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Pot on the Prairie: The impact of legalization on young users
Published Wednesday, November 1, 2017 4:18PM CST
Pot on the Prairie is a week-long series exploring how the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada could impact Saskatchewan. The series runs Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. Watch part three Wednesday on CTV News at Six.
Marijuana may not be a gateway drug, but teenagers who immerse themselves into the drug world may be opening doors to other drug use, at least one addictions counsellor says.
“A lot of people talk about marijuana being a gateway drug — gateway meaning there is a likelihood that you will go on to use something else. If you look at the research on marijuana, it doesn’t meet gateway potential,” Rand Teed, who has been working with teenagers for more than 40 years, recently told CTV News.
“The issue is, though, once you start to involve yourself in the drug world you create access to other drugs. Though it isn’t the marijuana that’s leading to other drugs, the fact that you’re going to a drug dealer to pick something up, they might have something else that seems attractive at the time.”
The Liberal government claims legalizing recreational marijuana will keep it out of kids’ hands — the argument being kids have an easier time getting marijuana on the black market than they do buying alcohol.
Teed said he has mixed feelings about the expected legalization. He said legalization would ensure a stable supply of marijuana, but notes the drug — even if research suggests it may not be a gateway drug — can be addictive.
“You can absolutely become addicted to marijuana,” he said, noting an addiction to marijuana can affect one’s relationships.
“If you are dependent on a drug, and marijuana is a drug, it tends to interfere with that relationship, so it becomes generally more important to the person than the other people in their family.”
A recent report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addictions shows 25 per cent of youth aged 15 to 24, and 17 per cent of those in grades 7 to 12, have smoked pot in the last year. The number jumps to one-third of kids when only referring to those in grade 12, and the report notes about one-third of users across all categories use marijuana almost every day.
One concerned parent who spoke with CTV News said she believes her son’s addictions issues began with marijuana.
She leads an anonymous support group for parents of kids with alcohol or drug addictions and has requested CTV not name her.
She said her son tried marijuana for the first time when he was 13, and now five years later she says he is addicted to pot and other drugs. He’s also been in and out of detox without success, according to his mother.
“There was very much this spiraling. The marijuana use increased, but… he was open to try other things — alcohol, cocaine, mushrooms,” she said.
A federal government task force on marijuana legalization stated in a December 2016 report the “gateway hypothesis” has been challenged. The report noted other factors — such as peer pressure, family influence, drug availability and opportunity — may drive drug use and addiction and aren’t necessarily tied to marijuana use alone.
Mike Francis, the co-owner of Best Buds Society, a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Saskatoon, said he believes some people may be misinformed on marijuana because of prohibition.
“Cannabis is largely misunderstood because of the prohibition,” Francis said.
He, like Teed, said the black market may be what’s driving some pot users to try harder drugs.
“They’re forced to get it in the manner of the black market, and those places where you get it may sell harder drugs.”