Not All Marijuana Users Should be Treated the Same Way, Study Says

A public health drive aimed at educating heavy marijuana users most likely to run into problems with the drug should replace the current one-size-fits-all criminalization of all users, says a new Canadian study.

“We’re arguing for a differentiated approach that recognizes that some people, but only some, a minority, have problems from their cannabis use and we understand now a lot better what their characteristics and determinants are while the large proportion of users are fairly problem free,” said Simon Fraser University Health Sciences professor Benedikt Fischer, who directed the study.

He was hesitant to call the study an argument for marijuana legalization, however, saying that was not what he and his researchers from the Universite de Montreal and Toronto’s Centre for Addictions and Mental Health set out to do.

“You could still do public health education and criminalize the hell out of people. You could theoretically do that, but it just makes no sense because they are competing paradigms,” Fischer said.

Among the interventions suggested in the study are health-oriented peer groups for school-age children, monitoring programs to identify young, frequent users and selective laws that target marijuana use only in cases –such as driving under the influence — where it is proven to affect public health.

The study divided 1,303 Canadian cannabis users into four categories based on their frequency of use, age of first use and reason for use — social or medical.

It determined that the majority use the drug infrequently and appear to experience no major health risks as a result.

Those who began using later in life and use infrequently have the least risk of negative impacts on their health, while those who began using before age 16 and continue to use daily or near-daily have the highest health risks.

These risks include using other illicit drugs, driving while intoxicated, substance abuse problems and negative effects on their physical and mental health.

“There is therefore a pressing need to target interventions at this subpopulation of users,” Fischer noted in his report.

Fischer said that Canada’s current model of using police as educators about the risks of cannabis use “makes absolutely no sense.”

Police are not public health officials and not very knowledgeable in matters of public health or substance use, he said, ” just the way we wouldn’t use nurses or orderlies to prosecute criminals. That’s just not the professional activity these people are equipped and trained for.”

Tom Stamatakis, president of the B.C. Police Association and a 22-year veteran with the Vancouver police department, agreed police shouldn’t be the only educators on the realities of marijuana use, but said they should be one voice of many in the discussion.

“We’re in the trenches with these people every day, 24/7,” he said, noting that he hadn’t read the study.

“We have a perspective to offer, particularly when you have academics and researchers coming at it from this academic perspective making some pretty broad statements in terms of where this should go without considering all the implications.”

The findings of the study, published in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, are now being used by Fischer and his group of researchers to try to determine effective short-term health interventions for young and frequent marijuana users.

– Article from The Vancouver Sun.



  1. Nick on

    The main flaw in this study is that they don’t really delve into why those who begin consuming cannabis before the age of 16 and continue to use it daily are more likely to use other illicit drugs, drive while intoxicated, and abuse other substances. They spin it like it’s because these people started consuming cannabis at a young age. I’m sure if one were to look closer at the data it’s more likely that these subjects had behavioral problems in the first place that led them to commit delinquent acts. If it wasn’t mainly the “troubled” kids that are the first to begin using cannabis this study would look very different. Marijuana use is not the cause of behavior that leads to “using other illicit drugs, driving while intoxicated, substance abuse problems and negative effects on physical and mental health” but simply an effect of that behavior.

  2. Brian Kerr on

    “These risks include using other illicit drugs, driving while intoxicated, substance abuse problems and negative effects on their physical and mental health.”

    This part of the text shows the bias of the researchers as it is simply lies, that have already been scientifically disproved.

    “…include using other illicit drugs…”

    Re-hashing of the gate way lie. DISPROVED BY SCIENCE

    “…driving while intoxicated…”

    A recent study shows that driving performance did not change in test subjects when cannabis was used, over their original sober test. In studies of cannabis use and driving, drivers who were high tended to drive slower and being more careful. They can understand how impaired they are and compensate for their highness. It is still not a good idea to drive high, OK!

    “…substance abuse problems…”

    For one thing you can not abuse drugs! you can abuse yourself, but not drugs.
    There is nothing wrong or immoral to using other drugs besides alcohol and tobacco or what your Dr. can proscribe for you. Cannabis is by far safer than any legal drug.

    If you develop a dependence on cannabis, and it causes you problems for you then you can get help with the dependence. The vast majority do not have problems by using cannabis and if you are dependent and use all the time at leased you are dependent on the safest of all drugs and will hardly suffer any physical problems from it. If you smoke you can develop bronchitis and lung infections. Thats about it. So don’t smoke VAPORIZE !

    “…negative effects on their physical and mental health.”

