports significant reductions in drug overdoses, yet the Government of British Columbia Selected Vital Statistics and Health Status Indicators show that the number of deaths from drug overdose in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has increased each year (with one exception) since the site opened in 2003. In addition, the federal government’s Advisory Committee on Drug Injection Sites report only five per cent of drug addicts use the injection site, three per cent were referred for treatment and there was no indication the crime rate has decreased, as well as no indication of a decrease in AIDS and hepatitis C since the injection site was opened.

Claims of success for Insite made in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in 2011 were challenged in a 15-page, heavily-documented response penned by addictions specialists from Australia, the U.S. and Canada, and by a former VPD officer who worked the DTES for years.

In A Critical Evaluation of the Effects of Safe Injection Facilities for The Institute on Global Drug Policy, Dr. Garth Davies, SFU associate professor wrote: “The methodological and analytic approaches used in these studies are compromised by an array of deficiencies, including a lack of baseline data, insufficient conceptual and operational clarity, inadequate evaluation criteria, absent statistical controls, dearth of longitudinal designs, and inattention to intrasite variation. None of the impacts attributed to SIFs can be unambiguously verified.”

The doctors evaluating Insite are the same people who created Insite and who have been awarded more than $18 million of taxpayers’ money for their initiatives in recent years. Dr. Colin Mangham, on our Board of Directors, has been a researcher in this field since 1979.

“The proposal for Insite was written by the same people who are evaluating it – a clear conflict of interest. Any serious evaluation must be independent. All external critiques or reviews of the Insite evaluations, there are four of them – found profound overstatements and evidence of interpretation bias. All of the evidence – on public disorder, overdose deaths, entry into treatment, containment of serum borne viruses, and so on – is weak or non-existent and certainly does not support the claims of success. There is every appearance of the setting of an agenda before Insite ever started, then a pursuit of that agenda, bending or overstating results wherever necessary.”

Our President, Chuck Doucette, asks to see an independent and unbiased cost/benefit analysis.

“The four pillar approach only works when each pillar is properly funded. Prevention reduces the flow of people into addiction. Treatment reduces the number of addicts including those living in the DTES. Policing keeps a lid on the open drug dealing and the

affects of the associated problems on the community. Only after these three pillars are properly funded can we afford to spend money on Harm Reduction initiatives that do not encourage abstinence. Putting HR first is like running up debt on your credit card and never paying more than your minimum payments.”

No one would object to free needles, crack pipe kits, methadone, heroin and places to shoot up if only they were the side show and not the main event, if only they ever led to real health.  Harm reduction and Insite are palliative. They both spring from a deeply cynical and arrogant world view: You are an addict and you are hopeless. We will keep you “comfortable” while you continue to die.

This is a curious position considering the millions of men and women who admit they are addicts and choose every day not to pick up their poison. I know many such clean and sober citizens.  We owe one another a chance at dignity. To offer less is not only costly, it is monstrous.

David Berner is the executive director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada.

Source:  Vancouver Sun July 19, 2013 

Canada’s ban on marijuana was effectively upheld Friday when Ontario’s top court struck down the country’s laws related to medicinal pot much to the chagrin of activist groups.

In overturning a lower court ruling, the Court of Appeal ruled the trial judge had made numerous errors in striking down the country’s medical pot laws.

Among other things, the Appeal Court found the judge was wrong to interpret an earlier ruling as creating a constitutional right to use medical marijuana.

“Given that marijuana can medically benefit some individuals, a blanket criminal prohibition on its use is unconstitutional,” the Appeal Court said.

“(However), this court did not hold that serious illness gives rise to an automatic right to use marijuana.”

Currently, doctors are allowed to exempt patients from the ban on marijuana, but many physicians have refused to prescribe the drug on the grounds its benefits are not scientifically proven.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network called the decision a disappointing missed opportunity.

Source: The Canadian Press – Friday, February 1 2013

Filed under: Canada,Legal Sector :


Background: Opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines are often misused in clinical practice. We determined whether implementation of a centralized prescription network offering real-time access to patient-level data on filled prescriptions (PharmaNet) reduced the number of potentially inappropriate prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines.

Methods: We conducted a time series analysis using prescription records between Jan. 1, 1993, and Dec. 31, 1997, for residents of the province of British Columbia who were receiving social assistance or were 65 years or older. We calculated monthly percentages of filled prescriptions for an opioid or a benzodiazepine that were deemed inappropriate (those issued by a different physician and dispensed at a different pharmacy within 7 days after a filled prescription of at least 30 tablets of the same drug).

Results: Within 6 months after implementation of PharmaNet in July 1995, we observed a relative reduction in inappropriate filled prescriptions for opioids of 32.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 31.0%–34.7%) among patients receiving social assistance; inappropriate filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines decreased by 48.6% (95% CI 43.2%–53.1%). Similar and statistically significant reductions were observed among residents 65 years or older.

Interpretation: The implementation of a centralized prescription network was associated with a dramatic reduction in inappropriate filled prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines.

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal September 4, 2012

HIV rates much higher among daily needle exchange users than those who do not use the exchange program, according to latest study
HIV incidence was 75 percent higher among daily users of Vancouver’s needle exchange program (NEP) than among drug abusers that did not use the program, according to a new study published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Medicine. Vancouver, Canada boasts the largest NEP in the Western Hemisphere.

Source: The American Journal of Medicine Volume 120, Issue 2, Pages 172-179 (

The Road Safety Monitor, a national telephone survey conducted each year involving Canadian drivers indicates that drug impaired driving is seen as second only to alcohol
impaired driving as a serious issue and that illicit drugs are seen as a more serious
problem than prescription or over the counter drugs1. Overall, 17.7%, or 3.7 million
Canadian drivers report driving within two hours of using illicit, prescription or over the
counter drugs.
Collisions remain a major cause of death and injury in Canada, and concerns about the
role of cannabis in road safety in this country date back many years. Much less is known
about the impact of cannabis on road safety than the impact of alcohol, in part because of
the much greater difficulty involved in measuring the presence and amount of
cannabinoids compared to alcohol. However, there is renewed interest in this issue
stimulated in part by proposed legislative changes on the part of the Government of
Canada to reduce substantially the penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of available research and evidence on
the potential impact of cannabis on road safety in Canada focusing on two areas: 1)
research on the prevalence of cannabis use in Canada; and 2) research on the prevalence
of driving after cannabis use in Canada.

Prevalence of Cannabis Use in Canada
Little information is available on the prevalence of cannabis use in Canada prior to the
1960s. However, in that decade, cannabis use increased substantially. While a variety of
possible sources of information on cannabis in the Canadian population have been used
over the years, including such measures as amounts of the drug seized by police and the
number of individuals prosecuted by the courts for cannabis offences, the most direct and
the most accurate measures of the prevalence of cannabis use are those derived from
surveys. Although cannabis is an illegal drug and there are concerns that survey
responses may be influenced by its legal status, research demonstrates that respondents
to anonymous surveys, where there are no adverse consequences involved, generally
provide valid responses.
Smart and Fejer presented one of the very first estimates of the prevalence of cannabis
use in a Canadian population, based on a survey of a representative sample of residents
of Toronto conducted in 1971. They found that 12.2% of males and 5.5% of females had
used cannabis at least once in the preceding year. The prevalence of use differed
substantially by age group and gender. Among males, 41.5% of those aged 18-25, 20.8%
of those aged 26-30, and 1.8% of those aged 31 and over had used cannabis in the
preceding year. Among females, 20.0% of those aged 18-25, 6.3% of those aged 26-30,
and 1.8% of those aged 31 and over had used cannabis in the previous year. These data
clearly demonstrate that, by the end of the 1960’s, cannabis use had become very
common among young people. Ogborne and Smart reported on cannabis use in the
general population of Canada aged 15 and over based on the National Alcohol and Other
Drugs Survey conducted in 1994. This survey was the largest representative survey with
information on cannabis use ever made in Canada, with a sample size of 12,155. Use of
cannabis at that time was relatively uncommon, but not rare. Only 7.3% of respondents
reported using cannabis in the preceding year, and 2.0% reported using it as often as once per week. However, nearly a third (29%) reported that they had used cannabis at least once in their lives. Substantial regional differences were observed, with the proportion reporting use
at least once in the past year ranging from a low of 4.9% in Ontario to a high of 11.4% in
British Columbia.
The data provide a valuable perspective on the use of cannabis across Canada,
unfortunately there is little information on other important issues, such as change in rates
of use over time. However, in Ontario a series of surveys has been conducted over the
past 20 years that allow a picture of current use and changes in use over time in that part
of the country.

The Use of Cannabis in Ontario
Repeated cross-sectional surveys conducted in Ontario by the Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health provide the most comprehensive picture of the use of cannabis and other
drugs use in Canada. These surveys have been conducted among the student population
and adult population since the late 1970s.
A summary of recent data on the use of cannabis and other drugs (any
use in the past year) among students in grades 7 and 126, and among adults aged 18-29
(young adults), 40-49 (the middle-aged) and 65 and over (seniors). shows cannabis is the most
widely used illicit substance, with nearly half of grade 12 students reporting cannabis use
at least once in the past year. It is worth noting that by grade 12 most students will have
reached the age when they will be eligible to drive. Use of cannabis drops with increasing
age, however, and is used by less than 2% of seniors. Use of other illicit drugs is much
less common than the use of cannabis, with highest levels occurring for Hallucinogens and
Ecstasy among grade 12 students. Not surprisingly, alcohol is the most commonly used
substance. While cannabis is used by a smaller proportion of students than alcohol; it is still used
by a substantial minority of students. There have been important changes in the use of
cannabis over time. The general trend appears to have been one of reduced use of cannabis
and alcohol from the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s. The proportion reporting use of cannabis declined from a peak of 31.7% in 1979 to 11.7% in 1991. However, since the mid-1990’s self-reported use
of both substances has increased, with 28.6% reporting cannabis use in 2001.

