Proceedings of the Special Committee on
Issue 14 - Evidence - March 11, 2002 (afternoon meeting)
OTTAWA, Monday, March 11, 2002
The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs meets today at 1:01 p.m. to
reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies.
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Chairman) is in the chair.
The Chairman: Colleagues, I see there is a quorum. As a result, I
declare the public deliberations of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal
Drugs open. This afternoon we will receive a first panel of doctors representing
the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine.
Allow me to present Dr. Henry Haddad properly. He is a professor of medicine
and former chief of gastroentorology and vice-dean for professional and
student affairs at the University of Sherbrooke, Québec.
Dr. Haddad was born in Sherbrooke. He was educated at Bishop University and
at the University of Ottawa, where he obtained a medical degree in 1963
(gold medal). He completed postgraduate training in internal medicine and
gastroentorology at Montreal General Hospital and the University of
Dr. Haddad has been on the faculty of the University of Sherbrooke since 1969
and was appointed a full professor in 1982. He has represented the University of
Sherbrooke's faculty of Medicine at the Medical Council of Canada. He was
President of the Quebec Medical Association (QMA) from 1997 to 1999, and a
member of long standing of the Board of Directors of the QMA, including Chair of
the Board, and has also chaired its education committee.
On the national stage, Dr. Haddad has been a member of the Canadian Medical
Association (CMA) since 1994. He was elected to the CMA executive Committee in
1997. He has been chair of both the CMA's Leadership Conference Program
Committee since 1995 and the Project Advisory Group on Flexible Post-MD Systems
He has been a member of the Committee on Physician Resources and has
represented the CMA on the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical
Schools. Dr. Haddad also chaired the working group that produced the CMA's
Health Information Privacy Code, which focuses on protecting patient information
in the electronic age.
At Bishop University, Dr. Haddad was until recently a member of the executive
committee and chair of the building committee. At the University of Sherbrooke,
he has presided over a number of committees, including the medical faculty's
committee on health and security in the workplace and undergraduates promotions.
Dr. Haddad has certain passions aside from medicine, but I will not make them
Welcome, Dr. Haddad, and thank you for accepting our invitation. We thank you
for your interest in the important work of this committee. With you is Dr. Bill
Dr. Campbell is also a medical doctor. He is president of the Canadian
Society of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Campbell was born and raised in Alberta. He
obtained his MSc. from the University of Alberta at Calgary and his MD degree
from the University of Alberta. Following that, he did a rotating internship at
the Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary, followed by two years of internal medicine
at the Foothills Hospital. He then started a family medicine practice and
developed a special interest in addiction medicine in 1980. He was certified by
the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 1986 and was recognized as a
fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine in the year 2000.
Dr. Campbell has been a member of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine
since its inception in Calgary in 1989 and he has served as secretary and as a
board member from Alberta. He is a clinical associate professor in family
practice at the University of Calgary. He practises addiction medicine privately
and is a consulting physician at the Foothills Medical Centre Addiction Centre,
the Calgary Non-Medical Hospital Detoxification Centre as well as being a
part-time medical examiner.
Dr. Campbell, thank you for accepting our invitation. We welcome both of you
and your testimony. You have all together an hour and a half for both
presentations, followed by questions by my colleagues.
Dr. Henry Haddad, Chair, Canadian Medical Association: As president of
the Canadian Medical Association I am here today representing our members, more
than 53,000 physicians from across Canada. As you noted, I am a practising
gastro-entorologist. I have an expertise in digestive disorders. My expertise is
not in addiction medicine but as a gastroenterologist I am in daily contact with
the complications resulting from various addictions such as cirrhosis of the
liver, hepatitis B and C and AIDS.
I am pleased that my colleague, Dr, Bill Campbell of the Canadian Society of
Addiction Medicine, is appearing here with me today to represent his Society's
point of view and to help me answer questions.
Policy and positions on the use of illegal drugs are extremely broad,
multidisciplinary and can be controversial. Those on both sides of the
decriminalization debate have creatively cited the position of the Canadian
Medical Association. With today's, appearance we hope to clear up any confusion
regarding the CMA's position on the non- medical use of illegal drugs and
decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana.
In consideration of the areas of particular interest of the committee, our
brief — a public health perspective on cannabis and other illegal drugs —
focuses on four questions: What are the health effects of cannabis and other
illegal drugs?; What has been the impact of law enforcement on Canada's illegal
drug use?; What experience has there been with decriminalization?; and, what
changes need to be considered in Canada's approach to cannabis and other illegal
drug use, including the potential of decriminalization?
My primary focus today will be the health aspects associated with the use of
cannabis and other illegal drugs and how we can more effectively treat and
discourage illegal drug use.
While our understanding of all the possible long-term health effects that
prolong Canada's use is still evolving, what we do know is troubling. The health
risks range from acute effects such as anxiety, dysphoria, or the feeling of
being ill; cognitive impairment to the chronic effects such as bronchitis,
emphysema and cancer. Canada's youth have also been subject to pulmonary damage
comparable to that produced by tobacco use but the effects are much more acute
and rapid. Evidence suggests that smoking two or three cannabis cigarettes a day
has the same health effect as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Therefore, the
potential long-term health effects of cannabis use could be quite severe.
The CMA's concerns regarding the impact of cannabis are in part why we are
opposed to the federal government's current medical marijuana access
regulations. In our May 7, 2001, letter to the Minister of Health, the CMA noted
''lack of credible information on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.''
During discussions on the government's medical marijuana regulations, we
highlighted the health concerns and research that indicates that ``marijuana is
an addictive substance that is known to have psychoactive effects and in its
smoke form is particularly harmful to health.''
We have concluded that while benefits of medical marijuana are unknown, the
health risks are real. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for physicians to
prescribe marijuana to their patients, a position that was supported by the
Canadian Medical Association.
One of our objectives in appearing before this committee today is to send
Canadians a clear message about the health risks associated with cannabis. The
CMA strongly advises Canadians against cannabis use and encourages those who are
addicted to seek medical assistance.
As committee members know, cannabis use in Canada is relatively common and it
use is increasing, particularly in teens and young adults. Considering these
trends, and the health risks associated with cannabis use, a comprehensive
approach to discourage use is required.
The current approach to discourage illegal drug use is the threat of criminal
sanctions. However, findings from several studies indicate that perceived health
risk and social disapproval are much more important disincentives than legal
threats, especially in the use of cannabis.
Therefore, the CMA believes that less coercive ways to discourage illegal
drug use need to be examined. When you consider all of the facts, illegal drug
use is primarily a health and social issue, not a criminal problem.
Unfortunately, expenditures by government do not reflect this and are heavily
skewed towards a criminal justice approach. The vast majority of expenditures
related to illegal drugs are on law enforcement. A portion of these resources,
especially those currently being devoted to combatting simple marijuana
possession through the criminal law system, might be better utilized if they
were diverted to public health strategies.
In spite of the criminal justice approach where the bulk of all illegal drug
charges are cannabis related and the majority of these are for possession, use
is increasing. Each year, thousands of teens and young adults receive criminal
records for possession to the degree that having a criminal record limits or
handicaps employment prospects. The impact of health status is profound. Poor
employment prospects as a result of drug use and/or a criminal record may lead
to poor economic status and this leads to poorer health.
It must also be stressed that prisons are not an ideal setting for treating
addictions. The likely outcome of imprisonment of addicts is the use of harder
drugs that will only serve to intensify the problem and could lead to other
serious diseases and infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and AIDS. Drug
abuse and dependency is a chronic, relapsing disease for which there are
effective treatments. Unfortunately, these treatments are not available
throughout this country.
The criminal justice approach to a disease is inappropriate particularly when
there is an increasing consensus that it is ineffective and exacerbates harm.
Law enforcement activity should, therefore, target distribution and production
of illegal drugs instead of simple possession of marijuana for personal use.
While the available evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that
decriminalization would not result in a substantial increase in use, in our
opinion, the evidence is not definitive. Therefore, decriminalization should
only be considered as a part of a comprehensive national strategy on the
non-medical use of illegal drugs that would include a youth-oriented cannabis
cessation program. Because of these potential harms, it is critical that changes
to the criminal law affecting cannabis neither encourage nor promote the
normalization of its use.
The CMA is concerned that this debate concerning decriminalization and the
medical marijuana issue has, to some extent, legitimized its use for
recreational purposes. It is important that our message to you regarding
decriminalization be clear and understood. Decriminalization must be tied to a
national drug strategy that promotes awareness and prevention and provides for
comprehensive treatment in addition to research and monitoring of the program.
Only with such a multi-dimensional approach would the CMA endorse
A rigorous monitoring and evaluating process is also essential to the
decriminalization issue. A systematic evaluation of the impact of changes should
be planned and conducted in parallel to any changes made. The CMA believes that
any changes regarding illegal drug policy should be gradual. Like any other
public health issue, education and awareness of the potential harms associated
with cannabis and other illegal drug use is critical to reducing drug usage.
Equally important is educating Canadians about addiction to remove its
stigma. Not unlike mental health, there exists the negative view that those who
suffer with addiction are somewhat weaker than others. Let us be clear:
Addiction is a disease and those who suffer from it need medical assistance just
as those who suffer from heart disease or cancer. We are very concerned that
this stigmatizing effect may be preventing individuals with addiction from
In the executive summary of our brief, you will find recommendations that
echo what I have presented today. These recommendations focus on: prevention;
treatment and rehabilitation; research; surveillance; national leadership and
To conclude, the CMA believes that the goal of government policy on the
non-medical use of illegal drugs should be to discourage the use of cannabis and
all other illegal drugs and provide those who are addicted with treatment and
rehabilitation. It must be recognized that addiction is a disease and therefore,
individuals suffering from drug dependency should be diverted, whenever
possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation.
Dr. Bill Campbell, President, Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine: Honourable
senators, CSAM is an organization of physicians and scientists who have an
interest in substance abuse and dependence. I am pleased to be able to present
jointly with Dr. Haddad of the Canadian Medical Association and wish to thank
the Senate committee for being allowed the opportunity to present CSAM's
The Canadian Medical Association has presented an overview of the medical
concerns that arise when considering changing the status of any drug that has
the potential to be abused or cause addiction. Much of what I am to say expands
the principles found in our statement on a national drug policy.
Those who promote the decriminalization of marijuana have many valid points
about its relative harmlessness when compared with drugs such as nicotine,
alcohol, cocaine and heroin. However, individual stories describing the positive
aspects of the use of marijuana are anecdotal. They do not describe and are not
representative of the problems that part of the population will have when
exposed to the drug.
Marijuana has the potential to cause harm to some individuals. I wish to
mention some of the important facts that are known and problems associated with
marijuana to the committee.
Medicine's knowledge of marijuana's effects on the brain has lagged behind
our understanding of that of alcohol, narcotics and cocaine. Only within the
last six to eight years has research shown where and how the active ingredients
of marijuana affect the brain. For this reason, the answers needed to adequately
assess the medical safety of marijuana are often not yet available. To
understand the effects of marijuana adequately, more funding is urgently
required for research, surveillance, prevention of associated social problems
and treatment for that part of the population that uses marijuana.
