Let’s let the science do the talking
By Davie Wong, Sports Reporter
Every week Stephen Harper seems to do something right and take the lead in the federal election campaign. Then he does something completely ridiculous and throws it all away. This week, it was the Prime Minister’s comments on marijuana legalization that got him in some serious heat.
The Conservative Party has always made their stance on the issue of marijuana legalization clear. No way would they ever legalize cannabis. That has never changed. However, Harper still felt the need to protect his party’s decision on the matter. In a statement about the issue, Harper said that marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco. That statement has not sat well amongst Canadians.
Canada is known for a wide variety of things. We invented sports such as hockey and basketball, created foods such as poutine and maple syrup, and were made famous by our extreme winters. But one thing that many Conservatives have failed to realize is that Canada also has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.
The substance is particularly popular in BC, where marijuana has begun populating as a culture rather than a street drug. There are even shops dedicated to smoking apparels such as bongs, pipes, and the ever-popular electronic cigarette. The Lower Mainland is littered with these shops, set up conveniently close to “medicinal” marijuana dispensaries. I use the term medicinal lightly, as there were a few incidents where dispensaries have been revealed to be selling marijuana on an illegal level.
As the popularity of the 7-pronged leaf grows, so does the concern about the long-term effects of smoking it. When Harper made his statement about marijuana being worse than tobacco, a Conservative spokesman pointed to the Canadian Cancer Society and their research to support the Prime Minister’s claim.
Unfortunately, it appears that what Harper and the Conservatives are trying to do is take research done by the society and twist it way out of context. The Canadian Cancer Society did perform a study comparing marijuana usage to tobacco usage. However, the information revealed by that study hardly helped Harper’s point.
While the society concluded that smoking marijuana caused approximately 10 times as much smoke to be inhaled as tobacco, they also pointed out that smoking tobacco was much more hazardous than cannabis. In every tobacco cigarette, there are an estimated 4,000 chemicals. More than 70 per cent of those are known to be carcinogens, chemicals causing cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that smoking tobacco has been responsible for almost one-third of cancer deaths, and 85 per cent of lung cancer cases.
Marijuana, on the other hand, according to a study done by Ethan Russo MD, has only 483 different types of chemicals. Eighty-four of those are known to be cannabinoids, the chemicals that cause the numbing feeling that the drug is known for.
David Hammond, Applied Public Health Chair at the University of Waterloo, reported that research has shown that only four per cent of marijuana users report some sort of health, legal, or financial trouble. This is a stark contrast to the 30–50 per cent of tobacco users that report the same.
At the end of the day, Harper’s comments have costed him dearly. Youth who were not already decided on a party to vote for have flocked to the Liberals in opposition of Harper’s misguided comment. Although his intentions were likely to curb the growing trend of cannabis, which is reminiscent of the tobacco trend in the early 1900s, he picked the worst time to make that comment.