    Very few negative physical effects from eating or vaporizing cannabis. Cannabis is non-toxic to our bodies and does not cause any permanent changes to our bodies. It is so safe we give it to the extremely sick people and it doesn’t make them sicker it makes them better.

    Mental health, is helped with cannabis use a new study out shows that schizophrenics who use cannabis function at a higher level that schizophrenics
    who don’t use cannabis. There are new studies which show there is NO causal link between cannabis use and schizophrenia.

    So much for this pile of crap.

  3. Adam on

    I could care less what the article said, I just think the headline was wrong.
    All marijuana users should be treated the same!
    Just like any other group of people. It’s just proper ethics, right?

  4. ray christl cc family on

    The paradigm of using the police to train VOTERS in Canada gave you HARPER. Now a logical social researcher says POLICE have ZERO VALIDITY in DRUG FEAR BRAINWASH MODALITY????HAH LOL now you can go and cash your pay check and be forgotten.Conservative christians spit on social science and this tepid guy knows it.Cops are sick,and I suggest ibogaine therapy for drug war interruptus.

  5. Anonymous on

    Here’s an example to show what one and a few others have been able to do while under the influence of cannabis…
    DRIVING While High – 15 yrs of driving – 0 accidents, 0 road rage issues, Excellent performance
    DRIVING While SOber – 4 accidents, 2 fights, criminal charges, suspensions, insurance+$+$+

    SCHOOL while high (highschool & college) – 98% average, honor role, award winning students
    SCHOOL while sober (pre drug use) – 70% average, no awards or honor role

    SOCIAL Settings while high – careful reactions and calm orderly fashion, anti anxiety, relaxed, respectful and alert
    SOCIAL setting wile sober – cocky ignorant power trips and over hyper, fights, arguments, small-talk lovers (not all)

    SPORTS while high – Wicked capabilities, slow mo, speed etc. fine tune subtle differences. White to Black Belt Samurai training while high in less than 2 yrs. Skiing downhill a blast, (Ross Rebagliati – Gold Medal)
    SPORTS while sober – well, still a good thing, but not as exciting, unless you a sports fanatic, several hockey players like a few beers after the game

    RELATIONSHIPS while high – easy unless your mate ain’t into it, sex while high, girls are amazed at stamina, orgasm takes longer, the flow is just exotic and sensual, asked ‘how do you do that’ many times!!!??? Because I got High, because I got high, because I got high…
    RELATIONSHIPS while sober – blahhhh, uuuhggg, watch out for that alcoholic

    MEDICAL/HEALTH issues – less use of other drugs, NO OVERDOSE, weed helps postictal, post traumatic, heartburn, stomach cramps, headaches, migraines, anti-seizure, anti-pain, appetite, hightened senses, helps you stop coughing and leaking snot out of your nose while sick with flu or cold, the first few coughs might be harsh but it will open your lungs and help you breathe again, ashma, cleaning of the lungs, cough up anything trapped in there.

    FINANCIAL – depends how much you smoke, 1/2 oz a week at maximum price = $140 ($20 a day), $200 an oz for 1-1.5 months for medium smoker, 2-3 months for very light occasional smoker. Vaporizers a little pricey. Close to RETIREMENT before 40 yrs young. A LOT OF MONEY TO THE SO-CALLED ORGANIZED CRIMINALS – which is only 2-3 friends who party together, that shouldn’t be the minimum while compared to cartels!!!!!

    RECREATIONAL – Stress Relief, FUN, tasty, exotic, NO OVERDOSE, COMEDY, enhance anything (SEX), perception, personal contemplation intensity, (not manic depression or whatever else they use to describe this effect) etc.

    LEGAL issues – BUllshit unnecessary Paranoia trip for responsible tokers. Law enforcement employees doing what they don’t necessarily believe in. $10000 for fighting possession charges over 10-15 yrs of adventures. 2-3 charges. Discrimination! ABUSE!!!! Jail, harassment. Other idiots in society to buy shit off and become enemies, gang member attitude, status fantasy, DID you know after the several years that weed was showing the seedbanks & different flavors through the 90’s by yr 2000 it was very obvious some folks would get in a noticeable but not necessarily violent confrontation just because they might be smoking something from different sources, different flavors, RACISM against weed flavors and who supplies it, who likes which one?THAT is why the best weed out there is only what the smoker prefers, a sativa might get someone wired and not even notice the buzz, like they’re on coffee, some may notice it clearly and love it, indica = pass out and slow tired body movement might be an undesirable effect for LIGHT-WEIGHTS, but most weed on the street is mostly indica since its flowering times shorter and heavy yields, and very high yielders a bit bland.