Prevalence of Cannabis Use and Driving in Canada:

Survey data on the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis are available. In
the first reported data from the general population in Canada, the prevalence of driving after
use of cannabis at least once in the preceding 12 months. The
survey included 9943 persons aged 16-69, obtained through random digit dialling.
The prevalence of DUIC varied with age, while the prevalence of DUIC was relatively low,
it was higher in younger age groups. DUIC was significantly associated with a variety of other risk behaviours, such as driving after drinking, use of illicit drugs other than cannabis, and collision
Information on the incidence of DUIC in a representative sample of the Ontario adult
population surveyed in 1996/97.
Among all drivers, 1.9% reported DUIC in the previous 12 months. Several factors influenced the likelihood of reported DUIC, including gender, age, marital status and education level. DUIC was most
frequently seen in younger age groups, with 9.3% of the youngest age group (18-19)
reporting the behaviour. DUIC was more common among men (3.0%) than women
(0.8%), more common among those never married (4.7%) than among those married
(0.9%) or previously married (2.1%). It was also least common among those with a
university degree. Among cannabis users, DUIC appeared to be a relatively common
behaviour; 22.8% reported DUIC, and the probability of the behaviour was significantly
influenced by gender and education level As well, DUIC and drinking-driving were strongly
related in this sample.
Prevalence of DUIC by Age among Cannabis Users in Ontario, 1996-97
Data derived from Walsh and Mann8.
The observation that DUIC was more common among younger respondents was recently
extended . Among students with a drivers licence in grades 10-13, 19.3% reported driving
within one hour of using cannabis at least once in the preceding year; this proportion was higher than the
proportion that reported driving within an hour of two or more drinks (15.0%). Males were
significantly more likely than females to report DUIC (23.8% versus 13.5%). DUIC was
more frequently reported than driving after drinking .

Prevalence of riding with a drinking driver, drinking driving, and DUIC by Gender
among Ontario students, 2001
Among respondents, 5.1% reported using marijuana, and 1.5% reported DUIC at least
once in the preceding 12 months. These authors also noted that males and respondents
under 30 were most likely to report DUIC, and also that there was a strong relationship
between DUIC and driving after drinking. Recently, the first report on trends over time in
cannabis use and driving in Canada appeared.

The proportions of Ontario adults reporting DUIC in a representative sample
of the Ontario population surveyed in 2002
A trend for an increase over time was observed, with the proportion of adult drivers reporting DUIC increasing from 1.9% in 1996/97 to 2.7% in 2002. The authors note, however, that this increase is not statistically significant and recommend further monitoring of this trend.

The data presented here indicate that cannabis use is relatively common in Canada,
particularly among young people. The prevalence of use appears to have increased
substantially in the 1960s and ‘70s, while since then some fluctuations have occurred.
Driving after cannabis use is less common, but among cannabis users it does appear to
occur with some frequency. In particular, young cannabis users appear more likely to
report DUIC. Among high school students, DUIC appears to occur as frequently, or more
frequently, than driving after drinking. These data provide grounds for concern about this
behaviour, particularly among younger drivers. Further research on the prevalence of
DUIC in Canada, including differences between provinces, is needed.

Source: CAMH Population Studies eBulletin, May/June 2003 No.20

Filed under: Canada :

The federal government is stepping up its fight against tobacco, with a promise to cut smoking rates in Canada from 19 per cent last year to 12 per cent by 2011.
Health Minister Tony Clement, in Vancouver today for the Canadian Medical Association’s annual general meeting, said the target is ambitious but not unrealistic. “Seeing the great progress we have made over the past few years, I am confident . . . we can achieve this goal,” he said in a statement.
Clement also reiterated a promise to get tough on illicit drug use, saying mixed messages about the acceptability of drugs – including marijuana – must end.
“Canada has not run a serious or significant anti-drug campaign for almost 20 years, and the messages young people have received during the past several years have been confusing and conflicting, to say the least,” he told delegates.
“We are very concerned about the damage and pain that drugs cause families and we intend to reverse the trend toward vague, ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the recent past.”
He sidestepped questions about whether the anti-drug strategy would include harm-reduction measures such as Vancouver’s safe injection site, saying enforcement and prevention can also be considered harm reduction.
Furthermore, he said there is conflicting research about whether the safe injection site has been successful, adding that Ottawa will review all the data before making the long-awaited decision about whether the site can continue to operate.

Source: August 2007

Filed under: Canada :

OTTAWA — By the time they’re 14, many Canadian youth have done it all — cigarettes, drugs and alcohol — so a new report on substance abuse and addiction should serve as a “call to action” to change that, the organization behind the research says.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse says Canadians need to pay closer attention to the facts that the average age when a child smokes a cigarette for the first time is about 12, 13 when he or she uses alcohol and gets drunk and 14 for first-time drug use.
In a report released Wednesday, titled Substance Abuse in Canada: Youth in Focus, the CCSA outlines gaps in Canada’s overall approach to dealing with these worrying statistics and it suggests several strategies to plug the holes.
The report paints an alarming portrait of drug and alcohol use by youth. By the time they are in their first year of high school, about two-thirds of students had consumed alcohol, according to one survey. Another survey of youth age 15-24 showed that 83% were currently drinking or had consumed alcohol within the past year. If it’s any comfort to parents, the students characterized their drinking as light to infrequent.
More than a third of students in grades 7 to 9 have binged on alcohol, meaning they consumed five or more drinks on a single occasion, researchers found. The same was true for 40% of 15- to 19-year-olds, while another survey showed that one-third of young drinkers drank at a hazardous level.
After alcohol, cannabis was the most commonly used illegal substance among youth. Cannabis use is reported by 17% of students in grades 7 to 9, about 29% of 15- to 17-year-olds, and almost half of 18- to 19-year-olds, the CCSA report said.
Pot smoking, in fact, now exceeds the rate of cigarette smoking among youth, the study found.
The statistics underline that new approaches are needed to prevent and treat substance abuse by youth, said Michel Perron, the CCSA’s chief executive officer.
In general, Mr. Perron said in an interview, there needs to be more funding for services, better co-ordination between all levels of government and non-governmental agencies, and better use of evidence-based research to evaluate which approaches are most effective. Specifically, Mr. Perron says, services need to be matched to the age and needs of certain kinds of youth, especially those at higher risk of substance abuse.
A universal prevention strategy that talks to youth about peer pressure, for example, can be effective up to about age 12, but beyond that, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, he said.
“We know that beyond 12 years old, and because the age of initiation is dropping consistently in Canada, which is a concern to us, we need to start matching our services to the age of youth,” he said.
Prevention strategies should target youth as early as possible, said Mr. Perron, ideally at around age 10.
“The longer we stave off a young person from trying illegal drugs or the like, the better it is, the less likely that they’ll carry on into the future,” he explained.
Canada also needs to “professionalize” addiction treatment services to make them more effective, said Perron. There’s a shortage of knowledgeable workers and no consistency in training, his organization says.
There’s also room for improvement in schools, the CCSA report said. Prevention strategies would be more effective, for example, if teachers had better training to recognize youth with substance abuse issues, it states.
Mr. Perron said he is optimistic about the ongoing challenges of curbing substance abuse among youth. While addiction was not on the political or public radar five or 10 years ago, said Mr. Perron, encouraging signs are now emerging.
He’s eagerly awaiting the anti-drug strategy promised by the federal government and expected this fall, and the recently established Canadian Mental Health Commission is another move in the right direction, he said. Good progress is being made at provincial levels too, Mr. Perron added.
The CCSA report is a call to action for both levels of government and the general public, he said.
“We’re very much looking to mobilize Canadian attention that we need to address substance use and addiction by youth in Canada,” he said. “We can’t do this with government alone; we have to be willing to work together.”

Source: CanWest News Service Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Filed under: Canada :

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to announce a $64-million anti-drug strategy that cracks down on dealers and offers more help for users.Harper is to make the announcement Thursday in Winnipeg, casting his Conservative government’s approach as a balanced one that relies as heavily on prevention as it does on punishment. The new plan includes stricter penalties for drug-traffickers while spending millions on rehabilitation and public-awareness programs. The government wants to avoid having the plan portrayed as a Canadian version of the U.S. war on drugs. “There are two aspects to this,” said a source familiar with the announcement. “How can you help the user? And the other thing is punishing the dealer. Funding for the initiative was set out in the 2007 federal budget. The plan is expected to include: -A border crackdown on drug smuggling. -$32 million on treatments like detox and rehab centres.-About $10 million for an awareness campaign aimed at young people. One of the key goals of the awareness program is to alert kids to the dangers of marijuana and remind them that it remains illegal. Since the Conservatives took office, the number of people arrested for simple possession of marijuana has skyrocketed. Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax all reported increases of between 20 and 50 per cent in 2006 of arrests for possession of cannabis, compared with the previous year. As a result, thousands of people were charged with a criminal offence that, under the previous Liberal government, was on the verge of being decriminalized. Police say those Liberal efforts to decriminalize pot sent mixed messages to the public. They say many pot smokers have been emboldened by the talk of decriminalization and are more apt to smoke in public – all of which has resulted in more arrests. Proponents of more liberalized drug laws have ridiculed the Tory approach to marijuana, calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money to prosecute pot smokers. Drug-dependency experts have also challenged the common notion that pot is a so-called ‘gateway’ to other drugs, and argue that it actually keeps people from experimenting with more dangerous ones.Health Minister Tony Clement, who will be one of three cabinet ministers present at the announcement, has said his government wants to clear up the uncertainty about marijuana. “There’s been a lot of mixed messages going out about illicit drugs,” Clement said recently. “We’re going to be back in the business of an anti-drug strategy. . . In that sense, the party’s over.”

Filed under: Canada :

Friday, October 19, 2007
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe, who has an office in the area, says the exchange is a neighbourhood nightmare of filth, confrontation and constant threats of violence.

