Marijuana Awareness Campaign: Be Weed Wise

There has been lots of talk in Canada about decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. It is important to know that this has not happened to date and that possession of marijuana is still illegal. The current legislation governing cannabis use and possession is found under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act. It states that a person charged with simple possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis or 1 gram or less of cannabis resin (hash or hash oil) may be prosecuted summarily and provides for a maximum term of 6 months imprisonment, a fine of $1000.00 or both and a permanent court record. For larger amounts or a second offence, the maximum penalties are $2,000 and/or 12 months in prison, and a permanent criminal record.

Most people convicted of possessing marijuana for the first time receive a fine or a discharge. Either way, you could end up with a criminal record. The maximum penalty for growing marijuana is seven years in prison. The maximum penalty for selling marijuana (called ?trafficking?), or bringing it in or out of the country, is life in prison.

It is also illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Article S. 253 of the Canadian Criminal Code says that: ?Everyone commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not,

(a) while the person?s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug.? This means that it is possible to be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. How is marijuana use detected? According to local RCMP, officers are trained to recognize the symptoms of drug use. If a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of a drug the police officer would then enter into an impaired driving (by drug) investigation as well as a possible criminal code investigation into possession of a controlled substance. If there is sufficient, reasonable and probable grounds to believe that someone is impaired by drugs charges would follow.

What are the long term consequences of a marijuana charge?

A charge for possession of cannabis can impact your ability to travel to other countries including the United States. Immigration officials have the right to refuse entry to anyone with a criminal record.

Cannabis use can interfere with your ability to get certain jobs. Some employers require a criminal record check be done prior to making an offer for employment. It is also important to know that some employers test for marijuana and other drug use prior to making an offer for employment.

Marijuana and Mental Health

There is plenty of research to show that marijuana use can cause short lived psychotic episodes which include mild impairment of consciousness, distortion of time sense, a dream like euphoric state, fragmentation of thought processes and auditory and visual hallucinations. These experiences are usually brief and the person soon returns to normal.

There is evidence from a number of studies that rates of marijuana use are higher among those people with schizophrenia than the general population (about twice as high). Regular marijuana use increases the chance of developing later schizophrenia or a schizophrenia like illness by approximately two to three times. Research suggests that those who start using marijuana at an early age (under 15) have an increased risk of developing a schizophrenic disorder when compared with those who started using at age 18 or older. Marijuana use is a moderate risk factor in the development of schizophrenia for those who are already vulnerable because of individual or family reasons.

Using marijuana can make symptoms and treatment outcomes worse for those who have schizophrenia. Research also shows that marijuana use is a moderate risk factor for developing later depression especially for those who begin using under the age of 18.