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CPA Myths

The Canadian Police Association's (CPA)
"Top Ten Myths"
About Illicit Drugs and Enforcement

Those who advocate drug liberalization have been quite successful in raising doubts concerning the effectiveness of legitimate drug control strategies, through the calculated dissemination of provocative information challenging the foundation of internationally accepted drug control strategies: [Source]

Myth #1: Marijuana is Less Dangerous than Alcohol or Tobacco

Reality: Tobacco, although addictive, does not impair consciousness and brainpower. The same may be said for alcohol when taken in moderation. There is no such thing as safe use of illicit drugs, including marijuana. Marijuana disrupts functions of the brain, impairing judgment, concentration, and short-term memory as well as the ability to perform normal tasks. Smoking Marijuana damages the lungs more than tobacco. Individuals who consume illicit drugs, including marijuana, are more likely to engage in risky or addictive behaviour. [ NO SOURCES CITED ]
Findings of Fact - Ontario Court of Appeal:
  • Consumption of marijuana is relatively harmless compared to the so-called hard drugs and including tobacco and alcohol;
  • There exists no hard evidence demonstrating any irreversible organic or mental damage from the consumption of marijuana;
  • Cannabis is not an addictive substance;
  • There have been no recorded deaths from the consumption of marijuana;

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

"Previous studies conducted with older adults found an association between heavy drinking, brain atrophy, and an increased risk for stroke. We studied a younger, middle-aged population and found that low amounts of alcohol consumption are also associated with decreases in brain size," said Jingzhong Ding, PhD, lead author of the study and a research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health. "Our findings do not support the hypothesis that low or moderate alcohol intake offers any protection against cerebral abnormalities or the risk of stroke in middle-aged adults."

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse:
It is estimated that 6,503 Canadians (4,681 men and 1,823 women) lost their lives as a result of alcohol consumption in 1995, and 80,946 were hospitalized (51,765 men and 29,181 women) due to alcohol in 1995-96.

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse:
More than two of every five Canadians (43.9%) report that they have experienced some problem due to other people's drinking.

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse:

One in six deaths in Canada is caused by smoking. In 1995, there were 34,728 deaths and 500,345 years of potential life lost due to tobacco use in Canada.

There were 191,922 hospital separations attributed to tobacco in 1995-96, accounting for 7.6% of total hospital separations in Canada.

Health Canada

There were an estimated 29,229 male and 15,986 female deaths in Canada in 1996 attributable to smoking, for a total of 45,214 deaths*. Twenty-one per cent of all deaths in Canada were attributable to smoking.

Myth #2: Drug Laws Cause More Harm than the Drugs Themselves

Reality: A balanced program of public awareness, education, legislation, and enforcement by police, crown attorneys, and the courts is essential to reducing the true harms associated with illicit drug use. Enforcement reinforces the fact that drug use is harmful and not accepted by society, provides necessary intervention, deters lawabiding citizens from engaging in risky behaviour, and reduces the suffering caused by illicit drugs and its associated criminal activities.[ NO SOURCES CITED ]
(WITH SOURCES)Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):

  • Canada's Drug Strategy's should adopt a balanced approach - 90% of federal expenditures are currently allocated to the supply reduction.
  • The resources and powers of enforcement are greatly out of balance compared with those of the health and education fields and the civil society;
  • Public opinion on marijuana is more liberal than it was 10 years ago;
  • There is a tendency to think that marijuana use is more widespread and that marijuana is more available than it used to be;
  • There is a tendency to think that marijuana is not a dangerous drug;
  • Support for medical use of marijuana is strong;
  • There is a tendency to favour decriminalization or, to a lesser degree, legalization;
  • People criticize enforcement of the legislation in regards to simple possession of marijuana;

National Post:
In a poll for the Post last year, seven out of 10 Canadians said marijuana possession should be punished with no more than a fine. Only 21% thought abolishing jail time would be a "bad" or "very bad" idea, and 10% had no opinion.

Kimberley Daily Bulletin:
When all is said and done, the more rational choice for Canada is decriminalization which has been supported in other polls by close to 80 per cent of respondents.

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
...only 17% favour the current policy whereby a first offender is subject to a potential jail sentence

There is generally a strong public support for current alcohol control policies and intervention efforts.

However, the level of support for these alcohol control measures and interventions decreased between 1989 and 1994. Older Canadians and women tend to favour more restrictive alcohol policies and increased government funding for prevention and treatment.

A majority of young and old Canadians view smoking as addictive and dangerous to one's health.