I write out of concern that the desperation, exhaustion and fearfulness of the citizens who work and live near the Cormorant Street needle exchange has not come through clearly enough. Frustration can come across as insensitivity, a lack of compassion or a kind of NIMBY attitude, which would be very misleading.
Many of us who encounter the unhappy souls who struggle with addiction are not unsympathetic to their plight. I work regularly with the addicted, the homeless and the mentally ill in our province’s prisons.
For those of us who observe the devastation of a neighbourhood in the name of a social experiment, resentment is focused not on the unfortunates, but on those who planned and implemented this disaster, including our mayor and council. We are exhausted and outraged by their failure to deal with the unsurprising consequences of simply providing needles to a group of people who need much more.
It is the restraint of those who have tolerated this abandonment of civic responsibility that has kept things from getting out of control.
Let me provide one example, a mild one. Not long ago, a man barged into my office, demanding to use the washroom. Having been burned by acceding to a similar demand in the past that resulted in needles and blood in my washroom, I refused and asked him to leave. He did, walked outside and then urinated on my door, aiming at the door handle.
Consider my options. Should I call the police? Or physically push him off my property, risking being doused by urine or stabbed by a needle? Should I risk a shouting match and possible retaliation?
So he walked away smirking, with no fear of any consequences. I washed the door before my next patient arrived. This on a day that started with me scooping diarrhea embedded with needles off my front steps.
Used needles, human feces, discarded underwear, assorted condoms and other unsanitary byproducts of addiction are frequently deposited on properties in the neighbourhood. After earlier protests, the city installed a “porta-potty” outside the needle exchange. That lasted but a few days, apparently because of the refusal of those who have to clean the toilets to deal with the needles and other paraphernalia jammed into them.
Trained workers understandably refused to face the health risks, yet citizens are left to their own devices.
We have asked for toilets, increased policing, assistance in regular cleaning or tax relief so that we can hire our own crews and private security. Our pleas have gone nowhere and the mayor has not responded to my last letter.
In it, I have told him that if the lawsuit over the injection site fails, my neighbours and I will have no choice but to erect tall fences topped with barbed wire along our streets. This is what it has come to in our once-beautiful city; citizens are left to wall themselves off, prison-like, in a downtown area.
Since I spend a good part of my work week in prisons, it is not especially harsh for me, but for a 70-year-old pensioner who grew up in a city where she once walked fearlessly, it is utterly disheartening.
I am outraged by the complacency of those who seek power and responsibility and then do nothing when faced with a crisis.
I work here, but many senior citizens, some handicapped, live here. Many are unable to sleep at night, never mind take a walk. They are intimidated by the arguments and yelling, the confrontations and their increasing fears of violence.
The fears of those who bear the brunt of this disaster are not exaggerated or misplaced. The needle exchange is a gathering place for addicts and the predators that they inevitably attract. It is the latter group that is becoming increasingly prominent and more confrontational.
Drug dependence, especially on short-acting opiates, creates desperate cravings, often several times a day. There is a clear relationship between substance abuse and criminality, including acts of violence.
There are three broad ways in which alcohol and drugs influence crime and violence. The first is physiological, through a direct effect on mental functioning, when disinhibition of behaviour, including aggressive behaviour, is common. The second influence is due to the financial needs of the addict. Finally, there is the “business” aspect of addiction, the turf wars between dealers and others who prey on addiction.
By funnelling a large proportion of the city’s drug-related crime and disorder into a small neighbourhood, those responsible for this disaster have absconded from their responsibility for follow-through with services for the addicts, protection from the predators they attract and basic services for the citizens left to cope with the crime, filth and public disorder.
The “service” of providing needles ends before sundown when the needle exchange shuts down, leaving the addicted with no support, supervision, food or water, protection from predators, shelter or toilets.
Where do the politicians and planners think these people go to shoot up, steal money for their next hit or next meal, sleep, urinate, rant and rave, intimidate, vent their fury against the society they believe has abandoned them and destroy property and peace-of-mind?
Invited to bring their suffering and their rage to a particular spot, then left to their own devices, they inflict their despair and their frenzy on a small group of citizens who have been left to cope with the predictable consequences of “injecting” a crime-prone subculture into what was once a beautiful, pleasant and safe neighborhood.

Source: 19th Oct.2007

Filed under: Canada :

Vancouver is a beautiful city – but they have a dreadful situation around Gas Town on the East side –
The needle exchange programme there attracts the most desperate of drug users. Now Victoria has very similar problems around their NEP.

Mayor promises to find homes for 50 of the most troubled homeless people; plan expected have ‘enormous’ impact
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe promises the city will sweep off the streets 50 homeless people who are shooting up drugs and causing conflict downtown within four months.
The move, which makes good on recommendations contained in task force report released last week, should have an immediate and dramatic effect as the the group is one of the most visible symbols of the substance-abuse, mental-health and homelessness problems plaguing the city. Lowe said the first community outreach team called for in the report will be “up and running immediately,” and will find homes for the 50 “hardest to house” homeless people within 120 days.
One of the most visible examples of the city’s homelessness and addiction crisis is the needle exchange on Cormorant Street. Many of the most troublesome homeless people hang out there, leaving a trail of filth, faeces and needles.
Currently, the 50 people have nowhere to go, so often are sprawled outside the needle exchange on Cormorant Street or Streetlink on Store Street, amid feces, filth and scattered hypodermic needles.
The City of Victoria task force action plan unveiled last week aims to find 1,550 housing units over the next five years for the homeless. Within a year, the city plans to find accommodations, through rent subsidies, for 350 people.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority has kicked in $7.6 million toward the effort to deal with the homelessness and addiction crisis – more than $3 million of that going toward the creation of four outreach groups, dubbed “Assertive Community Teams,” to provide support to people on the streets, in shelters or supportive housing. Another $1.7 million is earmarked for adult detox treatment.
Victoria lawyer Stewart Johnston, who is leading a court action to shut down the needle exchange near his law office, said helping those individuals and finding them a place to live will change the entire look and feel of downtown Victoria. “If you take the worst 45 to 50 off streets, and then another 300, the difference would be enormous,” he said.
Police have estimated about 45 people are causing most of the problems around the needle exchange, Johnston said. Housing that group of people “would make all the sense in the world,” said Rev. Al Tysick of Our Place Society. A meeting on Friday should better clarify how the 50 people will be selected, he said.
Victoria police acting chief Bill Naughton agreed the plan will have an immediate and “very significant impact. It could also make easier the job of police, who continue to shuffle homeless residents from one doorway to another as business owners complain. Police can’t solve the housing piece of the puzzle but we recognize how important it is,” Naughton said.
Police estimate a group of 324 homeless, addicted and mentally-ill people were responsible for 23,033 police incidents over a period of 40 months, at a cost of $9 million. Some of the hardest to house will go to the soon-to-open Our Place Society drop-in street shelter and transitional housing complex, “but I don’t think it is a good idea to put them all in one location,” Lowe said. “They need to be dispersed, as long as there are support services available to follow the individuals.”
Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said the plan is to use rent subsidies to place people throughout the region in existing housing. As long as there is “support wrapped around the individual,” and landlords have a housing team they can call around the clock, such placements are highly successful, she said.

Source Times Colonist Oct 2007

Sylvia Oertel
Wed, Oct 24, 07 at 04:54 AM
There’s big talk about getting these poor souls off the street & I applaud that action. Now let’s not forget their greatest needs which are continuing health care, mental health care, rehabilitation programs, AA-NA,co-dependancy, abuse& anger mgmt programs ‘for all’ not just a chosen few & no endless wait lists! Then there’s self esteem courses, budgeting help, education & training… I could go on forever with the needs of these persons as they are obviously going to require a myriad of complex treatment to fully recover as it’s more than just addictions now….. There was a time when they thought “oh, I’ll never become an addict, I only do it when I party”, but that devils dust got hold of them and has had them in its grip for a decade or more! Maybe rather than a cheque each month (which at this date is generally being used to support addictiions),until they are stable they get Rent ‘paid direct’ & food credits, & laundry facilities, to assure that the $ are spent on essentials to help keep them healthy & clean…. After all the proof is in the pudding that so far the funds have been supporting habits. That wouldn’t change just because there’s a roof over their head. Not without some type of cautions in place. Maybe to encourage them to attend programs they could earn incentives… These ideas and insights come from the heart of a mother of 2 addicted daughters. Why do I care? Because I have a mother’s heart.When I counted their ten tiny little toes this wasn’t the dreams & hopes I had for my girls….. So when it comes to my girls I can only live 1 day at a time, no making plans with them for days ahead. I go to bed & wake up saying tpraying ‘ Serenity Prayer’, and dreading the knocks on my door or the calls that may be the time someone tells me they’re lost to me forever……….. Please just sign me :’Mom of 3 & Grandma of 6′

Wed, Oct 24, 07 at 03:57 PM
As a former long time Victoria resident, I think I should warn you that BC is THE destination for drug-loving lowlifes from the rest of the country. Build it and they will come, no sooner will you get rid of the current crop and the next batch will arrive from Ontario, Quebec, or other eastern provinces. BC should be petitioning the feds to make it possible to deport bad apples to their homes.

Nick 2.
Wed, Oct 24, 07 at 08:57 PM
Nick above has it right. Some people need to give their heads a good shake. Surely you must realise that if we citizens of Victoria start (continue) putting our taxes towards free needles, food, shelter etc for those who themselves put the needle in themselves, the flood gates will open. So let me see if I have the picture straight! If I shoot up, leave needles in the street, deficate publically, beg, sleep in someone elses doorway, or have a dog I don’t want to give up you are going to give me a place to live??? Sounds good to me, where do I start and can get a free dog please?

Filed under: Canada :


Last week, it was announced that the Conservative government will soon unveil a new national anti-drug strategy. The plan is said to feature a get-tough approach to illegal drugs, including a crackdown on grow-ops and drug gangs. And while it will also (wisely) include tens of millions for rehabilitation of addicts and for a national drug prevention campaign, it is said to retreat from safe-injection sites and other fashionable “harm-reduction” strategies introduced by the previous Liberal government. To which we say: Good. This editorial column has long urged a softening of drug policy on marijuana and other non-addictive recreational substances. But heroin and similarly addictive drugs are a different story. Moreover, safe injection sites don’t work. And they send the wrong message, too, promoting disrespect for the rule of law by having government facilitating the consumption of illegal substances.


