Many points of view have been put forward in speeches concerning the legalization of marijuana. Those in favour of the initiative denounce the failure of the repressive approach and the exorbitant costs associated with criminalization. Those on the other side of the issue fear that legalization will trivialize the impact of marijuana and encourage young people to use it.
Portage is a drug addiction rehabilitation organization that has been working with substance-dependant people for the past 45 years throughout Canada and abroad. As an organization that provides treatment, Portage sees the devastating impact of marijuana on users every day.
The Trudeau government is telling us that through legalization Canada is adopting an important measure that will regulate and restrict access to marijuana, make it difficult for young people to obtain it and prevent criminals from benefiting from it. Portage supports such objectives, but we have reason to believe that the Government process, once in motion, will have consequences and legalization will certainly not put an end to addiction!
The government must confirm that protecting young people, particularly young addicts, will take precedence at all times. Canadian teenagers smoke marijuana more than those in any other country, according to a 2013 report by the UNICEF Research Centre. Despite a decrease in its use over the past few years, it remains the most popular illegal drug used by young people between the ages of 15 and 24. In the five Portage Adolescent Centres that provide treatment in Canada, Portage takes in approximately 500 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 each year, and most of them are dependant on marijuana.
As a result of that reality, Portage recommends that marijuana not be legalized for people under the age of 21. We also endorse the recommendation of controlling the level of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, for citizens 25 years of age or younger. If, as the Canadian Medical Association states, the brain continues developing until the age of 25, THC, consumed in the strong doses available today, is a substance that can increase mental health risks.
Portage also firmly believes that the government must support the rehabilitation centres that provide assistance to addicts. The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently estimated that the sale of legal marijuana would generate between $481 million and $618 million in revenue. In this regard, Portage recommends that all of the taxes collected as the result of the legalization of marijuana be used to develop a national strategy for the prevention of drug addiction and, that a significant portion be made available to rehabilitation organizations.
Now that the Bill has been tabled and the Canadian government is headed towards legalizing marijuana, Portage invites Prime Minister Trudeau to meet its young people, listen to their stories and remember them during the debates leading up to legalization. The government must keep in mind that legalization will not put an end to addiction!
The Portage Program