Marijuana does cause social problems. Apart from the issues of legality of
marijuana, there is a social cost associated with marijuana use. Those who claim
that marijuana has not resulted in deaths ignore the evidence that marijuana use
impairs the ability to perform normal motor and executive functions.
Marijuana has been shown to be associated with reckless drivers and motor
vehicle accidents. Evidence suggests that marijuana may contribute to an
appreciable number of traffic deaths and injuries in Canada. It has been shown
to negatively affect the academic and social development of some adolescents.
Marijuana can cause emotional and medical problems. Chronic use may be
associated with lung diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema and cancer. A
psychosis may develop in some individuals while other psychiatric symptoms such
as anxiety, low mood, depression and panic do occur.
Marijuana is known to be addictive. Although the rate of addiction varies, it
is between 5 per cent and 10 per cent. I should like to stress that addiction is
a disease and marijuana has the potential to be addictive to a genetically
predisposed group of individuals.
Addiction is a brain abnormality that is due to the genes that the individual
is born with plus exposure to the addictive substance in the individual's
environment. Any social or political changes that increase the availability of a
drug with addictive potential will have the risk of increasing the chance that
addiction will develop. Marijuana has been shown to produce withdrawal symptoms
and marijuana is a reason that people present for addiction treatment. It is not
realized that addiction may not only produce negatively valued moral and social
consequences, it can also produce consequences that have no obvious negative
physical effects or social disapproval.
Even with those addictive substances that cause dramatic and often horrific
consequences, the saddest result of addiction is the loss of an addicted
individual's ability to achieve his or her maximum potential when actively
addicted. Lack of aggressiveness is associated with marijuana. For this reason,
it is thought to be a drug with minimal consequences and a relatively safe drug,
when compared with other addicting drugs. However, marijuana does damage when it
interferes with any individual's ability to achieve his or her full potential.
Marijuana does have the potential to harm a subgroup of Canadians. Although
its effects are not as dramatic as other addicting drugs, the Canadian Society
of Addiction Medicine wishes to reinforce the concept that the use of marijuana
will have adverse consequences for a subgroup of those who use it. CSAM, is not
opposed to decriminalization of marijuana, but we do ask that the committee be
aware of the emotional and physical problems and the addiction potential that
marijuana use will cause for a group of susceptible Canadians.
Dealing with the larger problem of addictive drugs, of which marijuana is but
one, CSAM suggests that Canada must have a clear drug strategy for dealing with
the cultivation, manufacture, importation, distribution, advertising, sale,
possession and use of psychoactive substances, regardless of whether they are
classified as legal or illegal. Drug possession for personal use should be
decriminalized and distinguished from the trafficking or illegal
sale/distribution of drugs to others that must carry appropriate criminal
sanctions. The individual and public health impact of substance abuse, substance
use, and substance dependence must be taken into account at all times with
people associating with or being involved with the legal system.
An assessment to ascertain the extent of a substance use disorder and
screening for addiction must be an essential part of dealing with someone
identified as an illicit drug user or possessor. Appropriate funding must be
made available for supply reduction, demand reduction and treatment of various
psychoactive substances that carry abuse or addiction liability.
National policies and regulations must present a comprehensive and
coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families
and society by the use of all drugs of dependence, regardless of the
classification of legal or illegal. Prevention programs need to be
comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence- producing
drugs to enhance awareness and affect social attitudes with scientific
information about the pharmacology of drugs and the effects of recreational and
problem use on individuals, families, communities and society. Outreach,
identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons with addiction
need to be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible
in every part of the country to all in need of such services.
Law enforcement measures aimed at reducing the distribution of illicit drugs
need to be balanced with evidenced- based treatment and prevention programs, as
well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate addiction
and its resulting problems. Any changes in laws that would affect access to
dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented
gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of
There are perceived negative moral and social consequences toward all
addictions, and so funding for research and treatment is often the first to
suffer when money is limited. However, addiction is a disease. Those with it
suffer greatly and deserve to be treated like any other Canadian with a medical
disease. That is the message I hope to deliver to all Canadians.
The Chairman: Before I open the floor to questions, I have a comment
to prepare this session of the committee. We did not receive your brief in
advance, and so we have looked at both of your Web sites to prepare our
questions. Some of the answers may be in your brief, and so we will read it
thoroughly after the meeting. However, I will write to both of you to express
our additional questions and I will receive your answers for the committee.
Those questions and answers will be posted on the Web site of the committee.
During the last year and a half the committee has been sitting, we have heard
a number of experts from various fields. The health field is certainly one on
which the committee has consciously and voluntarily focussed. I will summarize
for you what we have found so far in terms of the use of cannabis and I will ask
you for your reactions.
We have learned that in Canada people who use cannabis for recreational use
are temporary and occasional users and that about 10 per cent of them — and
that affects 90 per cent of Canadian cannabis users — will, in the course of
their use, become chronic consumers. We identify them as users of one gram per
week, or five joints per week. That is our definition of a chronic consumer.
Still in the 100 per cent of consumers, the experts agree that from 2 to 5 per
cent will develop a weak dependency.
That is information we have collected over a year nd a half. What is your
reaction to what I have just said?
Mr. Haddad: Am I surprised? No. We know that the data is more
favourable, if I can use that term, than the data on the use of tobacco and
alcohol, which is much more widespread.
The Chairman: You mean in terms of dependency?
Mr. Haddad: Yes. Will that change our submissions? No. We still have
10 per cent of consumers who are chronic consumers.
There is a point that Dr.. Campbell raised and that worries me. Studies,
especially in Quebec, show that teens smoke chronically at school, about five
joints per week, have a lower performance than their peers, and this will
therefore have an effect on the rest of their lives, for example in terms of
their ability to get a job.
This consumption of five joints per week and the 2.5 per cent dependency
rate, even if it is weak, will nevertheless have an effect socially, on health
and on the family. In addition, as stated in our brief, there is a danger when
So that does not change our recommendation. If we ever go ahead with the
decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana, it must be done in
conjunction with a comprehensive program of prevention, treatment, monitoring
and research. As Dr.. Campbell mentioned, there is still a lot to learn about
marijuana. We know that there are studies underway on the medical use of
marijuana. However, I am not convinced that such studies, rather limited in
scope, will be able to help us significantly.
The Chairman: In reading your bibliography, I see a number of studies
quoted to support your brief. One of my questions is: on which specific studies
is your opinion based? We will know more by examining your bibliography, but if
there is anything missing we will write to you.
Mr. Haddad: Our position is also that of many other organizations such
as the medical organizations in the south of the United States. It is a North
The Chairman: During the preparation of your briefs, did you examine
what is being done in Europe in the health field?
Mr. Haddad: Yes, I did not mention it during my presentation. However
our brief mentions European and Australian references.
The Chairman: In November 2001, a few months ago, the Institut
national de la santé et de la recherche médicale de France published a
document entitled Cannabis: Quels effets sur le comportement et la santé? Are
you familiar with that study?
Mr. Haddad: I am not sure. I will have to consult my staff at the CMA
to see is they have examined that document.
The Chairman: That will be part of the questions that will be sent to
you. The neuropharmacological studies to which the committee has had access show
first that cannabis is not a narcotic but a sedative and second that it is
barely a drug, that it creates only a mild dependency and that the symptom are
rather negligible. What is you opinion of those two statements.
Mr. Haddad: We do not agree. My colleague spends his life treating the
harmful effects of marijuana and will tell you that is a drug that creates a
dependancy. In my very limited gastroenterology practice, some of my patients,
who have chronic diseases such as inflammations of the intestine, use marijuana.
It's miserable to treat these young men and women who have a dependency on
marijuana. They are barely treatable. It's both miserable for me, as a doctor,
and for their parents and loved ones that see them go downhill because it is
simply not compatible with their treatment. It is a drug that creates
dependency, that has harmful, acute and chronic effects on health. In our
opinion, we should treat it as a disease and the approach should not be centred
on criminal law but on treatment, rehabilitation and prevention, especially in
our teens' school environment.
The Chairman: I would like to talk to you about education. You are a
Quebecer. Are you familiar with a short document published by the Quebec
department of health a few weeks ago?
Mr. Haddad: In the schools?
The Chairman: It's for distribution to the general public. The title
is Drogues: savoir plus, risquer moins. You are not familiar with this
Mr. Haddad: No, Mr. Chair.
The Chairman: The French health department authorized a similar
document on which the second one is based. It was published in 2000. Are you
familiar with the French document?
Mr. Haddad: I don't think my staff is familiar with that document.
Senator Christensen: Dr. Haddad, your organization states that drug
possession for personal use must be decriminalized. What do you mean by
``decriminalized''? What would be the sanctions on a person if that were the
Dr. Haddad: Persons should not have a criminal record for simple
possession. We make it clear that taking marijuana is a serious event to us. It
has to be considered for its potential addiction effects. The senator mentioned
2 per cent to 5 per cent.
Dr. Campbell: I have the figure of 5 per cent to 10 per cent of
Dr. Haddad: This is significant when 10 per cent of takers can end up
addicted. It has serious psychoactive effects and physically harms health. It
affects performance in school.
We feel it should be decriminalized, yet at the same time ensure there is a
comprehensive program that looks at prevention, education, awareness, proper
rehabilitation and treatment, and Dr. Campbell can speak to what is happening
across this country in rehabilitation and treatment. We are not doing the job we
could. There is an access problem to medical care in this country. The access
problem to adequate care for our addicted population is magnified compared with
the general population.
We have to look at research, rehabilitation treatment and monitoring of
opinion. Any change to the law should be done gradually and monitored carefully.
The last thing we want is to leave the impression that smoking marijuana is
something normal to do. It is not normal; we must dissuade our young children
and adolescents from smoking marijuana, as we dissuade them from smoking. It is
serious and can have short- and long-term effects, not only on one's physical
health but on one's social well being.
Smoking marijuana should be looked at as a public health and social issue
rather than a criminal issue.
Senator Christensen: How do you see those programs being implemented
if there is no legislation saying it is a prohibited substance? Do you see it
being dealt with similar to alcoholism? If someone breaks a law and becomes
charged under impaired driving or something similar and marijuana is the cause,
then the next step is treatment.
Dr. Haddad: We looked at civil violations. There could be a fine for
marijuana, the same as if you are driving drunk. It would depend on the
seriousness of the event.
Senator Christensen: Marijuana is the not the vehicle for getting a
Dr. Haddad: Marijuana has to be taken very seriously. If we are going
to decriminalize it — and we have kind of legitimized it for medicinal
purposes — we must be careful that smoking marijuana is not seen as a normal
I have seen newspaper reports indicating that there has been a loosening of
public attitudes towards it since we have said marijuana is okay for medicinal
purposes. We must be careful not to leave the impression to our youth that
smoking marijuana is all right. It is not all right. No more than smoking
tobacco is all right.
Senator Christensen: There are many drugs out there for medicinal use
that are not for any other sort of use.
Dr. Campbell, in your presentation you said that marijuana is known to be
addictive and 5 per cent to 10 per cent of users would suffer from addiction.
How does that compare with other drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes?
