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Policies Related to Marijuana / Cannabis in Canada

Issue: What policies are appropriate?

Assumptions

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Issues Options
Illegal Possession and Current Possession Penalties (Status Quo) Illegal Possession and Stiffer Possession Penalties Illegal Possession and Lighter Possession Penalties Legal Possession and Illegal Supply Legal Possession and Controlled Legal Supply
Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
1. User Interests
1.1. Health Effects
1.1.1. Amount Consumed Option 1 is the status quo. Option 2 would likely reduce the amount consumed relative to the status quo, although the reduction may be small. (1) Marijuana is widely available at all levels of society, so current penalties appear ineffective. (2) Those who commit illegal acts generally do not expect to get caught. In the case of marijuana, the odds of getting charged with marijuana possession are relatively low at about 2.4 percent of users. In 2011, there were 61,764 reported crimes for possession of marijuana in Canada, while users during the past year represented 9.1% of the population 15 years and over, or about 2,536,110 people.(3) The odds of being convicted and actually facing penalties are low at 0.3 percent. In 2011, there were 7,582 guilty verdicts for marijuana possession. (4) Those addicted to marijuana are unlikely to be responsive to penalties. (5) Young people typically do not focus on the consequences of their actions, and as such, may not be responsive to penalties. (6) While the Netherlands does not enforce its marijuana possession laws, the usage in the Netherlands is typical of other European countries. This suggests the European penalties do not have a significant impact on usage. Option 3 would likely increase the amount consumed relative to the status quo, although the increase may be small. The heaviest users (addicts and long-time regular users) would continue with "business as usual". Young people tend to not pay attention to the consequences of their actions. Those that do pay attention would tend to assume they would not get caught. Both groups would be unlikely to make significant changes to their behaviour in response to lighter penalties.

The health costs of any increase in marijuana use could be offset to some extent by users switching from other drugs, most of which are less health than marijuana.
Option 4 would likely increase the amount consumed relative to Option 4, although the increase may be small. The observations made with regard to Options 2, 3 and 4 suggest that marijuana usage is not particularly responsive to penalties.

The health costs of any increase in marijuana use could be offset to some extent by users switching from other drugs, most of which are less health than marijuana.
It is unclear whether Option 5 would lead to an increase or decrease. Factors contributing to an increase include ease of access (neighbourhood government or licensed retail outlet), and a better quality product in terms of certain dosages and purer products. Factors contributing to a decrease include potentially higher prices as governments attempt to discourage use and raise revenue, the potential to identify heavier buyers by tracking purchasers at sales outlets, the potential to use heavy buyer information to identify those with addictions and provide treatment opportunities for those who want it, the potential to identify suppliers to third parties (i.e. minors) and use that information to control consumption by minors, health warnings at points of sale and on packages (like tobacco), and dosage control so that users would know what they are consuming and be less likely to overdose.