Myth #3: Consequences of a Cannabis Possession Charge are Severe

Reality: Young people who are found to be in possession of small amounts of cannabis as first time offenders are frequently the subject of warnings, alternative measures, or diversion programs. The new Youth Criminal Justice Act reinforces this approach. Persons prosecuted for minor crime, including drug possession charges, are frequently the subject of absolute or conditional discharges, community service, conditional sentences and/or fines. Such offenders are rarely if ever incarcerated. Convicted offenders are eligible to apply for a pardon if they remain free of criminal convictions. Jail is reserved for only the most serous and chronic offenders.

Canada's approach to such crimes is far from severe, and many young people view such practices as insignificant. This reinforces the need to instil meaningful consequences that deter drug use. [ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):
A criminal conviction can negatively affect a person's financial situation, career opportunities and restrict travel. In addition, it can be an important factor in future dealings with the criminal justice system;

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse:
About 2,000 Canadians go to jail every year for cannabis possession, at a cost to government of about $150 a day to house each offender.
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse:
Drug offences account for 3% of adult admissions to federal correctional facilities and 6% of adult admissions to provincial correctional facilities.

Myth #4: Other Countries Have Proven That Drug Laws Are Not Needed

Reality: Wrong! While countries and even U.S. states have experimented with drug liberalization policies, the experience in these regions demonstrates that drug usage increases; the demand for chemical drugs increases, crime increases, and public opinion will ultimately increase in favour of prohibition.[ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Ontario Court Of Appeal:

Consumption in so-called "de-criminalized states" does not increase out of proportion to states where there is no de-criminalization.

Eric Single, Professor, Department of Public Health Science, University of Toronto:

In Australia, South Australia particularly, there is an expiation model of decriminalization where offenders are given the opportunity to pay a small administrative fee to expiate an offence.

...There was no increase in drug use attributable to the decriminalization measures, and there were cost savings. The measure was generally successful and viewed as a success by the public.

In the United States, they did not have such implementation problems. In those states there was a change in penalties but - while the evidence is not as good as it could be - rates of cannabis use did not increase in any way attributable to these decriminalization measures and there were significant savings, particularly to the criminal justice system.

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Chairman) The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs:

If we compare heavily prohibitionist states such as Sweden or the U.S. with liberal countries like France, the Netherlands, Germany or Switzerland, the levels of drug use are the same. Something else is influencing it.

Myth #5: We Will Never Eliminate Drug Use, So Why Not Regulate It?

Reality: There is no safe use of illicit drugs. While it is true that we cannot eradicate drug use, we can limit its harmful effects through demand reduction programs. Canada's experience in combating impaired driving demonstrates that by sustaining public awareness, education, legislation, and enforcement programs, we can change public opinions, influence behaviour in young people and adults, and ultimately reduce the risk of harm. [ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report)

Ineffectiveness Of The Current Approach
Clearly, current approaches are ineffective and inefficient. Ultimately, their effect amounts to throwing taxpayers money down the drain in a crusade that is not warranted by the danger posed by the substance. It has been maintained that drugs, including cannabis, are not dangerous because they are illegal but rather are illegal because they are dangerous. This is perhaps true of other types of drugs, but not of cannabis. We should state this clearly once and for all, for public good: it is time to stop this crusade.

Myth #6: Legalization Will Reduce Addiction

Reality: Providing greater access to harmful drugs will only serve to increase use and addiction. Alcohol is a primary example, as are prescribed medications. There are far more Alcoholics than drug addicts in Canada, although proportionately far more people who use illicit drugs become addicts than those who consume alcohol.[ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):

  • The epidemiological data available indicates that close to 30% of the population (12 to 64 years old) has used cannabis at least once;
  • Most users are not at-risk users insofar as their use is regulated, irregular and temporary, rarely beyond 30 years of age;
  • Heavy use of cannabis can result in dependence requiring treatment; however, dependence caused by cannabis is less severe and less frequent than dependence on other psychotropic substances, including alcohol and tobacco.

Alcohol Policy Network
In Ontario, it is estimated that 12% of the population over age 15 has experienced alcohol abuse or dependence(2) in their lifetimes (Ross, 1995).

Myth #7: Legalization will Reduce the Crime Rate

Reality: The experience of countries that have experimented with drug liberalization demonstrates that crime, violence and drug use, go hand in hand. Legalization will not change the harmful effects that drugs have on individuals and their behaviour, nor will increasing the demand and/or supply of drugs reduce the potential for criminal conduct. [ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):
-Cannabis itself is not a cause of delinquency and crime; and
-Cannabis is not a cause of violence.

