Marijuana legalization debate stirs effect for youth

Bottle bong smoking Canadian youth between the ages of 15 and 24 smoke more marijuana than any other users in Canada. McKee says they need to know about the effects of it. Photo by Jessenia Feijo

Jessenia Feijo
LIFE Reporter

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has publically declared that Canada should legalize marijuana possession and use.

On Oct. 9, CAMH released a new report on cannabis control in Canada. Their Cannabis Policy Framework backs legalization with strict regulations.

But Media Relations director of the Ontario Lung Association John Chenery, said he has an issue with smoking of any kind.

“Any time you inhale smoke into your lungs, whether it’s tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke or any other kind of smoke, you risk permanent damage to your lungs,” he said.

“Marijuana smoke contains more than 400 chemicals. Many of these are the same harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. The Lung Association recommends that you never inhale smoke of any kind into your lungs,” Chenery said.

Jennifer Amaya, a second-year Early Childhood Education student at Humber, said that she doesn’t think marijuana legalization will change a thing.

“Well, look how people are now,” said Amaya. “It’s not a secret that kids, from 12-years-old, are already smoking illegal drugs.”

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians were among the developed world’s highest number of cannabis users in 2012. In that year, marijuana was the most commonly used illicit substance, 10 times more frequently used than cocaine among the general population (15 years of age and older.)

While the use of cannabis in youths has dropped since 2008, youth aged between 15 and 24 were using marijuana more than the general population in 2012.

Registered Nurse Catherine McKee said students who plan to use marijuana in the classroom and during school hours, as well as during recreational time should know how it might affect them.

To get the maximum effect, people who smoke marijuana often inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers do. This increases the risk of cancer…and can cause people to hallucinate, become paranoid and believe things that aren’t true,” said McKee. “Marijuana affects co-ordination and makes it harder to concentrate and react. This makes it dangerous to do things like ride a bicycle, drive a car or operate machinery.”

Henri Berube, a Police Foundations coordinator at Humber College and a former Peel Region officer, said he enforced the legislation against marijuana because it was his duty.

“Personal experience, having been a police officer and now not being a police officer, I have seen and met several people who have benefited from the use of marijuana medically,” said Berube.

Pro-marijuana users say cannabis has potent medical advantages.

Berube said he doesn’t see it as any different as any other drug or substance that has potential for good and harm.

Although it would appear to have really unique properties, there is no such thing as a “magic drug,” said Berube. “I have seen harm done to people who use marijuana and use it a lot.”

Nicole Diaz, 20, a psychology student at York University, said she’s seen people lives ruined because of the plant.

“People assume marijuana is nothing compared to other drugs. Those people are wrong. It is just as addicting,” said Diaz.

And while recreational cannabis use remains illegal, Berube said a person’s criminal history will always affect them in the professional world

“From a young person’s perspective, you have to realize that employers frown on people who choose to break the laws. Doesn’t matter what laws,” said Berube.