Dr. Campbell: The rates vary with societal norms, distribution access
and legal complications. That is probably average for alcohol. What is
significant with marijuana is that it is not as obvious that a person may be
addicted because the behaviours are not as negatively evaluated or socially
inappropriate as they are with cocaine, heroin or alcohol.
It was already mentioned that it is not a very addictive drug. It is not
obviously addictive because we do not look for marijuana dependency or marijuana
use in some of the things we associate with addiction. It is not like alcohol
where it can be smelled. It is involved in some of the things we do associate
addiction with but it is not identified often.
That is one the biggest problems with marijuana. It truly is a drug that has
a potential to be addictive. It is working on a part of brain that we are just
beginning to understand. The problem we have had with studying addiction is we
have not understood how it works.
The newest research from the 1990s is starting to show that marijuana affects
the brain in certain deep areas and can cause significant changes for certain
groups of people.
Senator Christensen: What are the symptoms of addiction for marijuana
use and what are the withdrawal symptoms?
Dr. Campbell: Withdrawal is a bit difficult. They are not as dramatic;
you get a bit high. An addiction is continued use in spite of evidence of harm.
The issue is that when you get drunk and fall down and break your leg, we know
that is harm; but when you do nothing, when you feel happy inside and do not
achieve your potential, that is harm also. Our definition of addiction will vary
over the next while.
That is where marijuana is a bit subtle and baffling because we do not
perceive it in the same light of addiction as a drug like alcohol, heroin,
cocaine or cigarettes. It does not present as an obvious drug but causes harm
when you start to measure changes in young adolescents or people who have been
using marijuana for a long time. It is there. There are signs of withdrawal
where a person is agitated and feels irritated. The phrase ``increased signs of
hostility'' was in the last paper I read. We do see some withdrawal signs but
they are not as obvious as what we see with other drugs.
Withdrawal is not a good indication of whether a drug is addictive or not.
Cocaine has minimal withdrawal symptoms but is massively addicting, whereas
alcohol is addicting and has withdrawal symptoms.
Senator Maheu: We have heard from many people that the use of cannabis
will disrupt their capability of studying and, as Dr. Haddad insinuated, thereby
increasing the possibility of such people having difficulties later on in life.
I am trying to reconcile what you have said with what the majority of people we
have heard from have said: that the dangers from the use of cannabis are minimal
in comparison to many other things. You seem to be putting a negative impact on
the use of cannabis and not many other witnesses have done that.
Could you try to explain the difference between your findings on the issue
and the findings of many other professional medical people who have not
indicated quite the same level of apprehension?
Dr. Campbell: I understand your question to be if you compare
marijuana with the other drugs, are we putting it in the same level.
Senator Maheu: No, mostly they have been talking about marijuana. Some
feel that there is not a big danger and we should decriminalize right away
simply because police are not doing very much about simple possession and, as we
heard this morning, lawyers love handling drug cases because they do not have to
deal with murderers and rapists, et cetera. You seem to be saying something
totally different, what you are saying seems to be totally different — unless
I misunderstood both cases.
Dr. Campbell: I do not think we are negating the severity and the
problems associated with other drugs of addiction but we are saying is that, in
spite of what people may say, there are problems and risks associated with the
use of marijuana for a subgroup of people. It may not be as severe in the social
sense but for the addicted individual who has not achieved his or her potential
in life, it does not matter how bad that drug is. If it has done that to them,
that is a bad drug. Anything that changes the ability to get that drug will have
an effect of increasing the risk of potential addiction and problems. The
problems may not be socially obvious but they will be there at some level for a
subgroup of individuals.
Senator Maheu: It is for a specific 5 per cent or 10 per cent. Is that
what you are saying?
Dr. Campbell: Yes, that is the issue we are getting at. We are not
negating the difference in the social and moral behaviours of some of the drugs;
we are not questioning that at all. Certainly, an alcoholic who is drunk behaves
differently from a marijuana addict who is high. We are not trying to compare
the two; we are discussing only the issue of the effects of marijuana on the
population and not comparing it to other drugs of addiction.
Senator Maheu: I was not comparing it; I was talking about marijuana
in both instances. I think we have agreed to agree upon the necessity for
education of our young people. However, if we are talking about the adult
population — let us put the youth population aside for now — do you see as
big a problem with marijuana being dangerous to our health as you do with
smoking and obesity, for example?
Dr. Campbell: If you are looking at demographics, I suspect maybe not.
However, when I see an individual who has used marijuana to his or her
detriment, it does not matter what the rate is. I go back to what I said about
the risk for not achieving potential. The worst thing I see with marijuana
addiction is that people wonder what happened to their lives. Well, it just got
Dr. Haddad: What guides me, as a physician is the idea of what causes
harm. Marijuana has the potential to cause harm. We may say it causes harm in 2
per cent to 5 per cent, or even 10 per cent of those who smoke — that is not
important. As physicians, we have a duty to advocate for policies that do no
harm. That is where I am coming from.
The Chairman: I assume that your last answer means ``that does not
create health problems.''
Mr. Haddad: Yes, that does not create a social and physical problem.
Marijuana can also cause social problems from a family and employment point of
view, as well as a road hazard, but also acute and chronic health problems such
as those that we have told you about.
We often emphasize the health problems but forget the upheaval that it can
cause within a family or in the workplace. That is why we should not look at the
simple possession of marijuana as a criminal act. We can impose a fine but we
should look at it more as a public health and social problem.
The Chairman: If we compare this problem to that of alcohol, which,
based on the information we have on the subject, generates a dependency rate of
12 to 15 per cent among users, or to tobacco, which generates a dependency rate
of 35 to 40 per cent among users, we note that there is no infraction related to
use in those two cases, even under civil law. There are criminal infractions for
the illegal manufacture of these products, I grant you, but how can you
reconcile the two realities? In the two cases I have stated, they are two
completely legal products whose use is permitted, among adults at least; we know
that minors use them a lot, but it is illegal. Let's concentrate on the adults.
In the case of cannabis, you say that it creates problems. Proportionally, I
believe it is closer to 2 per cent than 5 per cent, but I am ready to read your
documentation. You talk about 5 per cent of users, so how can I reconcile your
opinion with what is happening? We know that the damages caused by alcohol are
Dr. Haddad: My mother taught me a long time ago that two wrongs do not
make a right.
I believe that our entire policy is based on alcohol. Every day I deal with
complications from alcoholism, whether it is cirrhosis of the liver,
pancreatitis or digestive haemorrhages. The complications are horrible, not only
from a physical standpoint, but also socially. It is well known that tobacco
addiction is the same.
I hope that we will learn, given the problems we have with alcohol and
tobacco, to not repeat them with marijuana. There are social problems that we
are trying to correct as well as we can. We know about quitting programs or
tobacco use prevention among teens. Perhaps we aren't using them adequately and
should use them better. I agree. We know that we have removed Molson ads from
television. However, very little is being done about alcohol and teens.
I have children who go to college. No one ever comes to talk to them about
how to prevent alcoholism and its consequences. I hope we will learn from these
deficiencies in terms of prevention and education about alcohol and tobacco and
will not make the same mistakes with marijuana.
The Chairman: That is the reason I asked you the question about those
Mr. Haddad: I would like to consult them.
The Chairman: I will leave them with you at the end of the meeting.
Mr. Haddad: Thank you. I appreciate it.
The Chairman: These documents are for the general public. The French
have concluded correctly — as you have just demonstrated — that there are
educational deficiencies. People have to be adequately informed about substance
abuse. These documents talk about tobacco and alcohol like other drugs. In
Quebec, we decided to adapt this document to the Quebec reality. I will come
back to the regulation of medical use.
I want to ask you, Dr. Campbell, on what basis is dependence on marijuana
Dr. Campbell: Drug dependence is based upon an assessment of whether a
person can stop when it becomes obvious that they should. That is how one would
assess marijuana dependence. One looks for symptoms of tolerance or dependence.
``Dependence'' is a word implying a description of what we see with an addiction
or a person that is using a drug inappropriately. So it is an artificial
construct, in one sense.
The Chairman: The committee is familiar with DSM-IV. To what extent
are criteria for dependence defined in DSM-IV?
Dr. Campbell: If you were to use the word ``dependence,'' you would
have to consult DSM-IV because those are the criteria by which one uses it.
Marijuana can meet the criteria for dependence.
The Chairman: We are aware of that. That is why I want to ensure that
we were talking of the same thing.
Dr. Haddad, your colleague Dr. Campbell talked to us at length about
individuals who could, because they had consumed cannabis for long periods
during their youth, miss a life opportunity. If I told you that more than a
third of doctors have consumed cannabis during their youth, would you say they
did not succeed in life?
Mr. Haddad: No, I would not say that, but you know that doctors are
not sheltered from health problems. They are not immune to mental health
problems. Dr. Campbell can tell you that there is a good percentage of doctors
who have drug or over-consumption of medication problems. We are no different
from the rest of the population.
I was vice-dean of student life for 11 years at the faculty of medicine and
believe me, the psychological problems are no different from those of students
in law, engineering or biology. If we look at the statistics, it's the same
The Chairman: Let us now turn to the new regulation on the use of
cannabis. Many have been witnesses at the press conferences held by your
organization. You are opposed to being the guardians of the system. Throughout
the process, when we look at the regulation closely, doctors are called upon to
play a determining role that leads to an authorization by Canadian authorities
to grant an exemption to the individual requesting one.
Does your association know of doctors who prescribe medication for purposes
not indicated on the label? In other words, do you know of doctors in your
association who prescribe a medication even if that is not covered in the
Canadian pharmacopoeia? I am thinking about Aspirin, among others, that has been
used for headaches for a long time and that is suddenly used for the heart.
Mr. Haddad: I am really not aware of that situation. You are entirely
right, you have described our position as a medical association correctly on the
use of marijuana for medical purposes.
The Chairman: Your association has expressed concerns about
appropriate doses. Because of the lack of proper information, doctors cannot
prescribe a dose of cannabis more than another. Could it happen that doctors who
are not familiar with the dosages go about it in an empirical fashion, saying
``we will start with 5 mg and if we see that that is not working we will
increase it to 10 mg''? I can talk to you about my personal experience with
Zocar. My doctor started by saying ``We will start with 5 mg and if it doesn't
work we will try 10 mg.'' It can go up to 15 mg.
Mr. Haddad: There is a well-established scale, through studies, that
allows us to have an idea of the side effects of medication. For example, when I
have a case of an inflammatory disease of the intestine and I start treatment
with what I call 5 ASA — 5 milligrams of acetacylic acid — I always start
with a small dose to see if the patient tolerates the medication well and then
increase it to the maximum effective dosage. However, I have a very good idea of
the possible secondary effects of that medication. If the patient has not
exhibited side effects at 500 mg three times a day, he will not exhibit them at
500 mg eight times a day. The clear studies that have been done on this
medication before it came on the market will give me indications on doses, side
effects and beneficial effects.
When I prescribe medication to a patient I describe my reasons for
recommending it, the perceived benefits and the possible risks and side effects,
based on probative data. I agree with you completely. Probative data is not
available for everything we do in medicine.