Safe-injection sites (SIS)– typically inner-city facilities where addicts may go to shoot up with clean needles under the watchful eye of medical specialists –are often said to work wonders. Benefits claimed on behalf of Insite, Canada’s one and only SIS in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside since 2003, include reduced needle sharing, reduced spread of deadly diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, fewer needles discarded in surrounding neighbourhoods and fewer addicts overdosing in alleys. Lives have been saved, advocates claim, the “well-being of drug users improved,” and all without increased street dealing around Insite.

 Too bad most of the proof to back these positive claims come from SIS proponents or the academics who devise harm-reduction theories. Police here, and in Europe (where they have lots of experience with SISs) tell a very different tale.

 When Insite applied to have its three-year licence renewed last fall, the RCMP told Health Canada it had “concerns regarding any initiative that lowers the perceived risks associated with drug use. There is considerable evidence to show that, when the perceived risks associated to drug use decreases, there is a corresponding increase in number of people using drugs.”

That has certainly been the case in Europe. Currently there are more than three dozen major European cities on record against SISs. Most have had such facilities and closed them because they found that drug problems increased, not decreased.

After an injection site was opened in Rotterdam in the early 1990s, the municipal council reported a doubling of the number of 15- to 19-year-olds addicted to heroine or cocaine. Over the 1990s, the Dutch Criminal Intelligence Service reported a 25% increase in drug-related gun murders and robberies in neighbourhoods housing one of that country’s 50 official methadone clinics or addict shelters. Zurich closed its infamous needle park in 1992, after the police and citizenry became fed up with public urination and defecation, prostitution, open sex, panhandling, drug peddling, loud fights and violent crimes.

Reports that the Harper government is preparing to announce changes to Canada’s outdated 20-year-old national strategy on illicit drug use should be reason for optimism.Source:Addiction & Recovery News May 2007


Source:Addiction & Recovery News May 2007









Filed under: Canada,Education Sector :

OTTAWA — A new national program designed to prevent youth from using drugs received $10 million from the federal government Wednesday.

The money is slated to go toward the Drug Prevention Strategy for Youth, a new five-year plan led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the government-supported national agency for substance abuse. The strategy will target youth between the ages of 10 and 24 and will have several goals: to reduce the number of youth using illegal drugs, to delay and deter the onset of drug use, to reduce the frequency of drug use, and to reduce multiple drug use among those young people who do use.

The funding comes out of the government’s $64-million National Anti-Drug Strategy, launched last fall. Part of that plan includes a two-year mass media campaign by Health Canada aimed specifically at youth. Health Minister Tony Clement, speaking at the Ottawa-based CCSA, said there hasn’t been a “serious or significant” anti-drug campaign in almost 20 years, and one is long overdue. He said the CCSA’s national prevention strategy is key to the government’s plan.

“This project will reach out to young people and will provide them and their parents the plain truth on the harms of illicit drug use,” said Clement. “We will discourage young people from thinking there are ‘safe’ amounts, or ‘safe’ drugs. And we will highlight the fact that, for young people, having clear and unimpaired judgment is a safety issue,” the health minister said.

The CCSA’s strategy will complement Health Canada’s media blitz with a new consortium media corporations, marketing and advertising agencies, youth agencies and parent groups. It will reinforce many of Health Canada’s messages, but on a wider platform, and with high-risk populations targeted.

According to the CCSA, the average age a Canadian tries an illegal drug for the first time is around 14 or 15, so prevention messages need to start as early as 10 years of age. Sixty per cent of illegal drug users in Canada are 15 to 24 years old, according to the national substance abuse agency, and young people are the most likely to use and abuse substances, and to experience harm as a result.

Source: Canwest News Service January 31, 2008

Filed under: Canada :

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) – Canada’s “Prince of Pot” believes the Canadian government wants to punish him by blocking a plea deal with U.S. authorities, who want him to face charges of selling marijuana seeds from his Vancouver store to American customers.
Canada refused to go along with Marc Emery’s deal with U.S. prosecutors to plead guilty in return for the United States dropping charges against two co-accused and allowing him to serve most of the sentence in a Canadian prison, the marijuana activist said on Friday.
The B.C. Marijuana Party founder said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is pursuing a get-tough policy on drug use and is upset by his long-running campaign for marijuana legalization.
“They want to make an example out of me,” Emery told CKNW radio in Vancouver. “They just don’t like me.”
Emery was arrested in 2005 at the request of U.S. officials for allegedly selling millions of dollars in seeds to U.S. buyers, mostly by mail-order, from the seed business he operated openly in Canada for years.
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency statement in 2005 hailed Emery’s arrest as blow to the “marijuana legalization movement” and cited his financial support of pro-pot groups in Canada and the United States.
Emery is also charged with money laundering, but he says he can prove he declared all his earnings to Canadian tax officials and gave most of the profits to charities and political candidates.
He is scheduled to appear in a Vancouver court next month, with an extradition hearing likely to start late in the year.
Source: Reuters Canada 28th March 2008

Filed under: Canada :

Re: Take ideology out of decisions, by Keith Baldrey, In My Opinion, Burnaby NOW, May 7.
Mr. Baldrey makes a number of misleading statements about me and about opponents of Insite in general. I am the author of the “flawed and questionable report” criticizing the Insite evaluations that Mr. Baldrey referred to. Mr. Baldrey and other supporters of Insite and of harm reduction as the new way to deal with drugs seem to lack any real argument for Insite and its parent ideology – yes, ideology – so they attack the critics themselves. So please let me respond.
First, my report was not flawed or questionable. I am more than amply qualified to comment on printed research reports. In fact, any grad student would see the flawed assumptions and conclusions made in the Insite evaluations, regardless of what journal they were published in. I have worked in the addictions field in B.C. and in Canada for almost 30 years, and, until I disagreed with harm reduction, I was well respected by the people who now attack me merely for expressing professional concerns about the direction drug policy was taking – downward.
Second, I did not write the report for a “prohibition group,” as Mr. Baldrey asserts. I wrote it for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a key stakeholder in Insite and in drug problems in Canada. They merely wanted a review by someone not ideologically wed to Insite. I stand behind the report and everything I said as true and valid based on reading the published Insite research.
I did not write the paper as director of research for the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, or for them. Incidentally, the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, in which my article was published, is a scientific peer-reviewed journal. Public accusations otherwise should be made with caution.
Third, my paper was but one of three academic reports critical of Insite. Garth Davies, a colleague of Neil Boyd’s at Simon Fraser University, wrote one that was equally critical. A federal panel of experts recently released another, saying essentially the same things.
For example, drug overdose deaths have actually increased in Vancouver and in the Downtown Eastside since Insite was initiated. Insite may or may not be preventing up to one overdose death a year. This is fact.
But Mr. Baldrey refers to reports claiming overdoses have gone down. Somebody is indeed putting out misleading information, but it is not me or others concerned about Insite. It is Insite and its supporters. The fact is that Insite is not doing what it set out to do – reduce infections, prevent overdose deaths and reduce public disorder.
Nor is it demonstrating a unique ability to get people into treatment where they belong. It is drawing funds that could be used for more effective things and taking our attention from the real problems – drug use and addiction.
Mr. Baldrey refers to specific people as experts in harm reduction, etc. What he does not say is that these individuals, and many others involved with Insite, are avid proponents of legalizing drugs. I do not fault them or anyone else for holding this ideology, except when people use their positions or authority to unilaterally push it on the public or to lend credence to it by their names, when no such credence exists.
The fact that so many supporters of Insite and of harm reduction are so rabidly pushing it and skewing the facts even when flaws are identified, and that they disparage their opponents, tells me they are so caught up in ideology themselves that they can no longer be objective.
And as for “moralizing,” no one is moralizing here. The Insite test study did not meet its stated objectives. That is not moralizing.
But Mr. Baldrey seems to be saying that any “moralizing” is bad. The fact is “moralizing” is to some extent inevitable in any human discourse. We all have some moral reference point that underlies our ideas and choices at the deepest levels. Trying to entirely exorcize human debate of values – the outgrowth of our morality – is itself impossible.
Mr. Baldrey, you are very loose and misleading in your accusations. I could go on in pointing them out. But suffice it to say, throwing mud and attacking people is neither professional nor a sign of a noble cause.
It comes from an arrogant belief that anyone who disagrees with harm reduction or Insite is somehow stupid, misinformed or an ideologue. I am frankly embarrassed at how deeply this blind arrogance has gotten into otherwise intelligent people and at the utter lack of professionalism their attacks display.
Colin Mangham, PhD, is a Langley resident.
Source: – Burnaby Now May 10th 2008

Filed under: Canada,Social Affairs :

