POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 73 In Canada, policing alcohol costs three times more than policing illicit drugs. In 1992, the cost of policing alcohol (violations of provincial liquor acts; impaired driving; violence related to alcohol) was 5 million whereas drug enforcement cost 8 million. (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1996) Many researchers consider alcohol and tobacco to be the true "gateway" drugs, leading to the increased potential for the use and abuse of other drugs such as marihuana, prescription medication, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, etc. b) Marihuana Effects At present there is a great deal of misinformation circulating surrounding the properties of marihuana; more seriously, there is an almost complete lack of public debate based on the facts and consequences of marihuana use. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) position statement on cannabis (spring 2000), comments on the severity of its regular use, through the following: "CAMH emphasizes that the most effective way of avoiding cannabis-related harms is through not using cannabis, and encourages people to seek treatment where its use has become a problem... Cannabis is not a benign drug. Cannabis use, and in particular frequent and long-term cannabis use, has been associated with negative health and behavioural consequences... the consequences of use by youth and those with a mental disorder are of particular concern. However, most cannabis use is sporadic or experimental and hence not likely to be associated with serious negative consequences." Penalties for possession - decriminalization / the use of alternative justice measures In regards to cannabis (marihuana) and penalties for possession, support exists for the following CACP position from our expert partners on substance abuse issues, such as the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), Council on Drug Abuse (CODA), and from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). To decriminalize a drug is to keep it a controlled substance, only remove criminal sanctions for its consumption or possession. In other words, with decriminalization, instead of facing a criminal penalty and/or record for possession of a small quantity of a controlled substance, the accused could receive an alternative penalty, including a fine or community service. If the government were to create initiatives aimed at integrating all of the following components, including prevention, education, enforcement, counselling, treatment, rehabilitation and diversion programs, the CACP would consider endorsing initiatives to decriminalize certain offences related to the possession of small amounts of marihuana or other cannabis derivatives. Alternative justice measures could be used, as set out in Bill C-41, for summary conviction offences of possession of cannabis after a mandatory assessment of the accused. A range of options should include, but not be limited to drug and life skills counselling, fines, community service or a combination of alternative measures. The CACP has heeded calls by experts to alter our approach to the first-time cannabis/marihuana user, and modify the consequences they face. We also want to improve the tools and processes to maximize the options available to law enforcement officers. Because cannabis/marihuana is not a benign drug and our goal is to reduce drug use, we are asking that offenders be assessed to determine an appropriate response. Legalization To legalize a drug is to make it legally available for consumption without a prescription, within the limits of government regulations, such as with currently legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The CACP stands in opposition to the legalization of any and all illicit drugs in Canada, including the possession of small amounts of marihuana. (...Substance Abuse Issues continued) (continued...)