When I was a young doctor, it was not available in more than 5 to 10 per cent
of the cases. Now we probably have probative data in perhaps 70 per cent of what
we do. Regarding marijuana, as Dr. Campbell said, we have little data on side
effects. We know its harmful effects from a physical and psychological point of
view but we have little data on its beneficial effects. I spoke to doctors
specialized in marijuana who say that the effects are psychoactive. The rest is
just blowing smoke.
How can a doctor be a guardian and prescribe marijuana if he has little
knowledge of the beneficial effects and the appropriate dosage for the
When the first regulation approved the use of marijuana for patients in
terminal phase, we did not object. We know that patients in terminal phase have
12 months or less to live. We thought that if it had an effect on people who
were already in a deplorable state of health we were ready to live with that. As
a scientist, I deplored that we had 250 to 300 patients who took the medication
within the initial regulation and that I have seen no data.
The Chairman: When you talk about the initial regulation, what do you
Mr. Haddad: It is the first regulation that allowed the use of
marijuana for medical use. It was limited to group A, patients in terminal
phase. Now there is more than group A.
The Chairman: The Ontario Court of Appeals decided that article 56
allowed the Minister to grant exemptions was not valid. Is that what you are
Mr. Haddad: Yes, I believe it started in 1997.
The Chairman: You are talking about the ministerial exemption under
Mr. Haddad: For patients judged to be in terminal phase, therefore who
have an life expectancy of 12 months or less.
The Chairman: The Minister never elaborated on the conditions he
attached to granting the exemption. Moreover, that has been the problem before
the courts. They decided that the Minister had a latitude that needed to be
circumscribed more specifically. We now have a much more detailed regulation
that has three categories.
Mr. Haddad: In categoric A, the use of marijuana also allows its
possible use under chronic conditions where patients have a life expectancy of
several years. In this situation we have problems. We had less problems with
patients using marijuana in terminal phase, when the life expectancy is 12
months or less.
Now we can use marijuana for chronic prolonged conditions, and with little
knowledge of what we have. We have had a lot of problems with the long-term
physical and social effects of marijuana.
The Chairman: For discussion purposes, let's forget side effects and
think about therapeutic possibilities. You are telling us that the treatment is
no good, and that even in the second category of patients with epilepsy, cancer,
appetite problems, and even if the literature compiled by the Health Department
in a document, which you have surely read, and which is an information document
that was published before the regulation. There is a document — very well made
by the way — that examines in detail the state of knowledge in terms of a
series of diseases.
Mr. Haddad: We have to look at what that knowledge is based on,
whether the data is probative or not. I will give you an example. I am a
professor at the University of Sherbrooke and we use marijuana to treat pain.
The Chairman: Isn't that category two? There is research at McGill
University on that point.
Mr. Haddad: Let's take, for example, marijuana for patients in
terminal phase, category A. A great deal of Canadians have used marijuana. The
problem in Canada is the treatment given at the end of a patient's life, what we
call ``compassionate care at the end of life''. Experts say that there are only
10 to 15 per cent of cases where it is well done.
At the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre it is done well and I am
proud of it. I talked about it a few months ago to our team of experts in
palliative care: nurses, pharmacists, doctors and social workers who see
hundreds of patients. There is a network of 250,000 people who come to
Sherbrooke. Have you ever been asked to prescribe marijuana? Have you ever felt
the need to prescribe marijuana? No, no and no, because palliative care is well
done. The team's care can relieve pain well and provide spiritual and family
It is important to look at he entire context in which marijuana was offered
for medical use. We have to look at whether we have done well in Canada and what
we need to offer our patients given what we know. That is what we do not master.
The Chairman: In a legal case, Mr. Parker's story led to the
implementation of a specific regulation setting aside section 56. In that case,
it was an individual suffering from epilepsy. The courts heard a series of
experts. On both sides some said that there are proven means of curing these
problems. On the other hand, Mr. Parker and his experts were saying that
cannabis would give a therapeutic result that existing medication on the shelves
from pharmaceutical companies could not give him. The courts agreed with Mr.
Mr. Haddad: Unfortunately I am not familiar with the details of the
The Chairman: the Health Department reviews scientific knowledge of
the therapeutic uses and establishes, in the first category of those who are in
terminal phase, the people with a life expectancy of 12 months or less, the
rules for specific illnesses for the second category of patients.
When we read the document supporting its regulation, we see that the
scientific and technical knowledge shows that the patients who have specific
illnesses can be helped. I assume they did not invent that.
Mr. Haddad: You know that they work with placebos. There are
therapeutic results even with placebos. As scientists we must be careful.
The Chairman: It is still the basis for a regulation in general use
across Canada. I understand that you do not agree with it but it is there. I am
trying to understand your opinion.
Mr. Haddad: I very much respect what you have just said but there remain
exceptions to the rule. We must not be short-sighted. When I question people who
encourage certain patients to take marijuana, as I said earlier, they are
convinced that its only effect is psychotropic.
I was telling my colleagues that Sir William Osler was one of the great
Canadian doctors who created medical teaching at the patients' bedsides. He was
one of the CMA's presidents. He was also at Johns Hopkins and Oxford
universities. He prescribed marijuana for vascular headaches. He was convinced
at the time that marijuana was effective for vascular headaches, migraines. No
one talks about it anymore. His prescription was not based on probative proof.
The Chairman: If you read the documentation on migraines, you will
find that people treat migraine with cannabis. We find that in the medical
literature. The cannabis issue is not anecdotal. We, as members of the Special
Senate Committee on illegal drugs, are very rigorous in our approach because we
eliminate outright testimony based solely on opinions. We really concentrate on
I agree with you, but in the matter of cannabis, if there is an area where
research has been exponential in the last 40 years, it is that of cannabis.
There is a range of information.
Mr. Haddad: Perhaps Dr. Campbell would have an opinion ``on the
research on the medical use of marijuana''?
Dr. Campbell: You wanted to discuss medical research.
The Chairman: All research.
Dr. Campbell: I am confused. The research in the medical journals has
been equivocal, in most cases, about marijuana. There are certainly some
indications for its use.
The Chairman: Not in the ones that we are reading, and we are reading
Dr. Campbell: It is in the ones we follow. The medicine that I
practice is based on certain journals and a certain method of doing things that
requires looking at wide studies and things like that. There are indications for
marijuana. The issue that I have not heard about is that of smoking versus
The Chairman: We have heard the concerns on that. No one argues with
the fact that it causes cancer and other lung complications. We know that the
tar content is higher.
Dr. Campbell: There are medical indications for the use of the pill,
but I do not have much to do with that. The fact remains that the kind of clear
methodology that doctors try to follow has not shown up in the literature that I
look at or where I go for my information about the drug marijuana — things
like the British Medical Journal and the Institute of Medicine from the
The Chairman: Lancet is quite clear on marijuana.
Dr. Campbell: What does it say?
The Chairman: The harm is benign.
Dr. Campbell: The harm may be benign for some people, but not all.
That is the issue I wish to stick with. Certainly, many drugs do not cause harm.
Some people use heroin and do not experience harm. That does not mean we approve
of it. Many people drink and do not experience harm. Some people argue that
drinking helps a certain subgroup of people with respect to heart disease. That
does not necessarily mean that I will prescribe it in my practice, because the
overall view, from my perspective, is that it does cause harm.
There might be a short-term gain with some use of marijuana. I certainly
believe that people who use it for chronic pain do get some relief. We are
concerned about the long-term effects. One of the problems I mentioned in my
presentation was that our understanding of drugs of addiction, and their effect
on the brain, has only changed significantly in the last 10 years, as functional
MRI and PET scans have enabled us to look at what is actually occurring at the
We did not find the anandamide receptor site for marijuana and the leptons in
the brain and how they affect the appetite and emotions until about eight years
ago. I think we are just beginning to understand how marijuana might affect the
Not knowing what marijuana does leaves us in the position of having to say
that until we have more evidence, we will not be recommending this drug. Unless
I see very large studies that show conditions like epilepsy can be treated with
marijuana, I will not recommend it because I do not believe it works. I will not
prescribe it on the basis of anecdotal findings.
The Chairman: I was asking about Mr. Parker, from Ontario, who was
able to convince two levels of courts about the effect of the medical use of
marijuana on his epilepsy problem. He was able to convince the two courts that
he was right.
Dr. Campbell: My problem with that is that he did not convince the
medical profession. I am responsible as a physician for doing what I think is
the best thing and not doing harm. Until I am absolutely certain of that, I will
not act. I appreciate the significance of the courts, but I do not think the
courts can decide how we practice good medicine in this country. That depends
upon a medical tradition that goes back to William Osler and beyond.
Mr. Haddad: The rationale for the existence of the Collège des
médecins du Québec is to protect the public. The College has also strongly
recommended that doctors not prescribe marijuana. Based on their studies, they
felt that it was an error for doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical use.
Our position is not there to remove a treatment that helps patients but to
protect the population from a treatment that we believe has undesirable side
effects from a physical and social point of view. God knows that as doctors if a
treatment is effective and there are few negative consequences we will surely be
if favour. The position set forth by our two associations, by certain colleges
across the country and by the Canadian Medical Protection Association all
converge towards this opinion that it is not desirable. We can supply studies
for both sides of the issue but the question remains. I greatly respect what you
have given me as information but the medical profession is not convinced by the
The Chairman: One of our organizations's concerns is about the legal
responsibility of doctors who prescribe marijuana. Could you elaborate on that?
Mr. Haddad: We have no position on the legal aspects. The one that
does that is the Canadian Medical Protection Association, located in Ottawa,
where the vast majority of doctors have civil liability insurance. That
association has also recommended that Canadian doctors not fill out parts 3 and
4 of the form where the doctor must attest that he has discussed the risks and
benefits of the medication with the patient and informed him that this substance
has not received the full conformity approval of ordinary medication. They have
recommended the same thing regarding part 4, in which the doctor must recommend
an appropriate dose, given the insufficient information about doses. The
Canadian Medical Association did not say that, but the association for
physician's insurance did.
The Chairman: Should the fact that a patient has signed a waiver
because there is no conformity notice not come under this civil liability
Mr. Haddad: I am not a lawyer but a gastro-entorologist. From the
point of view of that association that has all the lawyers and judicial
expertise available, the recommendation to the doctor is to leave parts 3 and 4
blank. I must trust this association, which is there to provide legal protection
The Chairman: I would like to ask a question, but feel free to answer
or not. What is the relationship between the pharmaceutical products companies
and the doctors in terms of cannabis?
Mr. Haddad: To my knowledge, there is none.
The Chairman: There is no drug-producing company that has isolated
certain cannabis elements, no pharmaceutical company that informs you or
participates in your discussions?
Mr. Haddad: I am not aware of any but I can certainly find out.
The Chairman: Agreed. We will look at your briefs and will examine
them closely. We will compare them to our notes and write to you hoping for
answers. We will publish your answers as well as the questions that we will ask.
We will conclude our session tody by welcoming a panel of police officers
representing the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police . This panel includes
Mr. Michael J. Boyd, Chair of the Committee on addiction and Deputy Chief with
the Toronto Police Service, and Mr. Barry King, former Chair of the Committee on
addiction and Chief of the Brockville Police Service. With Mr King is Mr. Robert
G. Lesser, Chief Superintendent of the RCMP.
Thank you for accepting our invitation and for the interest you have shown in
Please begin with a statement, which we will follow with questions. We will
also take the opportunity to write to you if there are more specific or
technical questions we want to ask. The questions and your answers will be
posted on the Web site of the committee.