I have read with interest the article in “The Province” Newspaper from British Columbia dated February 16th, 2009 entitled “Huge Price Tag Leads to Call for Audit, and then the articles in the Ottawa Citizen recommended an injection site in Ottawa of Intravenous Drug users.
The newspaper investigated the cost of funding the “Downtown Eastside” in Vancouver dealing with providing housing and support for the residents. This is the first time such an investigation takes place and the result are staggering given the cost was approximately $360 million dollars per year. The article mentions that is cost approximately $ 1 million dollars a day with most of that for the roughly 5,000 disabled people in the community.
It further states that this spending continues to go unabated, with no one in control of the purse strings as conditions continue to deteriorate at street level.
Given these staggering statistics, I believe it would be a good time for the city of Ottawa to do a cost study of their homeless and addicted population to ascertain the cost before going forth with any other programs especially the recommendation for an injection site for intravenous drug users. It would be best practice to evaluate the pilot project in Vancouver when one reads Dr. Raymond R. Corrado’s and Dr. Irwin Cohen “Analysis of the Research Literature on INSITE: Vancouver’s Injection Site Summary”, and the Health Canada report on Vancouver’s Insite.
The stated Insite objectives were:
– Increasing access to health and addiction care;
– Reducting overdose fatalities;
– Reducing the transmission of blood borne viral infections like HIV and hepatitis C;
– Reducing other injection related infections such as skin abscesses; and
– Improving public order.
My question is, have they met their stated objective and if not should we not reconsider it’s effectiveness.
Dr. Carrado states:
“The pilot of a supervised injection site in Vancouver Downtown Eastside was established as a response to high rates of blood born disease (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS) and a large number of overdoses among intravenous drug users population”
Here are some of their findings:
Blood-borne diseases::
“Dr. Corrado states that there was a “GOOD LIKELIHOOD” that there was a reduction in the spread of blood-borne diseases since several of Insite clients stopped sharing syringes. However, he also underlines that due to the lack of direct measures of blood-borne diseases, it’s not possible to estimate the extent of the reduction.”
In the final report of Health Canada, the Expert Advisory Committees on Vancouver’s INSITE and other Supervised Injections Sites: What has been learned from research from Health Canada states:
Page 11
“There is no direct evidence that SIS’s reduce the spread of HIV infection, and the mathematical models used are based on assumption that may not be valid.
Baseline rates of needle sharing have not been reported for SIS users.
Self-reports of changes in needle sharing beyond the walls of SISs have been validated.
More objective evidence of sustained changes in risk behaviors and a comparison or control group study would be needed to confidently state that SISs have a significant impact on these behaviors.”
Dr. Carraro then states:
” Insite did achieve its objective of reducing the number of fatal drug overdoses. In fact, drug overdoses were minimized and deaths were avoided.”
The Health Canada report states:
Page 11
“There is no direct evidence that SIS influence overdose death rates and large scale and long term, case-controlled studies would be needed to show that SISs influence overdose death rates among those who use INSITE. Mathematical modeling is based on assumptions that may not be valid.”
The overdose rates increased in Vancouver since the Injection site opened it’s doors.
Dr. Irwin Cohen states in his report:
“Several limitations exist within the research and evaluation on supervised injection sites. There are methodological problems regarding outcome measures, as well as an overall lack of research rendering it difficult to compare supervised injection sites to other types of interventions ( i.e.: needle exchange programs and methadone treatment programs). Furthermore, the limitations also result in restricting comparisons of research findings form one study to another.
Health Canada study states the following with regards to limitations of research in the Cost-Effectiveness and Cost Benefit section on page 13 of report.
” While some longitudinal studies have been conducted, the results have yet to be published and may never be published given the overlapping design of the cohorts. Until these studies have been undertaken it will not be possible to show with any certainty that INSITE is cost-effective or to show that the economic benefits exceed the costs.
Mathematical models used to estimate benefit-cost ratios use estimates of the frequency of needle
sharing involving HIV positive and HIV negative injection drug users and estimates of HIV transmission rates have not been locally validated.
Mathematical models used to estimate benefit-cost ratios with respect to lives saves have incorporated an assumption about the economic value of the lives of injection drug users that has not been validated.”
In summary, on page 3 of the Health Canada report, Insite accounts for less than 5% of injections at the site. Many people have been referred to health and addiction care but have not been followed up to see how many have actually gone or how many have successfully recovered from their addiction? The report on page 11 states that Insite saves about one life a year as a result of intervening in overdose events, but overdose rates have increased in Vancouver. I’ve addressed the HIV/HepC results. In the area of Public order what they fail to mention is that the police presence was increased which could explain why there was no increase in crime and loitering. I do not feel that Insite has accomplished it’s stated objectives.
Given the above direct quotes from the Insite report and others, Ottawa should investigate if the site has met these objectives and if not then question the validity of the pilot project and should question whether it should follow suite based on these findings. The fact that it is costing $360 million dollars per year to manage the poorest postal code region in Canada without any improvement in the lifestyle of its residents should be audited and whatever change is required should be implemented without delay. The price tag speaks for itself.
Will Ottawa be next with these statistics given we are modeling Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside philosophy based on Harm Reduction as best practices.
Andre Bigras,
Drug Prevention Network of Canada.

Filed under: Canada,Social Affairs :

August 19, 2009

VANCOUVER’S Skid Road is a slummy end-of-the-line refuge for drug-addicted criminals.
Once a vibrant district, Skid Road is now overrun by junkie marauders who plunder law abiding citizens and merchants in a predictable pattern of violence and property crime.
Just deserts for these incorrigibles ought to be detoxification followed by a significant stretch in jail as pure punishment for their parasitical behaviour.
My suggestion that we get tough with Skid Road misfits will likely draw a cacophony of cluck-clucking from big-brother medical health officers and senior bureaucrats engaged in an Orwellian scheme to medicalize drug addiction.
Medicalization is simply an expedient way to transform the deviant moral and criminal behaviour of drug addicts into a non-deviant medical issue.
You may recall that since 2000, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have engaged in pernicious campaign to neutralize criminalization of possession of illicit drugs. They unabashedly mislead the general public with the falsehood that drug addiction is: a particular kind of disease displaying special symptoms; that it is beyond personal agency and self-imposed abstinence; and, that it requires professional medical assistance under the aegis of an addictions bureaucracy.
They have adopted a stigma-neutral lexicon including words and definitions such as “problematic substance abuse” rather than “drug abuse”, and “illegal” for “illicit” to eliminate moral/ethical considerations.
It is indisputable that opiates are poisons; and it is equally a fact that there will always be rogue citizens who, regardless of the risk, want to narcotize themselves out of the uncertainties and rigours of daily life, even if it inevitably leads to life of crime and ill health.
In Romancing Opiates – Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy, Dr. Anthony Daniels says that “medical consequences (of addiction), however terrible, do not make a disease.”
Before publishing Romancing Opiates in 2006, Daniels had worked 14 years as a doctor in a large general hospital in a British slum, and in an even larger prison nearby. During this period opiate addiction increased dramatically and Daniels began treating as many as 20 new cases a day. He witnessed a worsening of the problem even though drug clinics increased as did medication prescribed to addicts.
Based on his experience with addicts and his extensive reading, Daniels rejects the notion that opiate addiction is relatively instantaneous. He says that it requires determination to reach habitual use three or four times a day, and that “it is truer to say that the addict hooks heroin than that heroin hooks the addict. The active principle in the exchange is the person, not the drug, and the addiction is a freely chosen state: an obvious fact that is ignored by the addiction bureaucracy.”
In forming his opinion Daniels also relied on the experience of American soldiers during and after the Vietnam War: “Thousands of American soldiers, especially towards the end (of the war), addicted themselves to heroin. … What happened to them when they went home? Only one in eight of the addicts continued with his addiction after return to the United States, and by two and three years after their return, the addiction rates among those who had served were no higher than among those who qualified for the draft but did not serve in Vietnam.
“And what help or services did these thousands of addicts receive when the returned home? For all intents and purposes, it varied between very little and none. They simply stopped taking heroin and did not resume.”
When Skid Road’s drug addicts go about robbing and stealing to fund their purchases of illicit drugs, they are cunning, wily and mindful of what they are doing. They are not automatons.
The festering sore of Skid Road is a national disgrace. It is worse today than in 2000.
Parliament has the constitutional right to enact a Public Safety Act that would authorize police to arrest any person found in a public place in a state of incapacitation by illicit drugs, and to forthwith render that person to a justice of the peace for committal into a secure detoxification facility.
It’s high time to take back our streets and public places. So just do it, all you members of Parliament. – North Shore News – Aug 19/09

Filed under: Canada :


Background Studies in Europe have suggested that injectable diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin, can be an effective adjunctive treatment for chronic, relapsing opioid dependence.
Methods In an open-label, phase 3, randomized, controlled trial in Canada, we compared injectable diacetylmorphine with oral methadone maintenance therapy in patients with opioid dependence that was refractory to treatment. Long-term users of injectable heroin who had not benefited from at least two previous attempts at treatment for addiction (including at least one methadone treatment) were randomly assigned to receive methadone (111 patients) or diacetylmorphine (115 patients). The primary outcomes, assessed at 12 months, were retention in addiction treatment or drug-free status and a reduction in illicit-drug use or other illegal activity according to the European Addiction Severity Index.
Results The primary outcomes were determined in 95.2% of the participants. On the basis of an intention-to-treat analysis, the rate of retention in addiction treatment in the diacetylmorphine group was 87.8%, as compared with 54.1% in the methadone group (rate ratio for retention, 1.62; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.35 to 1.95; P<0.001). The reduction in rates of illicit-drug use or other illegal activity was 67.0% in the diacetylmorphine group and 47.7% in the methadone group (rate ratio, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.77; P=0.004). The most common serious adverse events associated with diacetylmorphine injections were overdoses (in 10 patients) and seizures (in 6 patients). Conclusions Injectable diacetylmorphine was more effective than oral methadone. Because of a risk of overdoses and seizures, diacetylmorphine maintenance therapy should be delivered in settings where prompt medical intervention is available. ( number, NCT00175357 ) Source: New England Journalof Medicine Volume 361:777-786. 20.08.2009

Filed under: Canada :

