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Many Canadians are driving high on cannabis, according to new national survey

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  • OTTAWA — A new Statistics Canada survey reveals an “alarming” number of Canadians have driven a vehicle while high on cannabis or have been passengers in such vehicles.

    According to the second quarterly national cannabis survey, 14 per cent of cannabis users who have a driver’s licence admitted they got behind the wheel within two hours of consuming cannabis at least once in the past three months.

    And five per cent of Canadians over the age of 14 said they’ve been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who’d consumed cannabis in the preceding two hours.

    The survey results were released Thursday, just two months before cannabis is to become a legal, regulated product in Canada.

    Statistics Canada is conducting quarterly surveys throughout this year as part of an effort to measure the social and economic impacts of legalization.

    Andrew Murie, chief executive officer of MADD Canada, called the latest numbers “alarming” — more than triple the rate of Canadians who drive after consuming alcohol in the preceding two hours.

    “I think if you compare it to alcohol, they’re shocking,” he said in an interview.

    However, Murie noted that the federal government has recently authorized more tools to test drivers for cannabis impairment and he predicted the rate of drug-impaired driving will drop once police get those tools operational.

    “I think once people get the idea that police do have the tools, that they can detect drug-impaired drivers, especially cannabis, then I think like alcohol with the breathalyzer it’ll start to lower those rates.”

    Part of the problem in discouraging driving while high is that no one can pinpoint how much cannabis needs to be consumed to cause impairment, Murie said, noting that there are too many variables, such as the potency of pot consumed and an individual’s tolerance level.

    To be on the safe side, he said MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving — recommends that no one should drive a vehicle within four hours of consuming any amount of cannabis.

    According to the survey, men were nearly two times more likely than women to drive high.

    The second quarter data found that about 4.6 million people nationally, or close to 16 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and up, reported using cannabis in the prior three-month period. This was similar to what was reported in Statistics Canada’s first quarterly survey.

    Cannabis use was higher than the national average in Nova Scotia (21 per cent), Ontario (18 per cent) and in the territorial capitals: Whitehorse (23 per cent), Yellowknife (27 per cent) and Iqaluit (33 per cent).

    The survey suggests cannabis use is highest among young people — 33 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds, compared to 13 per cent of Canadians over the age of 25. Statistics Canada suggests higher usage among young people may account for regional variations, particularly in the territorial capitals where populations tend to be considerably younger than the national average.

    Consumption rates in Quebec and Saskatchewan were lower than the national average, at 11 and 10 per cent respectively.

    The vast majority of respondents — 82 per cent — also said they probably wouldn’t increase their consumption once pot is legalized.

    The latest data was collected from mid-May to mid-June.

     

    The Canadian Press



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    Defence tells Calgary trial hospital, not parents’ neglect, caused child’s death

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  • CALGARY — A jury heard testimony Monday that a 14-month-old boy’s treatment in hospital, not malnutrition or an overwhelming infection, was to blame for the baby’s death.

    Jeromie and Jennifer Clark have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life for their son John.

    Jeromie Clark’s lawyer David Chow called Anny Sauvageau, Alberta’s former chief medical examiner, as an expert witness on Monday.

    She contradicted testimony from the current chief medical examiner, Elizabeth Brooks-Lim, that suggested John was malnourished and died of sepsis.

    Sauvageau looked at John’s autopsy report, a neuropathologist’s report and medical records. She said the child is most likely to have  died of an “overly aggressive correction” of the sodium in his blood.

    The jury has already heard that doctors gave John saline fluids after his parents took him to a Calgary hospital on Nov. 28, 2013. He died the following day after suffering a seizure and two cardiac arrests.

    Sauvageau testified John was given far too much fluid within an hour, which diluted his blood.

    “No human body can go through that and adapt in an hour,” she said.

    Sauvageau also suggested John’s small size was due to a hormonal issue rather than malnutrition. She based that in part on the proportions of his body.

    For instance, she said, when children are malnourished, they normally lose weight before deficiencies affect their growth. In John’s case, it was the opposite: he was very short, but on the chubby side.

    “In my opinion, it is not malnutrition and there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any type of malnutrition in this kid,” Sauvageau said.

    As for septic shock, two of three cultures taken were negative for staph bacteria, she said. And if he had been really sick, the initial one taken — before he was given antibiotics — would have tested positive, but didn’t.

    Jennifer Clark’s lawyer is not presenting evidence on her behalf.

    Jurors earlier heard Crown testimony that John had some blackened toes, an unusual rash and an abnormally low body temperature when he arrived at the hospital.

    Prosecutor Shane Parker said in his opening statement earlier this month that John was born at home, had never been vaccinated, was not fed properly and had never seen a doctor until the day before he died.

    Parker said that John was on “death’s doorstep” when he was taken to hospital and, because he was malnourished, he was unable to fight off a staph infection.

    Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


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    Correction: Five things about what’s legal and what’s not in Canada’s new pot law

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  • OTTAWA — Canada’s new law legalizing recreational cannabis goes into force on Wednesday. Here are five things about what’s legal and what’s not under this historic piece of legislation:

    1. Can’t vote, can’t toke: The legal age for consuming cannabis is at least 18 or 19, depending on the province. The Justice Department says the age restrictions are in keeping with, “a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of pot.” Of the three priorities the department cites for accomplishing those goals, the top one is keeping cannabis “out of the hands of youth.”

    2. If you missed that point, the slammer awaits: The law builds in features that the government says are designed to keep young people from using pot. The act creates two new criminal offences for giving or selling cannabis to a young person, or using a youth to “commit a cannabis-related offence.” If you’re convicted of either, the penalty could be steep: a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

    3. Mad Men stand down: The law prohibits advertising marijuana or doing anything to entice or promote its use among young people. It’s the same approach that applies to banning tobacco advertising. That means no packaging or labelling of a product to make it “appealing” to youth. It will also be against the law to sell pot through a vending machine or self-service display. Promoting weed is forbidden “except in narrow circumstances where young people could not see the promotion,” says the Justice Department. A conviction on any of this could lead to a fine of up to $5 million or three years in prison.

    4. So what is legal? If you are of legal age, you can possess, in public, 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or its equivalent in non-dried form. It will be legal to share that amount with other adults. It will be legal to buy fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer, or online from a federally-licensed producer. It will also be legal to grow four cannabis plants per residence for personal use from a licensed seed or seedling — except in Quebec and Manitoba, which have banned home grown weed. You can also make food or drinks using cannabis, in your own home as long as you don’t use organic solvents to create concentrated products. But it won’t be legal buy edibles or concentrates for about one more year.

    5. Leave it at home: It will still be illegal to carry cannabis across Canada’s international borders. That includes when travelling to places where it is decriminalized, such as the Netherlands. As for the United States — don’t even dream about it. Yes, pot might be legal in some U.S. states, but that simply doesn’t matter. The U.S. border is federally controlled and, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cultivation, possession and distribution of cannabis remain illegal. U.S. customs agents have sweeping powers to deny entry to anyone suspected of having used the drug in the past — even without a conviction — or planning to use it in the U.S.

     

    The Canadian Press

    Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said cannabis was legal in the Netherlands.




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