RCMP admits marijuana mainly issue of morality
By LOREN LIND, Globe and Mail, page 5, October 17, 1969
A high-ranking RCMP officer conceded yesterday that marijuana has no known pathological effects but he argued that its spread must be halted "at all costs" because of social and economic harm.
Assistant RCMP Commissioner J.R.R. Carriere tried to convince a federal drug inquiry that marijuana smoking often leads to violence, crime and more harmful drugs.
But when asked by Ian Campbell, Dean of Arts at Sir George Williams University, whether those intoxicated with marijuana tend to be more violent than those intoxicated with alcohol, he replied:
"No, Dean Campbell, on the contrary, you will get much more violence from the excessive use of alcohol."
Assistant commissioner Carrier gave the first public presentation to the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs which is holding a three-day hearing at St. Lawrence Hall.
The second came from Bryant Brown, a London, Ont., businessman, who declared marijuana should be made legal and its sale controlled by a Marijuana Control Board.
Both presentations drew critical questions from the four-man commission which was presided over by Gerald Le Dain, Dean of the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University.
Mr. Le Dain said the commission has six months to submit a preliminary report to the federal Cabinet, and two years to make a final report. Because of the deadline, it will focus mainly on drug use by the young. It will deal with alcohol and nicotine -- "clearly, mood-modifying drugs" -- only in their relation to other non-medical drugs.
Assistant Commissioner Carriere asserted in his 33-page brief for the RCMP that the use of marijuana and hashish has reached epidemic proportions in Canada. He said drug abuse threatens the very political and economic structure of this nation.
"We, in the RCMP, believe that cannabis (marijuana and hashish) is a dangerous drug, and that at this point in time, the spread of its use must be halted at all cost.
"We, however, do not base this opinion on a purely medical point of view. We concede that, subject to new discoveries, 'cannabis causes no known and demonstrated pathologicial effects which are directly due to the action of this drug."
The quotation he used was from Dr. Henry Brill, who gave testimony two years before the Superior Court of Massachuestts.
The assistant commissioner released statistics estimating the number of cannabis users in Canada at 59,0044, with 10,845 of these in Ontario and 18,680 in Quebec. Mr. Brown put the figure at 1 million, but said this was only an "educated wild guess."
Much of the RCMP argument was an attempt to show the transition from marijuana to harmful drugs. The mounties has just concluded a two-year study which, "proves indisputably that in many, many cases a transition from marijuana to heroin does take place, but not necessarily directly, and certainly not in every case."
Asked by Mr. Le Dain to produce the study, he replied: "It's not a controlled study; it's a study of our reports over the last two years." He did not have statistics available to prove his assertion.
The assistant commissioner did show that both new opiate addicts and cannabis prosecutions have risen in the past six years, and saw in this an indication that the two phenomena may be linked. But the route to herion, he said, is almost always a gradual transition through hashish, amphetamines, and LSD. The number of new opiate addicts in 1967, the latest year recorded, was 255. There were 1,678 cannabis prosecutions that year.
He also quoted a study by the Drug Addiction Foundation of British Columbia that said a student who uses marijuana is 5.7 times more likely to use heroin than a student who doesn't.
He drew sparks from his audience of 90 persons, including about 30 youths, he attempted to link marijuna with violence and crime. There isn't much evidence in Canada to show that crime is induced by cannabis, but it may be significant that in the past two years 32 persons had guns when arrested on cannabis.
A red-haired youth took the microphone to say other people carry guns, too, and the statistic proves very little. The assistant commissioner replied that finding so many loaded guns among youth is a new phenomenon.
"Perhaps it's because those who are doing drugs -- basically the longhairs -- are hassled more," the youth said.
The assistant commissioner concluded, at the end of his brief, that criminal records for drug offences may be a very modest price to pay if we are saving hundreds and thousands of our youth from the scourge of drug abuse.
Dean Campbell asked what he meant by advocating stopping the illegal drug use "at all cost." It seems clear, he said, that the existing mechanisms of control have not worked, seeing how drug use is spreading.