White ‘repackaged’ drug facility idea as crime prevention tool
The newcomer to Ottawa credited with being the catalyst for a new residential drug-treatment centre for youth managed the feat by “repackaging” the proposal from a health issue into a crime prevention issue.
Yesterday, as a who’s who of politicians and community leaders gathered for a multi-million-dollar funding announcement by Premier Dalton McGuinty, police Chief Vern White was praised for being instrumental in putting together the deal that has eluded Ottawa for two decades.
Chief White has been in Ottawa only 15 months, but has done what no one else had managed to do in
“Everyone complains about lack of health care. So I called it a ‘crime prevention tool’,” said Chief White after the press conference yestserday. “The old packaging wasn’t working, so I repackaged it.”
According to Chief White’s calculations, taking 20 youths with drug addictions off the street would result in 80 to 160 fewer minor crimes each day. Each addicted youth commits four to eight crimes a day, ranging from prostitution to vehicle smash-and-grabs to support a drug habit, he estimates.
Chief White took his repackaged argument on the road in the Ottawa area, speaking to more than 50 community groups and service clubs. He didn’t talk about youth, he talked about parents.
“They’re our kids,” he said.
As it stands, drug-addicted youths must go to Thunder Bay and even farther for residential drug-treatment programs. According to figures from the United Way of Ottawa, one in six Ontario high school students reports symptoms of drug use, which translates into 9,000 Ottawa high school students. Young people typically begin to experiment with alcohol at age 12 and with illicit drugs at 14.
Long-term residential treatment for addicts results in a 71-per-cent decrease in substance use and a 61-per-cent decrease in criminal behaviour, according to the United Way.
A campaign to get a residential treatment centre had been on the agenda for years, but plan after plan fell apart.
In June 2006, a proposal to buy the former Rideau Correctional Centre near Burritts Rapids and convert it into a treatment centre was shelved amid concerns about a native land claim encompassing the property.
A likely location for a new anglophone residential centre is the Meadow Creek treatment facility on Carp Road, currently used for programs helping adult addicts. The program is scheduled to be moved into Ottawa in about a month. East-end locations are still being scouted for a francophone program.
Chief White credited restaurateur and fundraiser Dave Smith with being the “DNA” behind the project.
“I have been hollering and screaming for 20 years,” said Mr. Smith yesterday. “Sending kids to the American side wasn’t the answer.” Mr. Smith’s campaign to get a residential centre for youth resulted in the creation of an outpatient drug treatment program. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was “better than nothing at all,” he said. Mr. Smith said he’s just glad Ottawa will finally be getting a residential centre.
Source: The Ottawa Citizen Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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New law puts alcohol and drugs on an equal footing in roadside checks for impaired driving, and promises to reduce driving “high”

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), Canada’s national addictions agency, welcomes new legislation set to go into effect on July 2 that, for the first time in Canada, establishes parity between drug- and alcohol-impaired driving under the law. Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, comes into force after a decade of rising rates of drug-impaired driving in Canada. Canadian studies indicate that drugs, often in combination with alcohol, are detected in up to 30% of fatally injured drivers. CCSA’s 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey found 5% of Canadian drivers admitted to driving within two hours of using cannabis—a 50% increase since 1989. Among 16–18 year olds, 21% reported driving after using cannabis, slightly higher than the 20% of their peers who reported driving after alcohol use. ―Such findings suggest that the drugs-and-driving problem is by no means insignificant and appears to be increasing,‖ said CCSA Manager of Research and Policy Doug Beirness. Mandatory roadside checks for alcohol impairment are recognized as having a deterrent effect on drinking and driving because of the perceived risk of being caught and charged. However, before Bill C-2, a police officer who suspected a driver of being impaired by drugs could only request that the driver undergo voluntary testing and there was no sanction if the driver refused. This left officers with little chance of pursuing a conviction on the basis of drug-impaired driving. ―As a result, many drug-impaired drivers have been risking their own safety and the safety of others because they believed they would not be caught,‖ said Beirness. Beginning July 2, refusing a roadside drug test will be equivalent to declining a breath test for alcohol and will be subject to the same sanctions. Refusing to take a breath test is a Criminal Code offence. ―The legislation clarifies that you must comply with demands from police to assess whether you are impaired, and if you refuse, you are subject to the same penalties,‖ said RCMP Cpl. Evan Graham, National Coordinator, Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, Traffic Services. The new legislation empowers Canadian police who suspect a driver of being impaired by any drug, illegal, prescription or over the counter, to conduct a Standardized Field Sobriety Test, a roadside test of physical coordination. If found to be impaired, the driver must submit to a mandatory Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) assessment, a 12-step process that requires the driver to provide a bodily fluid sample (blood, saliva or urine). The DEC is conducted by a Drug a DEC-trained community police officer, and takes 45–60 minutes to complete.

In this way, Bill C-2 has the potential to reduce the harms associated with drugs by enabling police officers to remove dangerous drivers from Canadian roads, whether they are impaired by drugs or alcohol” said Beirness.
The DEC programme has been operating in Canada for 13 years, but only in cases where drivers agree to participate. Research on the DEC programme, including studies conducted by CCSA staff, has established the accuracy and reliability of this method in determining impairment from a variety of drugs and drug combinations.

Impaired drivers will face new penalties under the law, including a fine of not less than $1,000 for the first offence, and imprisonment for the second offence of not less than 30 days, and not less than 120 days for each subsequent offence.

Impaired drivers who cause an accident can face a maximum 10 year sentence in the case of causing bodily harm, and a life sentence in the case of causing death.

Anyone convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both will be prohibited from driving a vehicle for one to three years for the first offence and two to five years for the second offence.

We hope that by creating awareness of the new legislation, its tests and penalties, we can prevent Canadians from getting behind the wheel while they are impaired by drugs, alcohol or both, said Beirness.

Source: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse June 25th 2008

―In this way, Bill C-2 has the potential to reduce the harms associated with drugs by enabling police officers to remove dangerous drivers from Canadian roads, whether they are impaired by drugs or alcohol,‖ said Beirness.
The DEC program has been operating in Canada for 13 years, but only in cases where drivers agree to participate. Research on the DEC program, including studies conducted by CCSA staff, has established the accuracy and reliability of this method in determining impairment from a variety of drugs and drug combinations.
Impaired drivers will face new penalties under the law, including a fine of not less than $1,000 for the first offence, and imprisonment for the second offence of not less than 30 days and not less than 120 days for each subsequent offence.
Impaired drivers who cause an accident can face a maximum 10-year sentence in the case of causing bodily harm, and a life sentence in the case of causing death.
Anyone convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both will be prohibited from driving a vehicle for one to three years for the first offence and two to five years for the second offence.
―We hope that by creating awareness of the new legislation, its tests and penalties, we can prevent Canadians from getting behind the wheel while they’re impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both, said Beirness.


―In this way, Bill C-2 has the potential to reduce the harms associated with drugs by enabling police officers to remove dangerous drivers from Canadian roads, whether they are impaired by drugs or alcohol,‖ said Beirness.
The DEC program has been operating in Canada for 13 years, but only in cases where drivers agree to participate. Research on the DEC program, including studies conducted by CCSA staff, has established the accuracy and reliability of this method in determining impairment from a variety of drugs and drug combinations.
Impaired drivers will face new penalties under the law, including a fine of not less than $1,000 for the first offence, and imprisonment for the second offence of not less than 30 days and not less than 120 days for each subsequent offence.
Impaired drivers who cause an accident can face a maximum 10-year sentence in the case of causing bodily harm, and a life sentence in the case of causing death.
Anyone convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both will be prohibited from driving a vehicle for one to three years for the first offence and two to five years for the second offence.
―We hope that by creating awareness of the new legislation, its tests and penalties, we can prevent Canadians from getting behind the wheel while they’re impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both, said Beirness.

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Controversial new law takes effect in a week

OTTAWA – Drivers who get behind the wheel while high on drugs will face roadside testing and they could be ordered to surrender urine, blood or saliva samples at the police station under a controversial new law that takes effect one week from today.

Drivers who refuse to comply will be subject to a minimum $1,000 fine — the same penalty for refusing the breathalyzer.

Police will be given their new powers to nab drug-impaired drivers after almost five years of intense debate in the federal Parliament.

The law, passed this year after three failed attempts, has been lauded by law enforcement and groups who say drug-induced drivers are escaping unpunished at a time when their numbers are climbing.

“Love it,” said Gregg Thomson, a father from Kanata, Ont., who predicted yesterday that the new testing will deter people from driving under the influence of drugs, just as the breathalyzer test produced a drop in drunk driving.

Mr. Thomson has been lobbying for a new law since 1999, when his son, Stan, and four of his high-school friends were killed when a 17-year-old who had been smoking marijuana attempted a highway pass that led to a pileup.

The crash became a catalyst for the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving to start pushing for changes to the Criminal Code, which outlaws drug-impaired driving but until now has not included measures that allow police to order a battery of tests.

The new law, however, has sparked warnings about potential court battles from critics who contend that demanding bodily fluids is overly intrusive and scientifically unreliable in detecting drug impairment.

“This is going to be challenged left and right,” predicted Murray Mollard, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

Beginning July 2, drivers suspected of being high will be required to perform physical tests at the side of the road, such as walking a straight line. If they fail, they will be sent to the police station for further testing by a trained “drug recognition expert” and then be forced to give blood, urine, or saliva samples if they flunk the second test as well.

Critics say the new law could cause more problems that it solves, particularly because there is no reliable scientific test to detect drug use. Also, while there is a measurable link between blood alcohol levels and driving ability, research is lacking to equate drug quantity and impairment.

Another potential problem in testing bodily fluids is that they can detect marijuana smoked several days or months earlier and the effect has worn off.

“This kind of testing doesn’t test for impairment, it tests for past use of a substance and we know with certain substances they stay for a long time,” said Mollard.

Federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and the Canadian Bar Association have also raised alarm bells.

Testing is already happening in Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia — but only when the driver voluntarily participates. But that hardly ever happens because nobody “is going to consent to pee in a bottle” when they are not legally required, said Andy Murie, chief executive officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Source June 2008

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), together with the RCMP, recently announced the launch of a new prevention program called Kids and Drugs — A Parent’s Guide to Prevention. The program is intended to assist parents and other concerned adults in helping school age children avoid alcohol and drug abuse. Kathie Gavin, prevention co-ordinator for AADAC, says the new program goes beyond the basic drug education provided to parents in the past, addressing important protective factors for youth including effective parenting practices.

“In the past, when parents asked about drug information sessions we would give them the good, bad and ugly … The new program broadens the scope of parents’ understanding. It’s about giving your kids confidence, having open communication and giving them support,” says Gavin.