To some extent, Option 5 would encourage some users to consumer marijuana rather than other psychotropic drugs, which are generally more harmful than marijuana.
1.1.2. Product Quality Option 1 is the status quo. Currently, marijuana is supplied as parts of the cannabis plant (flowers, buds, leaves, stalks, etc.), its preparations, including its resin (hashish) and its oil (hash oil), derivatives and similar synthetic preparations. A recent study found that plant based marijuana contained significant amounts of pesticides. See Determination of pesticide residues in cannabis smoke. The psychoactive component in plant based marijuana is gradually increasing over time, as the plant growers seek higher concentrations. With synthetic preparations, there is considerable risk of impurities. Option 2 would be the same as Option 1, as marijuana would continue to be supplied through the same supply chain as Option 1. Option 3 would be the same as Option 1, as marijuana would continue to be supplied through the same supply chain as Option 1. Option 4 would be the same as Option 1, as marijuana would continue to be supplied through the same supply chain as Option 1. Option 5 would involve a different supply chain that is either operated by the government, or operated by the private sector under government regulation, or some hybrid system involving government operations and regulation of the private sector. The supply chain would seek to provide pure products (not mixed with unknown or unlabelled substances), free of carcinogens, in measured dosages. If there are healthier ways to provide the product (e.g. through vaporizers), these healthier ways would be promoted.
1.2. Pyschotropic Experiences Option 1 is the status quo. Option 2 would likely see amount consumed down slightly and product quality the same compared to Option 1. Option 3 would likely see amount consumed up slightly and product quality the same compared to Option 1. Option 4 would likely see amount consumed up slightly and product quality the same compared to Option 3. Option 5 would have uncertain effects on amount consumed and product quality would be considerably better than the other four options.
1.3. Legal Ramifications Option 1 is the status quo. In 2012, the police reported 57,429 crimes for the possession of marijuana, representing about 75.6% of police reports of drug possession crimes. In 2011-2012, there were 16,787 possession charges covering all illegal drugs, of which 7,582 led to guilty verdicts. Presumably, charges and convictions related to marijuana were a significant portion of total illegal drug possession charges. Option 2 would be similar to Option 1. Option 3 would be similar to Option 1. Option 4 would treat the possession of marijuana substantially as ticketable offense, so that possession would not lead to criminal records. In addition, presumably it remove those previously convicted from criminal record databases. Option 5 would make possession of marijuana legal. In addition, presumably it remove those previously convicted from criminal record databases.
2. Individual Freedom Option 1 is the status quo, and restricts an individual from doing what he or she wants so long as the actions do not harm others. Option 2 would be exactly the same as Option 1 in terms of restricting individual freedom. Option 3 would be exactly the same as Option 1 in terms of restricting individual freedom. Option 4 would not restrict individual freedom. Option 5 would not restrict individual freedom.
3. Public Revenues and Expenditures
3.1. Public Revenues Option 1 (the status quo) generates no public revenues. The revenues generated in the supply chain are illegal, are not reported and escape sales taxes, licence fees, income and other taxes. Option 2 would generate no public revenues. The revenues generated in the supply chain are illegal, are not reported and escape sales taxes, licence fees, income and other taxes. Option 3 would generate no public revenues. The revenues generated in the supply chain are illegal, are not reported and escape sales taxes, licence fees, income and other taxes. Option 4 would generate no public revenues. The revenues generated in the supply chain are illegal, are not reported and escape sales taxes, licence fees, income and other taxes Option 5 would generate public revenues. The amount would depend on the pricing policies adopted. It is worth noting that California considered laws that would allow the controlled supply of marijuana. These laws were expected to charge $50 per ounce and generate $1.3 billion in a state with a population only slight larger than Canada's (38,041.430 in California in 2012 versus 33,476,688 in Canada in 2011).
3.2. Enforcement Costs Option 1 is the status quo. In 2006, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse estimated the cost of enforcement for all illegal drugs and all drug crimes in 2002 at $2,335.5 million, of which $1,432.0 million was for policing, $330.6 million for courts, and $573.0 million for corrections. Enforcement costs for marijuana possession would be less than this, probably considerably less. In 2002, marijuana possession crimes totalled 49,647 of total drug crimes of 92,781, representing 53.5% of drug crimes.

