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Marijuana: Teenagers debate drugs

In 1923 it became illegal for Canadians to possess marijuana. But the laws have always been flouted, by recreational users who just want to get high, and by medicinal users seeking relief from pain and illness. From cannabis caf├ęs to courtrooms, doctors and patients, rabble-rousers and senior statesmen have engaged in a passionate debate over marijuana possession. But the laws have endured.

Who uses marijuana? In 1969 -- as in the decades that follow -- it's not just hippies, dropouts and miscreants. According to the students in this high school auditorium, up to half of their classmates have tried pot, including supposed "straights" -- athletes, scholars, student council members. In a frank and lively discussion, these York Mills Collegiate students talk to It's Debatable host Elwy Yost and an Addiction Research Foundation expert about morals, taboos, experimentation and pot.
. A drug is a substance (other than food) used either as a medicine or to stimulate or depress the nervous system.
. Most illicit drugs are used for their psychoactive or psychotropic effects; meaning they alter mental processes like thought and emotion.

. Marijuana is a green or brown leafy substance made from the leaves and flowering tops of female plants of the Cannabis sativa genus. Other common names for it include cannabis, pot, weed, grass, reefer and joint. The term marijuana (sometimes spelled "marihuana") is a Mexican word that originally meant a "cigarette of poor quality." Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

. Marijuana is either smoked or eaten to produce a "high" that usually lasts between two and four hours. Users often feel calm and relaxed and may become talkative or drowsy. Their senses feel enhanced, and they often become hungry. Physical effects include impaired balance and motor control, rapid heartbeat and red eyes. Large doses sometimes cause hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and depression. There are serious mental and psychological effects from long-term heavy use.

. The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
. Cannabis is also sold in more concentrated forms, including hashish (hash) and hash oil.
. You can watch a CBC Television item about the different types of marijuana and how it is grown, trafficked and sold here.

. "Hard drugs" are those that are extremely addictive or harmful to the user's health, such as cocaine or heroin. "Soft drugs" are not considered very addictive or harmful. Marijuana is usually considered a soft drug.
. A narcotic is a drug (usually an opiate) that acts as a painkiller, causes dullness or drowsiness, and may be addictive over time. Marijuana is generally not considered a narcotic, but often falls under narcotic control laws.

. Marijuana was first banned in Canada under the 1923 Opium and Drug Act. In 2003 it is covered under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which makes unlawful possession of 30 grams or less a summary conviction offence punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or six months in prison. There are greater fines for possession of larger quantities and for trafficking.

. The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs 2002 report on cannabis estimates that about 30 per cent of Canadians have used cannabis at least once. The highest rates of use are among those aged 16 to 24. The committee says Canada has one of the world's highest rates of cannabis use among youths.
Medium: Radio
Program: It's Debatable
Broadcast Date: April 18, 1969
Guest(s): Diane Jones, Kate Levitt, John Palmer
Host: Elwy Yost
Duration: 14:34
Photo: Homepage image: National Archives of Canada / PA-211915

Last updated: February 9, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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