Cannabis Countdown: High anxiety over marijuana legalization impacts

Cannabis Countdown: High anxiety over marijuana legalization impacts

WATCH: With just three weeks until marijuana legalization, there are growing concerns over the potential impacts, especially on teens. Tess van Straaten reports.

With only three weeks to go until recreational marijuana is legal in Canada, anxiety is running high.

“We’re heading into some real unknown, uncharted territory and that’s got people worried,” says Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid. “People are taking some pause and giving a bit of sober second thought.”

According to a new Angus Reid survey, there are growing concerns over impaired driving, organized crime, and use among minors.

“Do people ultimately feel this is going to be more harm than good or more good than harm?” Kurl says. “These are the questions people are grappling with.”

The majority, 62 per cent, say they support legalization but even among supporters, 41 per cent think the government will fail in its efforts to keep cannabis away from kids and teens.

For those against legalization, that number jumps to 84 per cent, which is a serious issue given that research shows marijuana may disrupt brain development and lead to more mental health issues in teens who frequently light up.

“Increased symptoms of anxiety, increased symptoms of depression, increased symptoms of psychosis,” explains Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater of the University of Victoria’s psychology department.

A recent study by UVic and Dr. Leadbeater — the first long-term marijuana study of its kind — followed 700 teens from the Capital Region over 10 years and it found some troubling trends.

In addition to the health impacts, regular users also had more debt, a harder time paying bills, and were three times more likely to only have only completed high school.

“If we’re going to produce these psychotropic drugs and disseminate them, we do have a responsibility to these warnings,” Dr. Leadbeater says.

Six-in-ten Canadians polled are also not convinced local police departments are ready to effectively manage the changes. They’re worried they won’t be able to asses and punish people who decide to drive high.

Vancouver and Delta police announced Tuesday that they won’t be using the new roadside saliva tests, opting instead to continue with standard field sobriety testing.

There several concerns with the Drager DrugTest 5000, which measures THC levels but not the level of intoxication.

When it comes to the issue of organized crime, most people polled don’t think legalization will get rid of the black market.

“Only six per cent are of the view organized crime will be cut out of the process altogether,” says Kurl. “That’s a very small number.”

The Angus Reid poll also found people are unsure about whether municipal and provincial governments will see big economic benefits.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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