In 2011, there were 61,764 police reported crimes by adults for possession of marijuana in Canada. This represents 77.8% of all drug possession offenses, and 54.5% of all drug offenses. In 2011-2012, there were 16,787 cases for drug possession (all illegal drugs, not just marijuana) completed in adult court, of which 7,582 led to a guilty verdict, 9,100 were stayed or withdrawn, 41 were acquittals, and 64 were of other types. Of the 7,582 guilty cases, 828 led to custody with a median length of 9 days, 2,588 led to probation of median length 365 days, and 3,726 led to fines with a median amount of $300.
Option 2 would likely lead to higher enforcement costs related to the possession of small amounts of marijuana than Option 1, because of the increased use of prison time as a penalty and the related high costs of incarceration. Option 3 would likely lead to lower enforcement costs related to the possession of small amounts of marijuana than Option 1, because fines could be imposed outside the court system (like parking tickets) and because of the disappearance of prison time as penalty. Option 4 would entail no enforcement costs related to the possession of small amounts of marijuana, as it would no longer be illegal to possess small amounts of marijuana. Option 5 would entail no enforcement costs related to the possession of small amounts of marijuana, as it would no longer be illegal to possess small amounts of marijuana.
3.3. Health Care Costs Option 1 is the status quo. Health care costs for 2002 concluded that health care costs related to all illegal drugs were $1,134,562,190. The marijuana/cannabis component of these costs was not estimated, but clues come from the following statistics: acute care hospitalization costs for cannabis ($71,569,374) relative to all illegal drugs = 16.8 %; psychiatric hospitalization costs for cannabis ($1,451,145)relative to all illegal drugs = 12.6%; hospital diagnoses for cannabinoids (9,127) relative to all illegal drugs = 23.7%; cannabis poisoning diagnosis (270) relative to opiates and cocaine = 2.6 %; hospital days due to mental and behavioural disorders for cannabinoids (56,189) relative to all illegal drugs = 25.7%; and hospital days due to cannabis poisoning (798) relative to opiates and cocaine = 1.2%. These figures suggest that the 2002 direct health care costs related to cannabis were no more than 25% of costs for all illegal drugs, or a maximum of $283 million. This figure would need to be adjusted downward for declining marijuana use (decrease 14.1 % past year use in 2004 to 9.1% past year use in 2011) and upward for inflation (up 19.9% from 2002 to 2011). After adjustments, direct health care costs could be in the neighbourhood of $219 million. Option 2 would possibly have slightly lower health care costs than Option 1, because it may discourage usage. As discussed above, the usage reduction and related cost savings are likely to be small. Option 3 would possibly have slightly higher health care costs than Option 1, because it may encourage usage. As discussed above, the usage increase and related cost increases are likely to be small. Option 4 would possibly have slightly higher health care costs than Option 3, because it may encourage usage. As discussed above, the usage increase and related cost increases are likely to be small Option 5 would have uncertain effects on health care costs. As discussed above, there are factors that would contribute to increased and decreased usage, and it is unclear how these factors will ultimately determine usage. Improved quality should significantly improve user health and reduce health care costs. Controlled Supply would offer more potential to limit access to marijuana, if buyers are expected to buy on their own behalf and records were kept of buyers. Minors would not be allowed to purchase marijuana themselves, and those buying excessive amounts for sale to minors would be traceable. As many health effects are related to use at a young age, limited youth access could reduce health costs.
4. Organized Crime Option 1 (the status quo) supports organized crime, by providing an opportunity for organized criminals to supply marijuana. Option 2 would support organized crime, by providing an opportunity for organized criminals to meet the demand for marijuana.. Option 3 would support organized crime, by providing an opportunity for organized criminals to meet the demand for marijuana. Option 4 would support organized crime, by providing an opportunity for organized criminals to meet the demand for marijuana. Option 5 would replace organized criminals as the supplier of marijuana with either a government supply, or a regulated private supply system, or some combination of the two.
5. Economic Development in Canada Option 1 (the status quo) incorporates a criminally operated supply system that includes imports and economic development in countries supplying the imports. Option 2 would incorporate a criminally operated supply system that includes imports and economic development in countries supplying the imports, along the lines of Option 1. Option 3 would incorporate a criminally operated supply system that includes imports and economic development in countries supplying the imports, along the lines of Option 1. Option 4 would incorporate a criminally operated supply system that includes imports and economic development in countries supplying the imports, along the lines of Option 1. Option 5 would offer a Canadian based supply system, with the jobs, corporate income, corporate taxes, etc. occurring completely in Canada. In addition, one could anticipate a modest increase in tourism in the short run to taken advantage of Canada's marijuana laws.
6. Respect for Laws Option 1 (the status quo) generates disrespect for laws in general, since a significant number of Canadians have disobeyed it in their lifetime, and an additional group fail to the harm in possessing small amounts of marijuana - a victim less crime. Option 2 would generate disrespect for laws in general, since a significant number of Canadians have disobeyed it in their lifetime, and an additional group fail to the harm in possessing small amounts of marijuana - a victim less crime. Option 3 would generate disrespect for laws, since a significant number of Canadians have disobeyed it in their lifetime, and an additional group fail to the harm in possessing small amounts of marijuana - a victim less crime. Option 4 would generate disrespect for laws, since a significant number of Canadians have disobeyed it in their lifetime, and an additional group fail to the harm in possessing small amounts of marijuana - a victim less crime Option 5 would not generate a disrespect for laws, because users and possessors of small amounts would not be breaking laws.
7. International Relations
7.1. Relations with the United States Option 1 is the status quo. Option 2 would be functionally the same as the status quo. Option 3 would be functionally the same as the status quo. Option 4 would be functionally the same as the status quo. Option 5 would run the risk of annoying a few American members of Congress who are passionately against the legalization of marijuana. There is a minor risk of American legislation (trade?) where these members of Congress might not support American legislation that might be in Canada's interest. Legalization of marijuana is unlikely to have the converse effect of creating support for Canada's interests.
7.2. International Agreements Option 1 (the status quo) supports the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Option 2 would support the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.aaa Option 3 would support the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.aaa Option 4 would arguably support the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.aaa Option 5 would not support the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. However, international support for the Convention is eroding in South and Central America, New Zealand and elsewhere, so the consequences would not be significant.
7.3. Stable Neighbours Option 1 (the status quo) has been shown to contribute to undermining the stability in Mexico, Central and South America, by encouraging an illegal drug trade in these countries. Option 2 would contribute to instability in Mexico, Central and South America, by encouraging an illegal drug trade in these countries. Option 3 would contribute to instability in Mexico, Central and South America, by encouraging an illegal drug trade in these countries. Option 4 would contribute to instability in Mexico, Central and South America, by encouraging an illegal drug trade in these countries. Option 5 would not contribute to instability in Mexico, Central and South American, by encouraging an illegal drug trade in these countries.
8. Non-User Concerns Option 1 (the status quo) respects non-user concerns about the effects on young people when adults use marijuana in public places. It also creates angst among non-users to the extent that they are offended when they fellow citizens breaking the law. In terms of non-user concerns about drug users driving while impaired, Statistics Canada reports that in 2012, there were 4 incidents of impaired driving from drugs causing death, another 16 causing bodily harm, and 1,924 incidents related to operation of vehicle, vessel or aircraft. Option 2 would respect non-user concerns about the effects on young people when adults use marijuana in public places. It would also create angst among non-users to the extent that they are offended when they see fellow citizens breaking the law. Option 3 would respect non-user concerns about the effects on young people when adults use marijuana in public places. It would also create angst among non-users to the extent that they are offended when they see fellow citizens breaking the law. Option 4 would respect non-user concerns about the effects on young people when adults use marijuana in public places. It would also create angst among non-users to the extent that they are offended when they see fellow citizens breaking the law. Option 5 could lead to users consuming marijuana in public places, although this problem could be mitigated through bans on use in public places. Non-user angst at fellow citizens breaking the law would disappear, since using and possessing small amounts would no longer be illegal.

