A prominent Canadian addictions centre has come out in favour of the legalization and government sale of marijuana, adding their voice to a growing chorus that prohibition has been an expensive failure.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health argued Thursday that marijuana is not "benign" but said also that criminalization was counter-productive.
"The laws are not made by the police, they're enforced by the police," Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said in response. "But I'm very encouraged by that public health approach that's advocated by CAMH and by a recognition that the regulation of cannabis also has value in public policy."
According to CAMH, Canada has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the world. Their data shows that 40 per cent of Canadians say they have used the drug at least once, one-quarter of them in the last year.
"Based on a thorough review of the evidence, we believe that legalization combined with strict regulation of cannabis is the most effective means of reducing the harms associated with its use," Dr. Jurgen Rehm, director of the social and epidemiological research department at CAMH, said in a statement.
The push from Toronto-based CAMH, which bills itself as Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, comes amid a growing feeling among politicians and police that the current system is not working.
Both the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the federal Conservative government have floated the idea of a ticket rather than criminal charge for possession of marijuana. The Tories have ruled out decriminalization, though, and have taken pot-shots at the Liberals for proposing legalization.
This year Colorado allowed transactions of up to an ounce of marijuana to residents for recreational use. And Uruguay has moved toward a system of legalization and government-controlled sale.
In Canada, CAMH argued for continued controls on marijuana, including "a government monopoly on sales, limits on availability, a pricing system that discourages use of higher-harm products, and a ban on marketing."