Content of the program is built on known factors that prevent substance abuse, says Gavin, like improved communication, support, decision-making and discipline.
The programs four core areas examine the importance of parental role modeling, enhancing communication skills, decision making, and the final area, “What parents need to know about drugs.” This final workshop provides information on commonly used drugs and their risks, as well as reasons why kids use drugs and the signs and symptoms of a developing problem.

Gavin says different substances are used according to different trends, but a constant remains in that tobacco, alcohol and marijuana are the most likely drugs of choice.
“Other illicit drugs are small in number with regard to use by young people. The really common ones are right in front of us, ingrained in our culture. We need to talk about prevention with consideration of all the substances we use in our culture, and develop some respectful attitudes about that.”

Gavin says prevention is a long-term investment, and it’s an important one that involves consideration of cultural values, attitudes and norms. The focus of the new program is on prevention, not on intervention or treatment, says Gavin, so the program’s workshops are designed for families where there is no significant problem already.

Gavin says input into the new program was gathered from addictions, enforcement and educational specialists then piloted at six sites across Canada. Through formative evaluation, Gavin explains that certain aspects of the program were then revised. For example, because one of the objectives was to give communities flexibility in when and how they offer the program, suggestions like offering it at work sites or through school councils was incorporated into the program’s design.
The Kids and Drugs prevention program was developed over a three year period by AADAC and the RCMP, says Gavin, and replaces an earlier RCMP program called Two Way Street.
For more information about the program, including a free download of the parent’s booklet, go to The AADAC website also contains a parent information series, addressing prevention, intervention and treatment of substance abuse in youth ( AADAC can also be reached toll free;
Source: Prairie Post West. Canada. Jan. 22nd 2009

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Six to 10 thousand youth in Ottawa will have a better chance of saying ‘no’ to drugs thanks to a federal government donation. On Feb. 10, Pierre Poilievre, MP for Nepean-Carleton on behalf of the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, minister of health, announced the federal government will contribute $1 million over a four year period to help eradicate youth addiction and drug usage.
Poilievre announced the government’s support for S.T.E.P. (support, treatment, education and prevention) – a project that provides targeted help for youth in Ottawa who are at risk of engaging in substance abuse. S.T.E.P. is Ottawa’s response to addressing the need for residential addiction treatment, education and prevention for young people aged 13 to 17. It is a fundraising campaign involving community partners such as Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jim Watson, Ottawa Police chief Vern White, Mayor Larry O’Brien and Michael Allen, president and CEO of United Way Ottawa.
“This project will help to prevent young people in high schools from taking drugs in the first place,” said Poilievre “Activities will be held in those schools for students who are at risk of drinking or taking drugs. This strategy helps to prevent the use of drugs, treats people with drug addictions, and combats drug trafficking. The strategy also emphasizes education for young people and their parents on the damages that drug use can cause.” The initiative was announced at the Ottawa Police headquarters and is part of the government’s national anti-drug strategy, which was introduced in 2007.
“That’s why our Conservative government is providing the project S.T.E.P. with up to $1 million in support—over the next four years—from its drug treatment funding program,” Poilievre added. According to Allen, this initiative “will no less than double the capacity for counsellors and prevention education” and will -double the infrastructure that is already in place in Ottawa schools. “It’s a good day for the future of our community,” said White.
“A number of schools don’t have the resources they need and a number of schools certainly don’t have the capacity to deal with the challenges they are facing right now.” White said six to 6,000 to 10,000 youths in Ottawa will benefit from this programming. Poilievre concluded by saying this initiative is close to his heart since he has seen some of his loved ones battle drug addiction.
“It’s very important that lives are spared from this terrible destructive path and I’m hoping that this million dollar donation will help us to achieve that goal.”
Source: Feb.21 2009

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Executive Summary

Following two decades of progress dealing with alcohol impaired driving, greater attention is now being directed toward the issue of driving while impaired by drugs. Currently, there is far less information related to drug impaired driving than alcohol-impaired driving. This report describes a study on the extent of drug use by drivers. A random survey of drivers was conducted at pre-selected locations in British Columbia from Wednesday to Saturday nights in June 2008. The purpose was to collect information on the prevalence of alcohol and drug use among night time drivers. Those surveyed were asked to provide a voluntary breath sample to measure their alcohol use and an oral fluid sample to be tested subsequently for the presence of drugs. Of the 1,533 vehicles selected, 89% of drivers provided a breath sample and 78% provided a sample of oral fluid.
Key findings include:
• 10.4% of drivers tested positive for drug use
• 8.1% of drivers had been drinking
• 15.5% of drivers tested positive for alcohol, drugs or both
• Cannabis and cocaine were the drugs most frequently detected in drivers
• Alcohol use among drivers was most common on weekends and during late-night hours; drug use was more evenly distributed across all survey nights and times
• Alcohol use was most common among drivers aged 1to 24 and 25 to 34; drug use was more evenly distributed across all age groups
• No drivers aged 16 to 18 were found to have been drinking
• While driving after drinking has decreased substantially since previous surveys, the number of drivers with elevated alcohol levels (over 80 mg%) was higher than in the past

Source: Beirness, D.J., & Beasley, E.E. (2009). Alcohol and Drug Use Among Drivers: British Columbia Roadside Survey 2008. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. 2009

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Canadian health officials are hoping that heroin addicts, freed from their daily pursuit of the next fix by a prescription-heroin plan, will find time to make positive changes in their lives.

The researcher will begin gathering applications for the program from addicts during the next few weeks. The experiment already is the talk of the streets in communities like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“They should have done this a long time ago,” said Debbie Woelke, a heroin user living in a single-room occupancy hotel in the city’s poorest neighbourhood. “Sometimes you need something just to relax and get your mind together, instead of always being in a state of panic. That’s what’s killing everyone down here. They have to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

The prescription heroin trial will take place in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Researchers are looking to recruit 428 hard-core addicts, half of whom will receive daily doses of heroin for a year, and half of whom will get methadone.

“What if you could say to an addict, ‘For the next little while, you’re not going to have to get your drugs from Al Capone. You can get your drugs from Marcus Welby,’ ” said Dr. Martin Schechter, lead researcher on the project. “You don’t have to worry about this afternoon and this evening. And therefore, you don’t have to go and break in to cars or be a prostitute. You could actually come and talk to a counsellor … get some skills training.”

The experiment is unique in North America, although similar trials have been tried with some success in Europe. However, critics range from those concerned about lack of abstinence as a goal to those who say it is unfair to give addicts free heroin for a year and then cut them off. Overdoses also are a major ethical worry.

A spokesperson for U.S. drug czar John Walters called the trial an “inhumane medical experiment.

“What you’re doing is making it easier to be a heroin addict,” said policy analyst David Murray. “These people won’t get that much better in the long run. They will still be heroin addicts.”

But Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, a former coroner and narcotics officer, said current treatments don’t work for hard-core addicts. “The critical thing is to accept this as a medical condition,” he said. “The side effects of this medical condition is that it forces you to … do things that you would never do, be it work as a sex-trade worker, be a B and E [break-and-enter] artist or a purse snatcher. So if I can mitigate that by putting you on heroin, imagine the changes you could have.”

Source: Toronto Globe and Mail reported Jan. 31

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Of all the crackpot schemes to intoxicate City Hall’s leftist contingent, the Toronto Drug Strategy that comes before council this week rates top billing.

I suspect the fix is already in to approve the strategy’s 66 recommendations — which cost $300,000 to create — given Mayor David Miller’s recent habit of discounting opposition to his pet agendas.

(Susan Shepherd, the drug strategy’s project manager, is married to Bruce Scott, one of the mayor’s key aides. Asked whether this might present a potential conflict of interest, Scott said no.)

The drug strategy itself — led by Coun. Kyle Rae and produced by the board of health — was developed supposedly to better co-ordinate drug prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts between agencies, hospitals, addiction treatment facilities, school boards, the police and so on.

“There’s been no comprehensive strategy since crack arrived in Toronto in 1988,” Rae said last week.

To be fair, there are some good proposals in the strategy concerning education, treatment, enforcement and prevention. But they’re few and far between. The rest is heavily skewed towards trendy “harm reduction” schemes, more studies, committees, the need for more city staff and in my view, more reasons to keep the fuzzy-wuzzy enablers in the drug counselling industry thriving.

The strategy advocates distributing more city-funded “safer crack kits” and calls on officials to consider establishing a “safe injection site” modelled on the one opened in Vancouver a year ago. The public health protectors argue that “harm reduction” services — which encourage illegal drug users to continue to inject their poisons in a safe environment using clean equipment — lead to fewer overdoses and less open use of drugs on the streets.

I can’t fathom how the same health board that has banned smoking virtually everywhere in this city can brazenly promote and enable the use of illegal drugs. Do these do-gooders ever think about the harm their strategies could inflict on unsuspecting neighbourhoods?

I recently wrote about how a cache of used needles and “safer crack kit” paraphernalia was found in the Sumach-Shuter park, right across from a community centre and a school. That’s become a regular occurrence, I’m told.

Earlier this month, former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell, a supporter of safe-injection sites, told Toronto’s executive committee it’s important not to get “hung up” on such facilities — they help police get drug users off the streets.

But a retired nurse from Toronto told me last week she’d just returned from Vancouver and was quite horrified by what she saw in the drug-plagued Downtown Eastside area, where the injection site is located. Asked where the 600-900 people who use the site daily get their drugs (mostly heroin and crack), she said: “The dealers hang around with impunity on the corner of Hastings and Main and the police don’t touch them.”


She described the neighbourhood alleys as a “true Dante’s inferno” with addicts desperately grasping on the ground for a few bits of lost powder. At the referral site for addicts wanting to use the safe-injection facility, she said staff told her they were trying to create an “oasis of calm. But it all made her think of a blindfolded donkey chained to a water wheel and walking in circles.

“It’s no form of treatment whatsoever …I kept thinking it was like making an inexorable death more bearable,” she said.

I wish councillors could see what this woman saw and not simply swallow the health board’s party line.

But on this issue, your city councillors seem drugged into submission.