Options

Illegal Possession and Current Possession Penalties (Status Quo) Option 1: Canada's marijuana policy is set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, particularly section 4 (possession), section 5 (trafficking), section 6 (import and export) and section 7 (production) and Schedule II (application of the law to "cannabis, its preparations, derivatives and similar synthetic preparations".and related schedules. Possession, trafficking, import, export and production are illegal. Anyone found in possession of small amounts of marijuana is "guilty of an offense punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both". Otherwise, penalties for possession, trafficking, import, export and production are stiff. The effectiveness of these policies, at least with regard to children, is available from Child well-being in rich countries: A comparative overview. Canada ranked 29th and last among rich countries in terms of children ages 11, 13 and 15 reporting cannabis used in the last 12 months. About 28 % of Canadian children reported cannabis use. This percentage is several percentage points higher than the next rich country, and about 6% higher than the United States.

Illegal Possession and Stiffer Possession Penalties Option 2: This might include, for example, removal of the provision allowing for lighter penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Illegal Possession and Lighter Possession Penalties Option 3: Lighter penalties for possession of small amounts would likely mean tickets leading to fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana, instead court proceeding, convictions and related fines and imprisonment, that would lead to criminal records that could have repercussions for employment, international travel, and citizenship. This option could also include a broader definition of items that could be possessed, as well as larger amounts that could be possessed.

Legal Possession and Illegal Supply Option 4: Prohibitions against the trafficking, import, export and production of marijuana would continue. In summary, one could possess marijuana, but not get it from anyone. This option could also include a broader definition of items that could be possessed, as well as larger amounts that could be possessed.

Legal Possession and Controlled Supply: The purpose of controlling the supply of marijuana would include reducing consumption by minors, supporting the long-term reduction in use by adults, improving the health of users by providing them with information on the health effects and ensuring the quality/quantity of whatever is concerned, significantly reducing the role of organized criminals in the supply chain, increasing the role of Canadians in the supply chain, and generating a significant net increase in public revenues.