Mr. Michael J. Boyd, Chair of the Drug Abuse Committee and Deputy Chief of
the Toronto Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: I
would like to begin today by thanking you, on behalf the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police, for inviting our participation. Our former chair, Chief Barry
King of the Brockville Police Service, joins me today on my right. On my left is
vice-chair of the committee, Chief Superintendent Robert Lesser of the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police. Together, we have over 100 years of police experience.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has 932 members, representing
the leadership of 350 police services in Canada with 55,000 police officers. Our
motto is: ``To lead progressive change in policing.''
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, we are certain that you know at
this point in your inquiry that the issues around illegal drugs are extremely
broad in scope and multi-faceted. We received two important questions from the
committee regarding the impact of drug laws and the evaluation of resources
expended, and I will provide our responses near the end of our presentation.
Of course, we will make our best efforts to provide answers to your questions
today. If you have questions that we are unable to answer, we want you to know
that we will sincerely endeavour to provide those answers in the days following.
In policing, we are exposed to all aspects of both the supply and demand
sides of the illegal drug spectrum. On the supply side, we investigate and we
understand the cultivation and/or production facet; and we investigate and
understand the importation or, as we are now seeing in Canada, the exportation
of illegal drugs.
We investigate the high-level, mid-level and street-level trafficking, and we
understand those facets. We investigate the violence associated with the illicit
drug trafficking at all levels. We investigate and understand the connection
between illicit drugs and organized crime and the link to terrorism.
On the demand side, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police sees the
experimentation with, and investigates the use of, illicit drugs by our young
people. We see first-hand the increased threat to our youth at risk. We see the
impact and influence of illicit drugs on their education and development and the
peer pressure placed upon them to engage in their use. We see the effects of
addiction and the need to feed the habit. We investigate the violence and
victimization. We investigate the crime and disorder in our neighbourhoods and
respond to our communities' pleas for help.
While we recognize the involvement of other groups in society in facets of
the spectrum, the police are the only group that is a constant in all facets.
From being up close to each of these facets, we see clearly the impacts of each.
With the knowledge gained from our involvement, the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police has the unique opportunity to step back a little and see the
big picture. We see how each facet connects with the other, the domino effect
that changes in one have on another and, of course, the overall impact of
illicit drug use and drug abuse on Canada and Canadians.
It is from this perspective and this experience that we make our respectful
submissions. Our presentation today focuses on three core themes: one, that
illicit drugs, including cannabis, are harmful; two, that we need to find
effective solutions together; and three, that we need leadership to champion our
Message number one is that drugs, including cannabis, are harmful. The
cannabis used today is up to 500 per cent higher in THC — that is a range
between 5 per cent to 31 per cent — than the cannabis most adults remember
from the 1960s and 1970s. There is considerable misinformation about the
physiological consequences of cannabis use. There is no doubt that heavy use has
negative health consequences. The most important are in the following areas:
respiratory damage, physical coordination, pregnancy and postnatal development,
memory and cognition, and psychiatric effects. We are aware in this country of
the harm to health from cigarette smoking. Does it not follow that there is the
same type of harm from smoking cannabis, plus the negative health consequences
There is much obvious harm to the users of other illicit drugs such as
cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, to name but a few.
Cannabis use is on the rise and approaching levels not seen since the 1970s.
We make the point that our current prevention efforts are insufficient to
counter the factors driving the escalation in use seen in the late 1980s. A
student survey conducted in Ontario by the Addiction Research Foundation, now
known as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in 1995 found that 23 per
cent of students reported use in the past year, up from 13 per cent in 1993. The
centre did a more recent study in 1999 and found the percentage was up to 29 per
Rates of use can vary in different parts of the country. For example,
reported rates of cannabis use are particularly high in street youth, ranging
from 66 per cent in Halifax to 92 per cent in Toronto.
It logically follows that more people using drugs will increase the number of
people being harmed by them. Cannabis is believed to be the foundation upon
which most young people begin experimenting with illicit drugs. It is therefore
essential to understand cannabis in context, within the drug use continuum, and
not solely in isolation. Although there is no definitive evidence, recent
developments suggest an acute withdrawal syndrome associated with cannabis use
and a strong indication that continued use would avoid the return of those
The ``gateway'' concept has been around for a long time, and again, although
there is no definitive evidence, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has
reported that neuro-toxicological research suggests that marijuana ``may alter
the brain in ways that increase the susceptibility to other drugs.''
Many believe that cannabis use provides the impetus for those people looking
to increase the psychotropic effect a drug has on them. The 1999 Ontario Student
Drug Use Survey also showed increases in the use of ecstasy, from 2.9 per cent
in 1997 to 7.3 per cent in 1999. There were increases in the use of cocaine,
from 2.7 per cent in 1997 to 6.4 per cent in 1999. There was an increase in
methamphetamine use, from 2.1 per cent in 1997 to 7.2 per cent in 1999.
Treatment counsellors reported increasing trends among youthful clients of
use of cocaine and heroin. The Addiction Foundation of Manitoba released the
results of a study known as the Manitoba Student Survey. That study indicated 81
per cent drank alcohol and 40 per cent reported using drugs in the past year. Of
those students reporting their use of drugs, 58 per cent indicated they do so in
cars, and 48 per cent reported using drugs during regular school hours.
Deaths from heroin overdoses are high. While the statistics from across the
country indicate that in some areas, deaths from heroin overdoses have declined,
the rates are still unacceptable. In some areas, such as the City of Toronto,
the average number of heroin deaths annually is between 36 and 40. In 1994,
there was a spike upward, to 67 deaths, and due to various factors, deaths have
decreased since then. Risk managers would say, ``If it is predictable, it is
preventable.'' With the increasing use of ecstasy, deaths associated with it are
also on the increase.
Social harm from illicit drugs is suffered by our youth in their development,
especially vulnerable youth or youth at risk. As individuals move through the
continuum of use or abuse, the impact on them and on society is greater, as are
the costs. The social harm from illicit drug use is not only to the user, but
also to innocent victims, their families and communities — for example, from
cannabis users impaired while driving a vehicle or operating machinery.
Although occasional use often has relatively few negative effects, it is a
myth to consider cannabis a benign drug. In the Manitoba Student Survey, most
students indicated they do not condone drinking and driving, but are less
concerned about the use of cannabis and driving. A recent Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health study found that it is now more acceptable among young people
to toke and drive than it is to drink and drive. This speaks to the weakened
perception of risk while also attesting to the positive benefits of an anti
In the Manitoba Student Survey, 9 per cent of students reported having
experienced moderate or serious problems as a result of family members using
drugs, and over half the students in the study considered alcohol and drug use
to be a major problem at their school.
The social harm from other illicit drugs presents a different picture. In
some communities or neighbourhoods across the country, the harm caused to
innocent victims of violent crime and property crime is very great. Victims of
violent crime are often physically hurt and psychologically scarred. This
results from drug-addicted users committing crimes to get money to feed their
habit. Often, addicts will frequent an area where a supply of drugs can be
purchased. Sometimes these are areas of high crime and high victimization, where
the supply meets the demand. These areas often suffer from disorder, sometimes
both physical and social. In many cases, communities and neighbourhoods are in
decay. The result is an elevated level of fear, a real or perceived drop in the
level of safety, and a diminished quality of life for everyone living and
The economic harm from illicit drug use generally has an impact on social
services. Many times, areas frequented by drug-addicted people will experience
falling property values. We also need to consider the costs incurred by the
police in responding to and working with communities demanding, and in some
cases, pleading, for assistance in reducing crime, victimization and disorder.
That, of course, activates the criminal justice process, which adds to the
Given the existing research on the escalating rates of cannabis use in the
general population of young people, our street youth and our youth at risk,
coupled with knowledge about the harms associated with drug use, we know that
our problem is growing. We know that our collective efforts at drug use
prevention, enforcement, rehabilitation and research are not achieving the
results Canada requires. This is not the time to consider backing away from the
problem. In fact, now is the time to lean into the problem. Legalization is not
the solution. We must not consider legalizing any illicit drugs just because
some say that the penalty is too harsh or we are spending too much money. Now is
the time to mobilize and maximize our collective efforts and enhance our work
together by doing what is effective.
According to the 1996 Monitoring the Future study by the University of
Michigan, today's teens are less likely to consider drug use harmful and risky,
are more likely to believe that drug use is widespread and tolerated, and feel
more pressure to try illegal drugs than at any other time in the last decade.
The 1999 Ontario School Survey revealed some of the same results. It showed
the weakening perception of risk of harm, an important factor. With respect to
trying cocaine, the numbers diminished from 43 per cent in 1991 to 34 per cent
in 1999. It showed a weakening moral disapproval of drug use. Another important
factor in cocaine use was the percentage decrease from 55 per cent in 1991 to 42
per cent in 1999. The same study showed an increased perceived availability of
cocaine, from 14 per cent in 1991 to 20 per cent in 1999, and an increased
perception of availability for cannabis, up from 29 per cent in 1991 to 53 per
cent in 1999.
The implication of these perceptions is that these factors influence an
increase or decrease in the levels of drug use. Legalization of illicit drugs
would only weaken these perceptions further. It tells our children that adults
believe drugs can be used responsibly. It suggests that there is less risk and
that drugs are more acceptable to society. This conclusion is based upon the
level of sanction of a drug. If a drug is considered legal, then there is no
sanction, and that would lead to a weakened perception of risk.
Another influence is the media and the power of communication. Media coverage
of individuals smoking marijuana in cannabis clubs tells kids that drug taking
can be fun. Within this atmosphere, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to
reach children and convince them that doing drugs is harmful. Increased drug
availability and drug use will worsen our crime problems. Increased drug use has
terrible consequences for our citizens.
Message number two is that we need to find effective solutions together. No
group working in isolation can solve the problems associated with illicit drug
use and abuse.
Effective solutions will only be achieved if the various groups in society
work together, taking a problem-solving approach to the issues. As police
leaders in Canada, members of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are
committed to problem solving, partnership and working on the issues of illicit
In our model of policing, we have identified the following five category
groups that are essential to problem solving on matters involving society:
first, political leaders; second, the social and government agencies; third, the
community, both business and residential; fourth, the media, because of the
power of communications; and fifth, the police. We refer to this group as ``The
The CACP believes that an integrated approach that includes the five partner
groups at all three levels of government is essential. We further believe that
the approach must be multi-faceted to achieve the desired outcomes.
We believe that problem identification is an essential step in the success of
that process. Simply put, the voices of informed people, from the appropriate
agencies or groups selected from the respective ``Big 5'' categories, are
necessary to ensure problem identification and problem solving.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has been, is now and will
continue to be at the table as a partner in this process. We have been partners
with other groups working on drug-related issues and these partnerships work.
Take, for example, the change in attitude and behaviour since the drinking and
driving campaign some years ago. It has not eliminated the problem, but it has
achieved a dramatic reduction in impaired driving.
We have had some small successes in the four key target areas where we focus
our efforts — namely, prevention, enforcement, rehabilitation and research.
