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The Canadian Press

Pot use doubled in decade, study says

14% smoked up in the past year

Drug laws a minor factor: Researchers

Canadian Press, November 25th, 2004

OTTAWA—The number of Canadians who say they have used cannabis in the past year has doubled in a decade, according to a major new survey.

Data from the Canada Addiction Survey, the most comprehensive addiction survey ever done in Canada, presents a disturbing picture of a society increasingly dependent on mood-altering substances.

Fourteen per cent of respondents said they had used cannabis in the last year, up from 7.4 per cent in 1994. About a third said they had failed to control their cannabis use.

About 269,000 Canadians said they had used an injectable drug in the past year, up from 132,000 in 1994. Nearly 4.1 million Canadians reported using injectable drugs at least once in their life. That's up from 1.7 million in 1994.

The proportion of drinkers rose to 79.3 per cent this year from 72.3 per cent in 1994. Seven per cent of respondents described themselves as frequent heavy drinkers, up from 5.4 per cent in 1994.

Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said rising rates of abuse are an indictment of federal drug policy, including the planned easing of marijuana laws and the establishment of safe injection sites.

"Certainly the Liberal drug strategy is failing," he said. "The safe injection sites aren't safe. There are more deaths in Vancouver than before the safe injection sites were put in place.

"I am concerned about the decriminalization of marijuana or any other drug. I am concerned that the government has not put forward a national strategy to deal with the whole issue of addictions."

Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh rejected suggestions that the plan to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana is leading to increased use.

"We have the current laws in place at this time, they haven't been changed and the rate is going up. ... I would focus on the drug strategy, which is the issue of education."

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan said the government is not legalizing marijuana, and considers it a health threat. "All we're doing is changing the penalty regime."

Researchers who conducted the study said that drug laws appear to be a relatively minor factor in determining drug use, and suggested that a much broader understanding of drug abuse is needed.

Robert Hanson of Health Canada said the department is working on a campaign targeted at youth to discourage cannabis and alcohol use

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