There are various "controlled supply" models in operation in Canada in products other than marijuana, including prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, medicinal marijuana. There are emerging models of controlled supply for marijuana in Uruguay, Colorado, Washington State, and elsewhere.

Controlled supply could occur through the involvement of government organizations in the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, or through the creation of a regulatory framework that allows licensed private organizations to produce, distribute and sell marijuana and taxation of consumers to be collected by sellers to generate the public revenue, or some hybrid structure that would have government organizations involved in some functions and regulated private organizations involved in other functions, and if governments organizations are not the sellers, a tax regime to generate public revenues.

Controlled supply would require prohibitions and penalties, likely stiff penalties, for those operating outside the controlled supply chain, to ensure the integrity of the controlled supply chain. Many of the current laws regarding trafficking, production, import and export would likely stay in place. In addition, there would likely be laws prohibiting users from purchasing marijuana outside the control supply chain (i.e. from criminals).

Managers of the controlled supply chain would need to set sales prices or taxes high enough to discourage usage and raise public revenues, yet low enough to reduce and eventually eliminate black markets controlled by organized criminals. As controlled supply would initially compete with a black market, initial taxes and prices would likely be lower than than the black market price, and would increase over time as the controlled supply chain replaces the black market.

The controlled supply system would follow the practice with alcohol and tobacco and not sell marijuana to minors. Additional mechanisms could be put in place to make it more difficult for minors to get marijuana.

Issues

1. User interests: These must count for something. According to a Health Canada survey in 2011, 9.1% of all Canadians 15 and over,41.8 % of Canadians 15 to 24, and 6.7% of Canadians 25 and over used marijuana in the past year. User interests include health effects, "psychotropic experiences", and legal ramifications of illegal possession.

1.1. Health Effects: Ideally, a full understanding of the health effects of any product, including marijuana, require multiple lines of scientific inquiry (toxicity studies, long-term studies of usage in the general population, double blind trials, animal studies, studies of the breakdown and processing of the drug in the body, biochemical analysis) all pointing toward a consistent conclusion. The health effects of marijuana have been much studied, but a clear understanding of the health effects is not in place.

espite these studies, there is considerable uncertainty about the health effects of marijuana for these reasons. (1) The marijuana plant consists of over 400 hundred chemicals, of which only one is psychoactive. Any talk about the health effects of marijuana needs to specific what is being discussed: the psychoactive component or the total plant. (2) Because marijuana possession is illegal, study subjects may not answer questions about use honestly. (3) Because marijuana has been typically supplied through illegal channels, the quality of product consumed in the past has to be considered suspect; are megative health effects from the marijuana or the impurities in the consumed product. (4) Because of uncertain health effects, particularly on minors,and the potential for addiction, it is unethical for researchers to provide marijuana to research subjects in the double blind studies normally used to test the effects of drugs. (5) Because the effects of marijuana use are detectable by users, it is pointless to carry out double blind studies. (6) As historic marijuana use is often combined with smoking and other drug use, population studies have problems separating adverse effects from marijuana use versus other physical and socio-economic causes. (7) For particular potential adverse effects of marijuana use, it is difficult to determine whether the adverse effect caused marijuana use, or marijuana use created the adverse effects (e.g. depression and schizophrenia). (8) It requires long-term studies to address effects of drugs on the ultimate health question: lifespan. The issue has not been studied long enough.

To form your own opinion on the heatlh effects of marijuana, click here for a tour of recent scientific abstracts from PubMed on the health effects of marijuana. Alternatively, The Wikipedia article Long Term Effects of Cannabis identifies the primary health issues associated with marijuana and provides a non-judgmental review of the science related to this issue. Needless to say, there are harmful side effects related to marijuana use, particularly use by young people.

From the scientific literature, while there may be negative effects of mariujuana use, questions arise as to how negative are the negative effects - pernicious effects on a large number of users, or slight effects on a few users, or somewhere in between.

Consequently, for policy purposes, the negative effects from marijuana use need to be placed in an appropriate context. There are negative side effects related to lots of commonly consumed products, including caffeine, transfats, refined sugar, nitrates in meat products, dairy products, gluten-containing products, peanuts, alcohol, tobacco, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription drugs.

Confusing the issue further is the fact that marijuana (like many other drugs) has positive and negative effects. The positive effects include, among other things, pain relief in some people. Allowing marijuana use for medical purposes is evidence of the positive effects. As a consequence, understanding the health effects of marijuana requires a balancing of the positive and negative effects.