Each of these areas has subcategories.
Canada is doing many things right. Many of the groups in our society have
done and are presently doing the right things. What we need to do now, though,
is tweak the things that are working and make them even more effective. We also
need to combine our efforts. We need to multiply our effectiveness together
through problem solving. The following are just some examples of ways to improve
on the present.
The legislation currently in place has both a preventive and a deterrent
effect. Due, however, to a lack of strategies, resources and programs, the
present prevention phase is not adequately addressing the escalating number of
young people starting or continuing to use illicit drugs. The existing
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is necessary in its current form to support
prevention and deterrence, as experienced with laws used to support behaviour
changes in impaired driving and the use of seat belts and infant car seats. The
charges laid for possession of cannabis average less than one for each police
officer in Canada on an annual basis. A significant number are laid incidental
to an arrest on another charge under the Criminal Code.
The legislation must convey the right message to the public, that there is no
tolerance of illicit drugs, including cannabis. We need to work on the problems
that arise from perceptions about the likelihood of offenders getting caught or
the lack of consequences when they are. We also need to put our priority on the
potential of prevention, because stopping illicit drug use before it starts is
the best point in the continuum at which to intervene.
We need to improve our efforts to warn of the harm caused by using illicit
drugs, including cannabis. It is important to advise of the harm to individuals,
families, communities and society at large.
We need to develop and communicate more powerful messages with the kind of
impact seen in the drinking and driving and anti-smoking campaigns and explore
the use of effective vehicles of communication that reach our target audiences.
We need to implement the lessons learned from recent research conducted by
the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, advising our educators about what
works and what does not when it comes to the design and delivery of effective
drug education. We need to ensure that we are not wasting valuable resources on
programs that are ineffective.
We need to explore ways to encourage people abusing illicit drugs to get
treatment without relying on police enforcement to apprehend and stream abusers
into programs of alternative measures. These programs need to be properly
resourced and treatment needs to be timely.
We need to implement more programs such as the drug court in Toronto to
divert offenders who are suitable candidates for treatment and other forms of
rehabilitation. We need to achieve better outcomes in the areas of adequately
funded diversion programs and post-treatment integration and support.
We need to enhance treatment programs for incarcerated offenders,
complemented by a strong community reintegration strategy. This is necessary to
prevent offenders from returning to a life of crime, forcing the criminal
justice system to repeat the cycle. Further studies need to be conducted in
areas not yet sufficiently explored to identify best practices for diversion
We need to find ways to offer training to people in enforcement and
rehabilitation when new techniques, such as the drug recognition expertise, are
identified. These are just some areas where we can be even more effective.
Our third message is that we need leadership to champion our collective
efforts. Some people see illicit drug use and drug abuse as a law enforcement
problem. Other people see it as a health problem. Actually, both perspectives
are correct. However, each perspective relates to different aspects of the
illicit drug spectrum, and no single leader has emerged.
We need a champion at the federal level and in Parliament, someone who sees
the connection between both perspectives, can merge the interests, and who will
carry the torch and take a leadership role on this issue. We need someone to set
the vision for Canada and lead the development of a new national drug strategy
with a clear policy targeting prevention, one that sets clear, short-term and
long-term goals and makes clear the importance of the ``Big 5'' groups working
in collaboration. We need a drug strategy that reinforces the importance of
taking a problem-solving approach that is properly funded for action.
Many of us have come together in partnership because the need was
self-evident. We need Parliament's leadership and a compelling vision.
I should like to return to our core themes: first, illicit drugs are harmful;
second, we need to find solutions together; and third, we need leadership to
champion our efforts.
Mr. Chairman and honourable senators, we applaud the leadership the Senate is
demonstrating by establishing the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. We should
like to make the following recommendations for your consideration.
First, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police recommends that the
Government of Canada retain cannabis as an illegal substance. We do not support
the legalization of any currently illicit drugs.
Second, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police strongly urges that the
Special Committee on Illegal Drugs form a partnership with the House of Commons
committee to set the foundation for a revitalized Canadian drug strategy,
bringing together federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels of
government for a safer and healthier Canada and championed through federal
Third, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police strongly recommends that
a new Canada drug strategy receive the necessary profile and dedicated resources
to deal with the illicit drug problem in Canada by reducing the demand for and
supply of drugs based on the four pillars of prevention, enforcement,
rehabilitation and research.
This concludes our remarks. The committee did request that we address two
questions. First, how are our drug laws impacting police services? Second, could
we evaluate the resources expended on enforcement of the drug laws?
In response to the first, we believe that the drug laws are fine as they
currently are, with one exception. We question the 30-gram limit. Problems with
legislation are arising out of recent and not-so-recent case law. Those have
created a number of challenges for policing.
The second question, regarding the evaluation of the resources expended on
the enforcement of these laws, is always a difficult one for us. It depends on
whether importing, exporting or cultivation is at issue. We know that more
obviously needs to be done. The resources that we are putting into it never
really keep abreast of the amount of illegal drugs being imported into the
However, let's look at another example of law enforcement efforts in the
community. Certain cities and communities need the help of police, and other
people, to prevent deterioration of their neighbourhoods. The people who live
there demand a response from the police. They will plead for assistance.
When we work with other partners in neighbourhoods and communities, we do
make a difference. We are not sure how to measure that on an evaluation scale,
but the communities have told us that our efforts do make a difference.
We are involved in so many aspects of the drug spectrum. All the work that we
are putting into our drug enforcement and crime prevention efforts with our
partners is obviously not enough.
We fall back to the position that research is required in order to develop
methods of evaluating our effectiveness. Research could help us in policing as
well as in rehabilitation, treatment, prevention and other facets of our focus
on illicit drugs.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Boyd. Do your colleagues have other
Mr. Barry King, Former Chair of the Drug Abuse Committee and Chief of the
Brockville Police Service, Canadian Association of Police Chiefs: Honourable
senators, I should like to talk for a moment about the role of prevention. We
handed out one small keepsake that resulted from a partnership with Canada Post
and the United Nations. Commemorative stamp kits were originally made for the
millennium. There were some left over that were obviously not marketable after
January 1, 2001.
The kits were provided to us. We decided that most importantly, we needed to
get out a clear message to our young people across this country in both official
languages. We decided to do that because, since 1997 with the drug strategy that
is in effect now, very few resources have been allocated for proactive education
Think of the last time that you saw a drug prevention message on television.
Probably one that many of us would recognize is the fried egg commercial
representing what happens to your brain. Unfortunately, that was an American ad.
I cannot recall a recent anti-drug ad on television.
We have produced proactive materials on many other issues in our country.
There are campaigns on tobacco and breast cancer. We really have very little
material in the drug prevention area.
We are not saying that we want more money for policing and arresting people.
We agree with the current balance. We think that not only crime prevention, but
also drug awareness is a vital tool in making a difference.
Canada Post and the United Nations provided 2.3 million stamp kits. The
message to the young people is, ``You are 100 per cent of Canada's future.'' We
went to every Grade 4, 5 and 6 class in Canada. This month and next month,
police officers will deliver the kits with the message that not only are the
children 100 per cent of our future, they are only 20 per cent of our
We want them to have that simple, clear message. There are so many confusing
and negative messages out there that children do not know what to think any
As honourable senators probably know, our committee came out with a drug
policy using alternative measures in 1999. It was taken to be decriminalization.
Since then, it has been misinterpreted around the world. Our message is
difficult to communicate at the best of times.
We believe, first, that there is a role for police in prevention and
awareness as well as in enforcement. We have excellent partnerships with
teachers, parents and community groups. Community policing has really started to
come together in the last 10 years.
We have not only opened the doors of our police stations for people to walk
in and make a complaint; we have opened our minds to listen. We are trying to
give you the reaction from our officers, who go into 17,000 schools throughout
the country, five days a week, to talk with parents, teachers and students about
what they want.
One of our problems is that some of our programs are dated. Very little
effort is put into the prevention aspect. I do not want to be quoted exactly on
dollars. However, a report about a year ago indicated that the United States
spent about $12 per capita on prevention and awareness. In Canada, the
comparative figure was less than $1. I think it was in the area of 20 cents or
Substance abuse negatively affects our quality of life. We want safer and
healthier communities. We want informed young people. We believe that they can
better make appropriate decisions if they have positive and factual information,
not scare tactics.
We use a revised, Canadian version of DARE, which is not the program most
people have been hearing about for years. We are achieving success and
acceptance with it.
One of the biggest problems is that our programs have never had an evaluation
component. Whenever we had the opportunity to implement new programs, it was
done ``quick and dirty.'' There was very little money. Our only approach was to
pump something out and see if it worked.
We have all learned that if you are going to do something, do it properly. We
should set up new programs with evaluative components in order to know that we
are doing the right things at the right time for the right people. In other
words, programs should consider the message, the messenger and effectiveness.
Is there a value in prevention? Obviously, we cannot, with scientific
accuracy, measure every single response of police officers. Mr. Chairman asked
that question of our chairman. How do we evaluate this?
We assign an officer to work in the area of drugs.
After a while, the work involves drugs and intelligence, and soon we are so
busy that it includes terrorism. Over the course of the year, how do you
determine how that person is actually doing? That is one of the problems that
As for prevention, we will only be able to get a complete handle on the
subject over time. It will be a 5-, 10-, 15-year time frame once the right
evaluation components and research have been put into play. The Canadian
Institute for Health Research was established only recently. We do not believe
that the federal government, or anyone, should be making changes to the law
without effective research, first and foremost. We need the best information to
make the best recommendations.
We want to talk about partnerships. Policing in Canada is, without doubt,
about new partnerships. Our drug committee began about 17 years ago with seven
or eight chiefs of police. Until 10 years ago, there were only 10 or 12 chiefs
of police, one from each province, and that was it. We now have 25 members
encompassing the areas of health, justice, the Solicitor General, private
researchers, medical doctors and lawyers.
People provide advice. That is one reason why, in the last five to seven
years, you have possibly seen a more open approach from the Canadian Association
of Chiefs of Police to this issue. Ten or 15 years ago, we would have been
sitting here saying that we needed more money and more police officers. That is
not what we need today. We have police officers and we have legislation that,
while never perfect, does provide the tools that we require.
However, we are saying, let's not lessen those tools; we still require them.
Much like on the seat belt issue, we need the legislation for enforcement, when
required. We do not want to over-enforce or over-police, but we also do not want
to under-police. We believe that people's lives and community safety are our
concern. Two of our three recommendations deal directly with the need for a
revitalized drug strategy, with the proper resources and potential for action
and that is not just a document describing a philosophy.
Mr. Robert G. Lesser, Vice Chair, Drug Abuse Committee, Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police: Honourable senators, I should just like to
pick up on what Deputy Chief Boyd and Mr. King talked about regarding the
importance of working with the community, with all the different partners. As
Mr. Boyd was making his comments, I happened to look through the presentation by
the Canadian Medical Association. Much of what they said is similar to what we
are saying. It is interesting that the CMA and the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police, unbeknownst to one another, are giving such similar messages.
I know that committee members have been working diligently for a number of
months, and that numerous themes are beginning to emerge.
