Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the work the RCMP is doing to combat drug-impaired driving and the impact that cannabis has on law enforcement.
I am Inspector Jamie Taplin, and I work in the operational policy unit of the contract policing business line. Two areas that are within my responsibility are the drug recognition expert program and the RCMP impaired driving strategy.
Joining me today is Mr. Darcy Smith. Mr. Smith is an alcohol and drug specialist from the RCMP forensic labs. He is also an instructor for the drug recognition expert program. He's currently leading a research study to determine if there are roadside screening devices that will work with the most common drugs that impair driving to see if these devices will be suitable for use in Canada.
From RCMP federal services is Sergeant Dustin Rusk. He's a federal policing public engagement officer. I'll be referring to that as the FPPE. The aim of his program is to be proactive with an emphasis on prevention within the pre-criminal scope of the criminal spectrum. FPPE seeks to identify options and sustainable solutions and highlight gaps where existing public community or private resources and policies are not aligned, or are not sufficient to provide support.
Today, I'm going to start by talking a little about impaired driving more broadly. I'm going to focus on drug-impaired driving, and then I'll talk a little about what federal policing is doing, and the impact that cannabis has on law enforcement overall. We'll talk about some of the initiatives the RCMP is working on to combat drug-impaired driving, and overall drug enforcement and prevention.
Although the RCMP has always enforced Canadian impaired driving laws, the Commissioner of the RCMP recently requested the development of a national strategy to combat impaired driving and to help change public attitudes about impaired driving. Impaired driving devastates families and communities, resulting in high cost to victims, offenders, communities, and governments. Our strategy will focus on enforcement activities, but also on public awareness, with the aim to address issues with drug-impaired driving, which is a growing concern around the world and certainly in Canada.
One of the most important factors in deterring impaired driving and changing the attitudes of those people who choose to drive while impaired is to have them understand the potentially devastating consequences that their actions may have on themselves and others, and also to let them know that there is some risk in being caught. Building on the great work already under way in the provinces through engaging our partners in the non-profit sector, other law enforcement agencies, and other government organizations invested in road safety, the RCMP hopes to encourage people to choose not to drive while impaired. We hope to encourage citizens to report impaired drivers. We would like to increase the likelihood that impaired drivers will be apprehended before they can cause further harm in Canadian communities.
Let us look at statistics, and I'll speak about Canadian statistics, not just the RCMP's. They're from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. In 2012, there were 84,483 criminal impaired driving incidents that were by way of charge. While the large majority is alcohol-impaired driving, about 2% are reported to be by drug impairment. Interestingly, we're learning that the most recent roadside surveys and academic studies that are being done and published are suggesting that drug-impaired driving is quite a bit higher than the 2% that our statistics show.
For example, I refer to a 2011 report, “Drug Use by Fatally Injured Drivers in Canada (2000-2008)”. The report is from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. They reviewed the accidents of over 17,000 drivers who were fatally injured. That study indicates that drugs that can cause driver impairment were found in approximately one-third of all fatally injured drivers. This is important to us, because that 33%, roughly, is almost at the same level that alcohol was found in fatally injured drivers.
One of the other things that was important is when drugs were found, the most common were central nervous system depressants and also cannabis.
The age group the study identifies most at risk was young men age 16 to 24, and the drug of choice for them was cannabis.
In another study referring to a 2008 roadside survey with British Columbia drivers, over 10% of the drivers tested positive for drugs, with cocaine and cannabis being the most common drugs detected. In this survey, 10% were found to be using drugs; 8% of drivers had been drinking; about 15% tested positive for both alcohol and drugs.
There are other surveys out there that indicate, for example, that 17% of Canadian drivers report having driven within two hours of using a potentially impairing drug.
What's important here is most people know that a person's ability to drive a motor vehicle is affected by alcohol use, but we have a study by the CCMTA, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, with what I call rather alarming news. According to their study, 26% do not believe a driver can be charged while impaired by cannabis.
The RCMP is concerned about cannabis use, especially by young Canadians when it comes to driving. I have teenagers myself. I listen to their conservations. I talk to my son and his friends. It seems everybody knows that alcohol-impaired driving is bad. Don't drink and drive. The message has been out there for a long time. But the issue with drug-impaired driving is not as well understood. Anecdotally, I hear that teenagers don't feel you can be stoned and get an impaired driving charge.