Te options presented here have no effect on the foregoing, which is largely produced through scientific study. The options focus on the amount consumed and product quality.

For those who assume the increase in the amount consumed will have negative effects, it should be noted that to the extent that the amount consumed increases because users have replaced other, more unhealthy drugs, with marijuana, then an increase in marijuana consumption is likely to be beneficial.

1.1.1. Amount Consumed: Conventional understanding that consumption is responsive to disincentives to consumption, such as legal penalties and price. The underlying premise of marijuana policies is that the amount consumed is directly related to the extent of legal penalties (charges, fines, imprisonment). Increased penalties will reduce consumption, while decreased penalties will increase consumption. No penalties will increase consumption further.

Even if this premise is true, a secondary question involves the responsiveness of amount consumed to penalties. It is at least theoretically possible that the absence of penalties will have only a marginal impact on the amount consumed.

The policy challenge is to respond to these questions prior to changing the penalties. There are several ways generate an answer to these questions. (1) Make a judgement about the general availabilities of marijuana. If the judgement is that marijuana is widely available, then penalties would not seem to work. (2) Develop theoretical arguments why amount consumed may not be responsible to penalties. (3) Look at experience elsewhere to determine the effect of legal penalties on consumption.

1.1.2. Product Quality: Users would be healthier if they consumed products free of pesticides, other contaminates, and perhaps other drugs, if they were assured of marijuana or pyschoactive concentrations in the products they were consuming, and if they consumed the marijuana in its healthiest format (e.g. pills, filtered cigarettes versus dried leaves), and packaging included warning labels, drug interaction advice, information on concentration, etc.

1.2. Psychotropic Experience: Users consume marijuana because it gives them psychotropic experiences.

The extent of the psychotropic experiences would be determined by the amount consumed and the quality of the marijuana consumed.

Legal Ramifications: Individuals charged and convicted of possession of marijuana have criminal records that can have a significant effect on their futures. Some companies undoubtedly use criminal record checks to eliminate employment candidates from consideration. Some companies require candidates to obtain security clearances; criminal records can affect these clearances. Others want employees who can travel internationally; criminal records can create problems when trying to enter foreign countries.

2. Individual Freedom: In a democracy, many believe individual freedoms should not be infringed so long as individuals do not harm others. In the marijuana context, if an individual chooses to adversely affect his or her health by using marijuana, and can do so without harming others, then that individual should be free to so. Note that this idea of individual freedom does not automatically apply to minors, who may lack the maturity to make informed decisions with regard to tobacco and alcohol. Consequently, Canada restricts tobacco and alcohol sales to minors. Presumably, similar restrictions would apply to marijuana sales. As second hand smoke can do harm to others, Canada is curtailing the freedom to smoke in public places. Presumably, similar restrictions would be put in place for marijuana. In this context, "pot cafes" would not be permitted, even in marijuana use were legalized. There are strong penalties for impaired driving. Presumably, driving under the influence of marijuana would also face strong penalties.

3. Public Revenues and Expenditures: There are three aspects of public costs: tax revenue,enforcement costs and health care costs.

3.1. Public Revenues: This includes income taxes, HST/GST, provincial sales taxes, special taxes that might be imposed on producers or consumers, payroll taxes (CPP and EI), and profits from public corporations.

3.2. Enforcement Costs: This includes policing costs, crown prosecutor costs, court costs, and sentence administration costs.

The police are expected to detect suspected marijuana use, investigate suspected instances, and where investigations indicate a crime (leading to "police reported crime" statistics), unambiguously identify suspects (finger prints, pictures), keep notes for further reference, secure and protect evidence, set up and meet with crown prosecutors to discuss the reported crimes, and where cases goes to court, appear as witnesses.

Crown prosecutors need to review the police reported crimes, decide which ones would lead to charges, lay the charges, develop the case, determine whether to proceed to trial or to stay or withdraw the charges (including negotiations with suspects), where cases go to court, prepare the case, present the case in court, and address sentencing.

When cases are in the court system, court administrators schedule court time, notify the interested parties, support the judges who will hear the cases, and the judges will hear the cases.

If a guilty verdict emerges, there are enforcement costs related to holding people in custody (very expensive), managing probation sentences, and addressing fines that may be laid.