Mr. Boyd: One of the documents in our package is a joint statement on
illegal drugs from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian
Police Association. This is a very significant step for us, because it unites
officers at all levels of policing in Canada on a shared position on illegal
This was recently agreed to and we wanted to include it. As well, there is a
document that provides a history of drug abuse awareness, prevention programming
in schools and the work of the CACP, as well as a list of our drug abuse
committee members. That shows you the diversity of professionals with whom we
have been working, as Mr. King mentioned moments ago.
Senator Maheu: I should like to deal with the 2001 report of the
Auditor General of Canada, entitled ``Illicit Drugs — the Federal Government's
It points out that 95 per cent of the federal government's expenditures to
address the problem of illicit drugs were aimed at supply reduction, enforcement
or interdiction. This money went to your forces. Are you now requesting
additional funds? Do you believe that you have met the government's commitment
to drug reduction with the allocations that you have received to date?
Mr. Lesser: First, as we said in our presentation, many of our
recommendations closely support those of the Auditor General for a new and
revitalized drug strategy that looks at performance measurement and those kinds
of issues. That figure of 95 per cent refers only to federal resources. There
was about $170 million for the RCMP costs, $170 million or so for Corrections
Canada, $70 million or so for Justice Canada and only $15 million for Health
Canada. That is really only one pillar. Education is not reflected in those
figures because it is a provincial jurisdiction.
Senator Maheu: Did you not receive money from the provinces as well as
from the municipalities?
Mr. Lesser: Do you mean for enforcement?
Senator Maheu: Yes.
Mr. Lesser: Yes, but not for education. The police do educational
programs in schools and those costs have not been captured. The health costs
have not been captured, other than the small amount that Health Canada, as a
federal oversight department, spends.
My point is that I believe that 95 per cent figure is skewed. What is
happening out there is not reflected in much of the funding. There are
undoubtedly additional provincial and municipal enforcement funds, but that does
not capture any education funds.
Senator Maheu: If I could interject, I have one question. Do you mean
that the provinces are not funding any of the education?
Mr. Lesser: I am suggesting that the Auditor General's report did not
reflect what municipalities spent on their education and health care services.
The Auditor General's report did not reflect — and this was not intended —
what the province has paid. I am suggesting that to say that 95 per cent of all
money spent to deal with drugs in Canada is for enforcement is inaccurate
because of federal mandates versus provincial mandates.
Do we need more money or do we have enough or too much? There is always more
to be done. The first step, though, is to take a look at what we have now, not
just in policing, but also in prevention, education, treatment and
rehabilitation, and coordinate that better.
We have said in this presentation, and I believe other presentations have
also said, that we need leadership that will bring the three levels of
government together — federal, provincial and municipal. There are many good
activities happening, but they are not coordinated. A significant amount of
money is being spent without knowing what other money is being spent by other
levels of government. The challenge for this committee, and for the country, is
to develop a strategy that brings together the four pillars and the different
levels of government.
As a starting point, we could probably manage with the money that we have —
certainly for enforcement. There is need for other money for coordination and
health and education. Our country does not have a national prevention education
program in every school. That is in major difference between us and other
countries that we heard about, such as Australia and the Netherlands.
There is a need for better use of the existing resources. Once we have
identified the gaps and what is happening, we will be in a better position to
see where more money is needed.
Senator Maheu: In any event, you are asking for additional funds. When
you say that there is not enough money being put into education, do you not feel
that is a provincial responsibility? We cannot intervene. Will you ask the
provincial governments for additional funds for education?
Mr. Lesser: We addressed all levels of government in our resolutions,
as well as the Prime Minister, federal ministers and their provincial
Senator Maheu: A lot of money is being put into drug programs. Police
prefer to handle drug cases, from what we have heard, rather than robbery,
murder, rape, et cetera. Is that because of additional funding you have
received, or is it easier to pursue young children in school and arrest them for
simple possession rather than go after the bigger picture?
Mr. King: I mentioned that there are 57,000 police officers and less
than one drug charge per officer per year in the entire country. We did a study
in Ottawa two years ago and found that 92 per cent of those possession charges
were incidental to another crime. For example, people were arrested in a stolen
car and had drugs on them at the time, so they were charged with stealing the
car plus possession. In other cases, they would be arrested for break and enter
and found to have drugs on them.
As I am from a smaller community, I can see what we are doing on a daily
basis. We have approximately 150 charges a year, which is less than one every
two days, from the officers on bike patrol who get a complaint about liquor,
noise or something else. They are not stopping people on the street and
In British Columbia, before a charge is laid, the evidence is put together
and analysed by the federal prosecutor, because of court timing and other
factors. In Ontario or Alberta, someone may be charged with possession for the
purpose, but in British Columbia, it would show up as a possession charge
because they want to deal with it in a summary conviction manner.
Officers want to keep control of the drug situation because parents, teachers
and students are worried. However, when it comes to robberies and crimes of
violence, we must put our resources there because they will be on the report
card from our communities.
The number of drug charges could be much higher if we dedicated more
resources to that. We have so many other priorities that change on a regular
basis that some people look at the number and say it is a ridiculous. It is a
high number, but from our experience, the charges are usually incidental to
Senator Maheu: Is there an inordinate number of arrests of young
people under 21 for simple possession, with no trafficking or other crimes
involved? Do you keep statistics? I am thinking of Ontario.
Mr. King: Statistics Canada has the stats for each province. It is not
that an officer will drive by if you are over 21, but will stop you and take
your drugs if you are not. It is usually because of involvement in another event
that you end up with these charges. In some cases, it could be something as
simple as a skate boarding complaint, which neighbours are making all the time.
A young person gets stopped and another problem develops, or they are wanted for
something, or they have breached a condition from another incident before the
court. They are then arrested and searched and found to have drugs with them.
The Chairman: Mr. King, you mentioned the $12 the U.S. is spending on
prevention. Do you think it helps?
Mr. King: I am not party to their evaluations, but I can tell you that
10 or 15 years ago, Health Canada put significant resources into putting out a
consistent message across the country. This was in partnership with Shoppers
Drug Mart and many others and cost about $1 million a year for five years. There
was spaced repetition in the media, including TV ads.
This type of proactive information and expenditure is now missing. Young
people need a tool kit, they need information that they can absorb and turn over
in their minds, so that they have something to draw on when challenged by their
peers. Nancy Reagan started a program to ``just say no'' to drugs. If you
cannot, and so many other people cannot, what do you do? You have to do
Is it worthwhile to spend money on public awareness on a consistent, national
level? I would say yes. I could not give you an evaluation of its value in
comparison with other strategies, but certainly its absence is a very negative
The Chairman: We are firm believers in proper education for the entire
population. That will be a strong recommendation. However, do you think it
affects the level of use? If people are informed of the consequences of abusing
a substance, will they limit themselves to more recreational use? No one here
can tell me that in the U.S., even if they are spending $12 per capita on
prevention, it has a direct effect on the level of use. Their level of use and
ours is the same.
Mr. King: The United States is spending that money, but I believe they
are much further down the problem road than we are. We do not want to get to
that point. If you compare the number of prisons and the number of people
arrested and locked up, our crime rate is not at that level.
The Chairman: We are concerned with looking at pre-judicial numbers,
such as the prevalence of use among the general population. We have studied
other countries' programs, laws and policies, and we are almost convinced that
these do not affect use. If we compare heavily prohibitionist states such as
Sweden or the U.S. with liberal countries like France, the Netherlands, Germany
or Switzerland, the levels of drug use are the same. Something else is
Prevention includes the education of the population, and we all agree with
that, but what is the effect on the prevalence of the substance? It would be
fine to spend $12 per capita in Canada on education if it helped the population
to understand what they were doing. If we think it will create a drug-free
country, then we are dreaming in technicolour.
Mr. King: I do not think we said that. Almost every document we put
out in the last five years talks about research. We believe there should be
appropriate research on the impacts before the decisions are made. As you say, I
do not think you can zero in and say if you spend so much, you will get
The vast majority of young people in this country are good people. There are
some that are already over the edge, some fence sitters, but many are terrific
people. A combination of approaches is needed, just as with drinking and
driving, infant car seats and seat belt use. If some of the links in the chain
are missing, then you are not going to have any success. However, if it can
deter my grandchildren, I will be happy.
Mr. Lesser: I do not have the figures with me, but within the last six
months the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the States came out with
statistics that showed a significant decrease in the use of certain drugs in the
The Chairman: It was 1 per cent.
Mr. Lesser: One per cent in the size of the United States population,
if it is your child or mine, is significant. I do not think anyone will see a
change in a two-, five- or ten-year study. A $15 million study over 15 years on
tobacco smoking in the United States found at the end of that study that it made
no difference whether this particular program existed or not, that the whole
community will be affected. Both the parents and the kids will have to be
Kids can be exposed to the best programs in the world, about safe driving,
about smoking regular cigarettes or about doing illegal drugs, but if there is a
certain environment at home or if they are genetically predisposed to addiction,
the behaviour will not change inside one generation. These are
multi-generational challenges that we have to face.
We have to start somewhere, start doing something. It is easy to say, ``We
have a problem. Let's legalize it, and it will no longer be a problem.'' It is a
much more difficult challenge to look at how to answer this problem in the long
term. We may not see a difference for our kids, but our grandkids, I would hope,
will see a difference. It is long-term change that we need to look at.
Mr. Boyd: When we look at what we are doing with our prevention
programs, I do not think we as a country are satisfied that we have been making
our best efforts — however you would measure that — and that the kinds of
programs we have in place right now are effective. Part of the reason I hold
that view is that the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is just concluding
some research about determining what does and what does not work. Right across
the country we have been making our best efforts to give our young people some
kind of training, education and awareness, but much of this deals with training
in the affective domain, that is, changing attitudes and changing behaviours.
That is a tough area of training and education in the first instance.
Right now, everyone is sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting for this
report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to tell us what it is we
are doing. When we get the report, I know that educators, teachers, health
officials, treatment counsellors and police officers will likely rejig the
existing programs to try to start doing things that will be effective. It gets
back to research and using that research to change what we do and make it more
Senator Maheu: How much education is given to police officers dealing
with youth? I get back to simple possession: What type of education are police
officers given? Are police officers simply taught to throw the book at a youth
because it is illegal to have joints in your pocket? I am not talking about
anything attached to other crimes. They have bought the joints, yes, but is
anyone educating the police on simple possession?
Mr. Boyd: Our police officers are so busy responding to calls for
service and responding to crimes of violence that they just do not have the time
to be able to focus in on possession of marijuana.
Going back to what Chief King said, when police officers are investigating
other types of crimes and make an arrest, they may be confronted with people who
are found to be in possession of marijuana.
I can definitely speak for police officers in Toronto. They just do not have
time to focus in on possession of marijuana charges. The one exception to that
is officers who work in local divisions, local communities, trying to respond to
the needs of that community. Those officers go in and spend time trying to bring
that community some relief. However, by and large, we do not have the time these
days to focus on possession.
Nevertheless, I hear time and again that people in various areas have this
perception that the police really want to do this. Frankly, we are stretched to
the limit and we are fighting fires out there.
Senator Maheu: That is in our very large cities. I wonder if Chief
King could tell us something about some of the smaller cities.