Myth #8: Organized Crime Would Be Reduced if Drugs Were Legalized

Reality: Organized Criminals, who have historically targeted the youngest and most vulnerable members of our communities, will not be deterred by efforts to legalize the highly profitable drug trade. As seen in countries that have experimented with liberalization, Organized crime will flourish as the demand for drugs will increase, creating pressures for the supply of newer, cheaper, and stronger strains of drugs. Organized criminals do not limit their activities to exploiting illegal markets, as evidenced by cigarette and alcohol smuggling activities in Canada. Demand reduction and successful enforcement are the most effective strategies in reducing organized crime. In fact, our drug laws have been the most effective tools in fighting organized crime.[ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):
A regulatory system for cannabis should permit, specifically:
more effective targeting of illegal traffic and a reduction in the role played by organized crime;

Myth #9: Police Support the Status Quo in Fear of Losing Jobs

Reality: Actually, we do not support the status quo, and we are afraid of gaining jobs if drug use increases. We believe that Canada has to reaffirm its denunciation of illicit drug use, raise public awareness and education on the harmful effects of drugs, review our sentencing practices to instil meaningful consequences and deterrence, and focus enforcement efforts on reducing supply and demand for illicit drugs. [ NO SOURCES CITED ]

Constable Gil Puder:

Recovering Our Honour - Why Policing Must Reject the "War on Drugs":
With the behaviour of drug warriors substantially at odds with virtuous conduct, I fully expect my criticism of the status quo to bring howls of outrage, from those law enforcement traditionalists with related career interests.

Mr. Robert G. Lesser, Vice Chair, Drug Abuse Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police:

If you are saying that if the population in general thinks that possession of cannabis is fine, then no law in the world will deter that, that is probably true.

Dr. Henry Haddad, Chair, Canadian Medical Association:

The vast majority of expenditures related to illegal drugs are on law enforcement. A portion of these resources, especially those currently being devoted to combatting simple marijuana possession through the criminal law system, might be better utilized if they were diverted to public health strategies.

John A. Gayder, Constable, Niagara Parks Police:

Policing has, and continues to become a venue for nanny state do-gooder-ism, whatever happened to our once simple mission of catching REAL criminals?

Mr. John W. Conroy, Barrister:

I think it is because the police want to maintain their powers and that it is part of a hidden agenda. They realize that if the enforcement of drug laws is abandoned, the number of police officers will be substantially reduced. There will be less clogging of the courts and the criminal justice system. They will have less to do and fewer powers. I think that is what it comes down to.

Drug squad members say to me from time to time, ``Hey, Conroy, what are you doing? You are going to ruin a good thing.'' They much prefer to investigate drug cases, running around trying to smell marijuana grow-ops, than murder, robbery and rape cases. It is much more entertaining. I much prefer grow-op cases to murder cases.

An industry has grown up out there and drug squads run around trying to find grow-ops. They spend tonnes of taxpayers' money on what seems to me to be a low-end offence. Crimes of violence and property crimes, to my way of thinking, are far more serious than marijuana-growing operations.

I think drug enforcement is a big part of the police perspective. Police forces, and particularly senior members, have been steeped in it for the last 100 years. They were not around when opium was freely available in grocery stores back in the early 1900s and marijuana was available and on the pharmacopoeias of most nations. It has developed into this modern industry in which the police send out squads to try to find marijuana, and we defence lawyers get hired once someone is busted. We now spend all our time trying to exclude evidence, picking on police mistakes and capitalizing on them. It has become a big-time consumer of courtroom time.

Myth #10: Canada is Losing the War Against Drugs

Reality: Canada has never been engaged in a war against drugs. Our national policies are focused on Public Awareness, Education, Legislation and Enforcement. 93% of Canadians do not use marijuana, and 75% have never even tried. 99.3% do not use cocaine, and 98.9% do not use heroin, speed or LSD. That's far from losing, but we can and should do better. We will never completely win the war against drugs, impaired driving, auto theft, robberies, assaults or even murder. That does not mean that we turn over our streets to the criminals.

The battle against drugs that is being lost is taking place in the boardrooms of the nation, where the success of Canada's illicit drug prohibition is being assailed. While we are seeing disconcerting trends in drug use among school age children and adolescents, perceived tolerance by community leaders is sending conflicting and confusing messages to our young people.

The time has arrived for leaders to enter into the debate, persons of stature in the community who will present positive role models for our young people, raise public awareness about the harms associated with illicit drug use, and put an end to the erosion of public opinion through misinformation and self interest.