Since all the options would envision continued controls related to trafficking, importing, exporting, and production, enforcement costs of interest are those related to possession of marijuana.

In Canada, enforcement costs are borne primarily by provincial governments.

3.3. Health Care Costs: Since some Canada's health care costs (hospitals, doctors, some other professional services, some drugs) are borne substantially by the public health care system, policies that adversely affect the health of Canadians will have implications for health care costs.


While it may be possible to figure out health care costs from visits to a hospital emergency department from taking marijuana, many of the health effects from marijuana are long term, and the relationship between long-term health and marijuana use is complex, not only because there are negative and positive health effects, but also because many of the effects occur well into the future and cannot easily be attributed to marijuana use.

4. Organized Crime: The problem with organized crime (versus disorganized crime) is its efficiency and effectiveness. Organization, whether in business or crime, allows economies of scale, specialization, enhanced access to capital and other resources. It translates into more and larger crimes, with less risks. When organized criminals reach a certain size, they can overwhelm governments (witness Mexico and some South American countries), leading to violence and chaos and undermining the benefits of civilization to law-abiding citizens.

5. Economic Development in Canada: This includes at a minimum the creation of additional jobs in Canada, and could include business development, technological improvements, exportable know-how, etc.

6. Respect for Laws: Specific laws not supported generally by the citizens of a country can undermine citizens' respect for government in general and other laws. Disrespect for these other laws is a precursor to illegal activities. In addition, when some citizens disrespect laws, other citizens may be less reluctant to break laws.

7. International Relations: It is beneficial for Canada to have good relationships with foreign governments, particularly the United States and the member states in the United Nations, and to have stable countries, particularly those countries close to Canada.

7.1. Relations with the United States: As the United States is a superpower that shares a long border with Canada and that is Canada's major trading partner, it is important to have a relationship that respects each others' interests and works to find constructive solutions where conflicts arise.

7.2. International Agreements: The United Nations works to secure international agreements to deal with issues of global importance. In 1988, the United Nations approved the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which came into force in 1990. By 2013, 183 members states had signed on, including Canada.

7.3. Stable Neighbours: Canada has an interest in stable neighbouring governments. The destabilizing effects of drug cartels on Mexico, Central and South American countries can lead to chaos and present problems for Canada.

8. Non-User Concerns: Third party concerns include concerns about the effects on young people who see adults smoking marijuana in public places, annoyance at those who break the law and do not do what the law wants them to do (regardless whether the law makes sense), and worries about being victims of impaired driving.

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Resources

Introduction

Cannabis (drug) from Wikipedia

Cannabis from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Legal

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act from the consolidated statute from the Laws of Canada

Legal History of Cannabis in Canada" from Wikipedia.

Statistics

Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS)Tables from Health Canada, 2011 survey

Cross Canada Report on Student Alcohol And Drug Use: Technical Report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Child Well-Being in Rich Countries A Comparative Overview from UNICEF, April 2013

Police Reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2012 from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

Adult criminal court statistics in Canada, 2011-2012 from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations from Statistics Canada

Health

Marijuana and Health - Scientific Update from PubMed - a selection of recent abstracts

Long-term effects of cannabis from Wikipedia

Medical Cannabis from Wikipedia

Cannabis Dependence from Wikipedia

Gateway Drug Theory - Cannabis from Wikipedia

Effects of Cannabis from Wikipedia

Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis - Highlights, April 2013 from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Teenage cannabis use leads to cognitive decline from New Scientist, August 27, 2012

Costs

Cost Study from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Cannabis: Our Position For a Canadian Public Policy: Report of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs: Summary, 2002 from the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs

International Context

United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances from the United Nations

Uruguay vote moves the country towards legal cannabis from New Scientist, August 2, 2013

New Zealand law permits 'low risk' designer drugs from NewScientist, June 14, 2013

Legal highs in New Zealand Out of the shadows from the Economist, August 21, 2013

Miscellaneous

Why It's Time to Legalize Marijuana from MacLeans, June 10, 2013

Links to articles on legalization of marijuana in Canada from the Huffington Post

Marijuana Legalizations or Decriminalization Backed by Most Canadians Poll from the Toronto Star

More than two thirds support decriminalization/legalization of marijuana from Forum Research

Created: 2013-08-23

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