Mr. King: I used to live in Toronto and Mississauga — which is just
a collection of a number of communities. In areas like ours, smaller things
might become more important to the community. For example, on a Friday night, 10
skateboarders downtown on the veterans' monument can cause as much ire as a
major incident in a big city. We get calls from the community telling us to move
the skateboarders on or to get down there and deal with them. While there was no
intent in the first place of seeking out these kids and asking them whether they
had drugs in their pockets, we end up finding drugs often.
You asked about education for officers. We must remember that drugs are an
illegal substance. Are we telling our officers to go out and turn a blind eye?
No, we cannot do that. If they find an illegal substance, they have to seize it
and turn it in.
We have in our previous resolutions and in this statement indicated
alternative measures. We have no difficulty with alternative measures if they
are well thought out and comprehensive — not moving the line in the sand
without the other things that support it. Our fear would be to have diversion to
treatment or to counselling, for example, and then to find out that there is a
seven-month wait for counselling. We all know they will be back in our system,
maybe twice, before they ever get to counselling. Those are our concerns. We
want to ensure a comprehensive assessment of what possibly can work.
We started to move the bar in 1999 with our policy. We are certainly not
advocating legalization, but we all need a toolbox. We need other things that
will work. One point that we have stated loud and clear for the last couple of
years is that we do not believe a criminal record for a young person for
possession or summary conviction is appropriate. We believe there are other
methods of dealing with that pre-charge if there are no special circumstances
involved in it.
Senator Maheu: Part of the reason I was asking the question is that
some of these young people do end up with a criminal record on their file, and
when, if ever, will they get rid of it?
Mr. Lesser: If we look at the RCMP training out in Regina, first, many
of our recruits are in their mid-20s, up to age 27, so they have grown up in a
society that is perhaps more liberal. They are not coming in necessarily with
the mentality that they have to put everyone who smokes a joint in jail to begin
with. I think they come to us with a different view.
All police departments as well as community-based policing in Canada are
taught to look at a number of options. One of the scenarios that I know we teach
out in Regina is a group of kids smoking joints in the local shopping centre.
The recruits are taught that, while they can keep writing them up and sending
them to court, they can also deal with the community, deal with the kids, deal
with the stores and deal with the recreational centres. They can take a look at
whether there are other ways in which the community as a whole can deal with
that particular situation. That is how they are taught to deal with things.
We have talked about statistics, and I know that is a preoccupation with the
committee and other people when looking at these areas. Many figures have been
bandied about. I would caution anyone who look sat those figures to take a good
look and understand what they mean.
For instance, these figures of 55,000 people charged with possession. When I
looked at the Auditor General's report, he talked about cannabis possession in
1999 of just over 21,000. A figure of 21,000 in a country of 30 million is not a
high number. However, of the 21,000, we know that there are significant numbers
of people charged with cultivation of 200 marijuana plants, and the charges have
been reduced to simple possession. There are also other cases that the gentlemen
here have talked about, as well as people originally charged with possession for
the purpose of trafficking reduced down to possession.
The fact is that if a youth is 17 or under he or she is being charged under
the Young Offenders Act. At the end of the day, when that youth turns 18, there
will be no criminal record. Hence, those people in high school who are convicted
of simple possession will not have a criminal record, unless, once they are 18
and over, they repeat those kinds of offences. There is a lot of intentional and
unintentional interpretation of statistics.
Senator Maheu: Are you saying that the figure is not 60,000, that it
is more like 21,000?
Mr. Lesser: I am quoting from the Auditor General's report. The figure
he quoted for 1999 was 21,381 possession cases.
The Chairman: In your presentation, Mr. Boyd, you talked about the 31
per cent THC content. What information do you have to support that figure? We
have asked that question many times. In the U.S, the highest recorded level of
THC is 15 per cent.
I recall asking Superintendent Lesser for evidence about the THC content.
Someone mentioned a problem with 30 grams vis-à-vis the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act. Is 30 grams too high? Do you want to reduce that to 5 grams?
Mr. Boyd: We think it is too high; however, we would probably benefit
from some debate with others, with people outside of policing. Thirty grams is a
lot for personal possession, and we think that needs to be revisited.
The Chairman: I presume when the government introduced 30 grams, it
copied what was in Amsterdam. Since that time, it has been reduced to 5 grams.
That is why I am suggesting 5 grams may be the proper level.
Superintendent Lesser, you said that the opinion of the chiefs of police on
decriminalization was misquoted and then spread around the world. You suggested
that that action backfired. What was the reaction of the Americans when they
heard that their neighbours to the North were supporting the decriminalization
Mr. Lesser: Once our position was explained to the Americans, that we
would consider, under certain conditions, alternate justice measures, in that
case, decriminalization or possibly a ticket offence, it changed their
understanding. The papers were full of stories that suddenly the chiefs of
police support legalization or decriminalization. We placed a number of riders
placed on that, and I believe Deputy Chief Boyd mentioned in his presentation
that the riders have not been followed through — for example, the government
has not increased education.
Mr. King has spoken with American colleagues specifically on some of those
Mr. King: At the time, people were interpreting legalization of
marijuana for medical purposes as meaning decriminalization. The reason we came
up with the policy was to put a definition on — albeit our definition —
legalization and decriminalization. The difficulty arose when one newspaper
reported that we were in favour of decriminalization of all drugs. That was what
caused the difficulty around the world. We are still feeling that.
Once it was explained to the Americans what it is we are talking about —
what we are really talking about is contained within the statement we gave you
today. It is no different than 1999, except that two of us are in agreement and
we have elaborated upon it.
The most important aspect was to say that, first, as chiefs of police we have
opened up our minds, expanded our options, and we concur that there are some
other options that are reasonable and necessary. It is not easy in today's world
to move the bar, because many of our own people are asking: ``Where is the track
record? You have put many conditions on it, and if the other conditions do not
hold, they will go ahead with one section of it. We really have not got a
comprehensive strategy going forward.''
That is the reason conditions were put on it, and the conditions,
unfortunately, never make the cut when they are reported. We think it is a
responsible position. We thought it was then and still think it is today. We
think it is reinforced now that the Canadian Police Association became a
signatory this weekend. Their membership has agreed with that. We now have the
Canadian Association of Police Boards, and we are looking to the FCM to support
it as well. We think it will be supported.
We wanted a dialogue to enable us to meet with the people who will make
decisions. We think a meaningful consultation and a meaningful opportunity to
put forth the recommendations — we have two committees to do that with — is
a tremendous opportunity for this country.
We appreciate the opportunity to be here.
The Chairman: Does the law have a deterrent effect on the use of
Mr. Lesser: Perhaps I can use a non-drug example first and then
determine whether it can logically be applied to drugs.
Drinking and driving is a prime example. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was
quite acceptable to get drunk and then drive home. If you parked on the lawn and
survived, you were a hero. There followed a program of education, including
public service announcements. Over a few decades, there was little social
acceptance for that type of behaviour.
There are still people who drink too much and drive home. For those people
who do not get the message, there must be some deterrent effect. I believe we
still need our drinking and driving laws, because as much as we have changed
society's views as a whole some people just do not get the message. They need
that stronger coercive persuasion to not drink and drive. For those who do drink
and drive, there is the ability to take their licence and get them off the road,
to save lives.
It is the same with seatbelts. There is still some kind of sanction. Even for
smoking, as much as the Canadian government is going to great lengths to
discourage people from smoking, there are certain laws at the municipal level,
where you can and cannot smoke, that you cannot sell cigarettes to minors.
In many of those examples where we are able to change behaviour effectively,
it has been a combination of prevention, understanding the health risks and that
coercive deterrent effect. I would submit that logic would still follow with
The Chairman: So the missing component is the social reaction to an
Mr. Lesser: It is acceptance of that.
The Chairman: If there is no acceptance by the societal environment,
the deterrent will work. If you lack that element, it is useless.
Mr. Lesser: It is important. People would argue that there is no use
having a law just for the sake of having a law, that there must be a reason
behind it, no matter what it is, whether it is driving 120 on the 401 or using
certain drugs. Within the country, if there is no respect or validation of a
particular law, then all the enforcement in the world will not be helpful.
We have seen that in Canada with tax laws, where getting paid under the table
is pretty well accepted. Whether that was generated from a policy decision by
the government or not is open for debate.
It is the same with smuggling liquor and tobacco. A number of years ago, that
behaviour became accepted. What affected it more, then, was less taxation on
cigarettes and alcohol. That resolved a lot of the criminal problems in that
The Chairman: It was not the smuggling; it was the issue of paying no
Mr. Lesser: People do not like paying taxes. I do not know why that
The Chairman: No one likes to pay taxes.
I am trying to focus on the importance of the attitudes of society towards a
crime or infraction. If more and more people do not see a crime in an attitude,
you can do whatever you want, but at the end of the day, you will catch 1.5 or 2
per cent of the users in a good year.
Mr. Lesser: If you are saying that if the population in general thinks
that possession of cannabis is fine, then no law in the world will deter that,
that is probably true. However, I would suggest that that population needs to be
well informed. It needs to have the stuff that the Canadian Medical Association
is putting out, as well as the stuff other groups of doctors is putting out.
There is no significant research out there that can in any way compare to
what we have in tobacco. Right now, we have ads in the paper that say every year
45,000 Canadians die because of smoking. No one argues with that figure. It is
Much research that you have heard is contradictory. No matter what one
researcher says, there will be others who say the opposite.
Some simple questions that I as a police officer and a parent would have
include: How many joints do I have to smoke at what level of THC to be impaired?
When would I be too impaired to safely drive a vehicle, to operator a snow
blower or a lawnmower? What is the combination effect of one or two joints and a
few bottles of beer? Those are basic questions. Even now, as the law stands
today, people are doing cannabis and smoking and drinking and driving. We do not
know the effects of that. We are not really paying attention to that, either.
The Chairman: I would submit that there is a lot of research
specifically trying to establish that. It is available. It needs to be
Mr. Lesser: We need the answers, I think.
The Chairman: There were small booklets available in France for the
last year and a half, and now in Quebec for the last month, specifically
informing the population of that. In France, after publication of that booklet,
there was a shift in the attitude of the population, not towards more
prohibition but towards understanding what is behind that and what should be in
the law. An educated population will react intelligently.
That is why I return to saying that the social component of the attitude is
very important towards the effectiveness of your work. If you do not have that
social support, forget it.
Mr. King: We can only police with the consent of society.
The Chairman: Wisdom.
We will review your briefs. We would have preferred receiving your
presentation in advance, in order to have prepared ourselves more thoroughly. We
have accessed your Web sites, and have looked at your press releases. We will
read your brief closely and look at the statement that you referred to.
I will write to you with any questions we might have, and we will post those
questions and answers on the Web site. Thank you very much.
The Chairman: That concludes our work for the day. Before adjourning
this meeting, I would like to remind all those who are interested in the
committee's work that they can read about it and become informed about the use
of illegal drugs by visiting our web site on the Internet at www.parl.gc.ca.
There you will find the statements of all the witnesses, their biographies, all
the supporting documentation that they deemed fit to provide to us as well as
more than 150 Internet links on illegal drugs. You can also use this address to
On behalf of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, I would like to
thank you for your interest in our important research.