Serious questions can and should be raised about the motivation of the international and domestic drug liberalization lobby. Who stands to profit from drug legalization, increased demand, and increased supply? And at whose expense? Future generations of Canadians. [ NO SOURCES CITED ]


Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):
The Committee has endeavoured to take the pulse of Canadian public opinion and attitudes and to consider the guiding principles that are likely to shape public policy on illegal drugs, particularly cannabis. Our report has attempted to provide an update on the state of knowledge and the key issues, and sets out a number of conclusions in each chapter.

  • Billions of dollars have been sunk into enforcement without any greater effect. There are more consumers, more regular users and more regular adolescent users;
  • Billions of dollars have been poured into enforcement in an effort to reduce supply, without any greater effect. Cannabis is more available than ever, it is cultivated on a large scale, even exported, swelling coffers and making organized crime more powerful; and
  • There have been tens of thousands of arrests and convictions for the possession of cannabis and thousands of people have been incarcerated. However, use trends remain totally unaffected and the gap the Commission noted between the law and public compliance continues to widen. It is time to recognize what is patently obvious: our policies have been ineffective, because they are poor policies.

Dr. Henry Haddad, Chair, Canadian Medical Association:

Therefore, the CMA believes that less coercive ways to discourage illegal drug use need to be examined. When you consider all of the facts, illegal drug use is primarily a health and social issue, not a criminal problem.

Constable Gil Puder:

To force policing to admit that it cannot win this drug war, voters and policymakers need to "just say no", to more of the public's money for cops, guns, and jails. For public service addiction to the taxpayer's wallet, "cold turkey" may be the only cure.

Also see: Richard Cowans's analysis of the CPA

The CPA's Top Ten Myths" About Illicit Drugs and Enforcement - Report to the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs


Myth VS Facts

Myth -Marijuana is quite harmless, just like smoking a regular cigarette.

Fact -Not true. Marijuana is the most underestimated, dangerous street drug used today. Today's Marijuana is up to 1,000 per cent more potent than it was in 1960's and early '70s. In those days, the (THC) Tetrahydrocannabinol levels were 1-3 per cent. Now they can be as high as 40 per cent.

Findings of Fact: Ontario Court of Appeal
Consumption of marijuana is relatively harmless compared to the so-called hard drugs and including tobacco and alcohol;

Journal of Psychoactive Drugs
While it may be true that sinsemilla is more widely available than 10 or 15 years ago, its potency has not changed significantly from the 2.4 to 9.5 percent THC materials available in 1973-1974 (see Table I), or the five to 14 percent sinsemilla of 1975

Myth -Marijuana is a soft drug and I would not do the serious or hard drugs.

Fact -Wrong again. Over 85 per cent of Marijuana users move on to cocaine. Remember, no addict went directly from clean to heroin. There were steps along the way, steps that involved using other drugs.

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):
Cannabis itself is not a cause of other drug use. In this sense, we reject the gateway theory.

Findings of Fact: Ontario Court of Appeal
That the consumption of marijuana probably does not lead to "hard drug" use for the vast majority of marijuana consumers, although there appears to be a statistical relationship between the use of marijuana and a variety of other psychoactive drugs;

Myth -You may smoke Marijuana for medical purposes like glaucoma

Fact -The truth is, there is a gamut of medicines to relieve glaucoma that are infinitely preferable to suggestive involvement with a highly addictive substance.

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report):
The absence of certain cannabinoids in synthetic compounds can lead to harmful side effects, such as panic attacks and cannabinoid psychoses;

In Chapter 7 we determined that physical dependency on cannabis was rare and insignificant. Some symptoms of addiction and tolerance can be identified in habitual users but most of them have no problem in quitting and do not generally require a period of withdrawal.

Findings of Fact: Ontario Court of Appeal
Cannabis is not an addictive substance;
Health related costs of cannabis use are negligible when compared to the costs attributable to tobacco and alcohol consumption.

"The above is just a sample of the wrong information circulating amongst us. Hence, the reason for a Drug Awareness program". - RCMP Drug Awareness Website

The above statement could very likely be the reason that it has been recommended:
  • Prevention strategies must be able to take into account contemporary knowledge about drugs;
  • Prevention messages must be credible, verifiable and neutral;
  • Prevention strategies must be comprehensive, cover many different factors and involve the community;
  • Prevention strategies in schools should not be led by police services or delivered by police officers;
  • The RCMP should reconsider its choice of the DARE program that many evaluation studies have shown to be ineffective

Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs (Final Report)

For ACCURATE information on cannabis, please see:


Last Modified:Friday, 18-Sep-2009 17:50:53 PDT 54059