Source:The Toronto Sun December 4, 2005 Sunday

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Marijuana is now the most valuable agricultural product in Canada, finishing ahead of wheat, cattle and timber, the Guardian reported Nov. 4.

According to Forbes magazine, marijuana cultivation is generating $7 billion in sales annually in British Columbia alone. Even higher revenues are expected over the coming years.

“Canadian dope, boosted by custom nutrients, high-intensity metal-halide lights, and 20 years of breeding, is five times as potent as what Americans smoked in the 1970s,” according to Forbes.

Forbes said the Canadian marijuana business has become strong because the growers are “not a small coterie of drug lords who could be decimated with a few well-targeted prosecutions, but an army of ordinary folks.”

Furthermore, relaxed marijuana laws in the country have resulted in increased confidence in the industry.

Source: Forbes magazine. June 2003
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The Montreal Gazette (1/20, Cornacchia) reports, “Are Quebec teens going to pot? New research suggests they are more likely than teenagers anywhere else in Canada to smoke marijuana and then brush off concerns relating to its use. The Health Canada study made public last month also reported nearly half of Quebec teens – 45% of 12- to 19-year-olds – have used marijuana on more than one occasion. And their first exposure is often by age 13.” Barbara Victor, a Montreal social worker who, like others, found the results alarming, and said, “For me the numbers certainly made connections between early drug use, abuse, gambling and other problems.” The Gazette adds. Victor is the director of school services for Jewish Family Services, which organizes drug prevention programs in more than 100 Quebec schools. She said the statistics tell her Quebec families, schools and other community organizations must do a better job of giving young people skills – other than smoking pot – to cope with life’s stresses. The national study found only 34% of Canadian teens, age 12 to 19, have smoked marijuana more than once and were more likely to have concerns about it than Quebec teens. In Quebec, Victor said, smoking pot is no longer counterculture but almost the norm. Many of today’s parents have smoked marijuana in the past and many continue the habit.” As a result, Victor said, “teenagers say and, understandably so, ‘You do it Dad. Why can’t I?’ But when a teenager smokes pot, he or she brings his 13-year-old judgment to the situation and it becomes all the more dangerous.” The Gazette notes, “The 74-page report on Canadian youth and marijuana was put together for Health Canada by Ottawa-based GPC Research. The report is now making its way into the hands of professionals working in the field of drug prevention. The study was commissioned as part of the federal government’s plan to develop a comprehensive health promotion and drug prevention strategy to discourage Canadians, teens specifically, from smoking marijuana. There are about 3 million teens in Canada.”
Source:The Montreal Gazette (Cornacchia) Jan 2004.

The greatest cause of disease and death in every developed country and most developing countries is tobacco addiction. The World Health Organization estimates that tobacco addiction kills 5 million people worldwide each year, including more than 400,000 Americans. In effort to combat this worldwide plague, the World Health Organization (made up of 192 member countries) voted unanimously last week to adopt the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The Convention urges countries to eliminate tobacco advertising, establish bigger/stronger warning labels, raise cigarette prices, and adopt smoke free workplace laws.

France announced that it is raising cigarette prices by 25% and will continue to do so until prices reach 7 euros ($8.40) per pack. Currently, cigarettes cost about 4 euros ($4.80) per pack. The last price hike resulted in a 10% decline in youth smoking. In addition new cigarette warning labels have gone into effect in Europe covering 1/3 of both the front and back of a pack of cigarettes. Canada and Brazil have strong picture based warning labels. Ireland and Norway have announced that restaurants and bars will be smoke free next year. Finland currently has smoke free casinos.

In the U.S., four entire states— CA, DE, NY, and CT– have gone totally smoke free (including restaurants, bars, and casinos). Hundreds of cities have also gone totally smoke free, including four of the most popular tourist destinations— New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco. Canada and Australia continue to lead the world in smoke free workplace legislation.

In Japan the densely populated Chiyoda Ward went smoke free outdoors last year in response to growing complaints from residents about sidewalks and roads littered with cigarette butts and clothes being burned by cigarettes. Mayor Masami Ishikawa himself a smoker backed the ordinance, saying he believes it is no longer possible to rely on smokers to voluntarily stop throwing cigarette trash on the street.

Although there is much to be done, it is obvious that the world is taking action to prevent another generation of tobacco addiction and disease. Five million deaths a year are simply too much to ignore.
Source: smoke Free Educational services,, June 2003

New food products and cosmetics made from cannabis hemp- the same plant as the marijuana plant-pose an acceptable risk to the health of consumers. Those most at risk are children exposed in the womb or through breast milk, or teen-ages whose reproductive systems are developing. THC and the other cannabiniods are fat soluble and accumulate in the body.

On the basis of currently available data it is concluded that the present Canadian limit of 10ppm THC in raw materials and products made from industrial hemp (cannabis sativa cultivars with less than 0.3% THC) would likely not protect the Canadian consumer using industrial hemp-based food, cosmetic, and neuroendocrine (hormone) disruption associated with low-level exposure to THC and other cannabiniods.
THC (and other cannabinoids) are fat soluble and build up in body cells.

Source:Risk Assessment of HEMP Based Food ,Nutraceutical, & cosmetic products Health Canada Nov 1999.
(The Europian Union (EU) made the following statement their HEMP PRODUCTS FOOD REGULATIONS: 1999:“The health effects of these (hemp) products have not been adequately researched so the uses to which (hemp) is put must NOT include human nutrition.”)

Distributing nearly 3 million needles a year to drug addicts, Vancouver, Canada boasts the largest needle exchange program in North America. The program was established in 1988– 16 years ago– to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV). A new study finds that co-infection with these two deadly viruses is “shocking” with 16% of study participants co-infected at the beginning of the study and 15% more becoming co-infected over the course of the study. The researchers note it took a median of 3 years for seroconversion to secondary infection.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jun 28 – Coinfection with Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV is prevalent in a “shocking” number of young injection drug users, according to Canadian researchers.

In the June 1st issue of the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes, Dr. Carl L. Miller of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and colleagues note that they sought to determine the incidence of such coinfections and to compare the socioeconomic characteristics of those infected.

The researchers used data from the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study to identify 479 subjects aged 29 years or less. At baseline, 78 (16%) were coinfected and a further 45 (15%) became so over the course of the study.

Baseline infection was independently associated with factors including being female, being of aboriginal ancestry, being older and with the number of years of injecting.

Borrowing needles and injecting cocaine more than once a day were both among the factors associated with the time to secondary infection seroconversion. Having recently attended a methadone maintenance program was protective.

Across the categories of coinfected, monoinfected and HIV and HCV negative injection drug users, say the investigators, there were “clear trends for increasing proportions” of women, aboriginals, daily cocaine users and inhabitants of Vancouver’s 10-block injection drug use epicenter.

The researchers, who note that it took a median of 3 years for seroconversion to secondary infection, conclude that “appropriate public health interventions should be implemented immediately.”

Source:Journal of  Acquired  Immune Deficiency Syndrome 2004;36:743-749.

A short article on two Canadian surveys (self-reporting by users) showing that many epilepsy and multiple sclerosis patients self-medicate with marijuana. The author states that social and legal obstacles have hampered clinical advances in the study of cannabis sativa for medical treatment of a variety of neurological symptoms.

“Cannabis use may be occurring in these settings but there is little scientific evidence of its effectiveness for neurological symptoms. No controlled data lend support to its use for epilepsy. Small studies in multiple sclerosis have shown variable results against spasticity and no effect for tremor. A large [660 subjects] randomized trial comparing oral THC, oral cannabis extract, and placebo showed no effect on spasticity (measured by the Ashworth scale), despite participants reporting fewer spasms and less pain.

“Some of the many variables facing clinical investigators include different drug formulations (cannabis extracts, synthetic cannabinoids), uncertain dose, and multiple methods of delivery (some patients insist cannabis is effective only when smoked). Difficulties in trial design include a strong placebo effect and maintenance of double-blind status. A recurrent theme in multiple sclerosis trials is no effect on an objective primary outcome despite subjective improvement. Valid, reliable, and responsible objective measures are needed.

The Canadian survey data, Wingerchuk states, “suggest that people with recreational drug experiences are more likely to use cannabis for neurological symptom relief, and are at greater risk of becoming active or dependent users than the general population.”

Although Wingerchuk indicates that “hazards of regular cannabis use, such as persistent mood disorders and cognitive dysfunction, should be considered,” no mention is made of the many social, economic and criminal hazards associated with marijuana use.

Source: “Cannabis for medical purposes: cultivating science, weeding out the fiction,”Author: Dean Wingerchuk 2004 of the Multiple Sclerosis Center, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic,
Scottsdale, AZ. Reported in the Lancet, July 24,

Trends in drug use in various countries are reported in a number of sources; some current examples are given in this item:

In Australia marijuana is the most popular illicit drug, followed by amphetamines. While cocaine is not readily available in Australia, heroin is, especially among the arrestee population. Nineteen percent of youth in detention centers and 40 percent of adult prisoners have used heroin at least once in their lifetime.

Marijuana is the drug of choice in Canada’s cities – 48 percent of youth aged 15-19 in British Columbia use marijuana, and 61 percent of treatment clients in Toronto reported marijuana as a major problem. In addition, powder cocaine and crack use were reported as serious problems in several cities.

Cocaine is the most common drug of abuse among treatment clients in Mexico, followed by marijuana and inhalants.

In South Africa, marijuana and methaqualone are the most frequently abused substances, often used in combination. There are also reports that crack cocaine, powder cocaine, and heroin uses are increasing.

As a result of a brief heroin shortage in 1996, many addicts in Thailand began injecting the drug, and there are reports of lower purity heroin being diluted with barbiturates and benzodiazepines. In addition, methamphetamine use continues to be popular, especially among students, and the number of methamphetamine laborites in Thailand has increased.

Source: Adapted by Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, College Park (CESAR) from data from NIDA,
Community Epidemiology Work Group, “Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse Advance Report,” December, 1997

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