I'm going to give you a couple more statistics about a survey that was done with Ontario students, grades 7 to 12, in 2011. They reported that cannabis was the most common illicit drug used by high school students; 22% reported using it over the last year. The same report notes that cannabis use increases with every grade level, starting at 7 and going to 12. They note that 12% of drivers in grades 10 to 12, with a G class licence, report driving after cannabis use. Based on the size of the survey, that 12% represents some 38,000 drivers.
On a positive note, that same survey mentions our efforts to educate youth are having some impact because the number of licensed students who drive after using cannabis or who get in the vehicle as a passenger with a driver who has been using cannabis or alcohol has gone down.
Part of what we're doing with the impaired driving strategy in the RCMP is we're trying to create better internal and external messaging, working closely with RCMP divisions, partner agencies, and special interest groups to discourage impaired driving through public education and awareness. We're trying to engage youth in discussions on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. We're coordinating national enforcement days against impaired driving, supporting the identification and purchase of new equipment to support alcohol- and drug-impaired driving investigations, and to make sure our training standards for using this equipment are up to date, along with the training for our standardized field sobriety testing, and also the drug recognition expert training.
I mentioned very briefly about Mr. Smith's role with our oral-fluid testing devices. The RCMP is working on a project with the Canadian Society of Forensic Science's drugs and driving committee. Also, there's funding from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. We're trying to determine if there are roadside point-of-contact oral-fluid testing devices that can test for the most common drugs that contribute to impaired driving in Canada. This, of course, would include cannabis. We want to determine if these devices can be used in Canada. The device would be similar to an approved screening device for alcohol, and would aid in the apprehension of drug-impaired drivers.
On the federal policing side, it's well known that cultivation, distribution, and exportation of marijuana is a significant source of revenue for Canadian organized criminal groups, and it provides a financial base for other organized crime activities as well as individual criminals.
The RCMP, in cooperation with its partners, continues to be an active participant in the prevention and enforcement pillars of the national anti-drug strategy, NADS, which was launched by the Government of Canada in 2007.
NADS has a clear focus on illicit drugs, with a particular emphasis on youth. Its goal is to contribute to safer and healthier communities through coordinated efforts to prevent use, treat dependency, and reduce production and distribution of illicit drugs, including marijuana. It encompasses three action plans: prevention, treatment, and enforcement.
The RCMP is also doing outreach and community engagement in relation to illegal marijuana use. The FPPE is involved in a range of initiatives aimed at raising awareness of illicit drugs and their negative consequences. For example, during the 2012 fiscal year, the RCMP gave over 3,000 awareness presentations for such programs as D.A.R.E., drug abuse resistance education; the aboriginal shield program; racing against drugs; kids and drugs; and drug-endangered children. These initiatives are youth-centric and encompass the surrounding community.
Periodic updates are undertaken to ensure accurate drug information and to ensure that the program content is geographically and culturally specific and appropriate. Each initiative includes extensive information on the harms and risks related to substance abuse, use, and movement. Marijuana, of course, is included in that.
In relation to marijuana enforcement, the RCMP at both the local and federal levels continues to be concerned with the presence of marijuana grow operations in Canada. The RCMP established a marijuana grow initiative in September 2011 in order to better tackle marijuana grow operations. This initiative is based on three components—awareness, deterrence, and enforcement—and involves collaboration among government agencies, community groups, businesses, and community members. This past year saw many successful federal enforcement activities in relation to marijuana grow operations and organized criminal groups.
That concludes my opening remarks. Sergeant Rusk, Mr. Smith, and I would be happy to answer your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for being here today.
I want to follow up on the issue of traffic accidents related to cannabis. I have a couple of questions.
Of the people who have been found impaired because they had been using cannabis, how many used cannabis alone and how many used alcohol as well? In other words, how is it decided which one was the one that caused the problem, or whether the cannabis use creates a bigger hit and more impairment than others?
I'm looking at a 2005 review, from France, of auto accident fatalities. It showed that the drivers who tested positive for any amount of alcohol had a four times greater risk of having a fatal accident than drivers who tested positive for THC in their blood.
You've also said that the impairment that occurs with alcohol is very different from the impairment that occurs with cannabis, and that when the levels peak is important. I don't think most people realize that up to 8 to 16 hours after they've gone on a drinking binge, or have been drinking a fair amount, they actually show effects of impairment, in terms of their cognitive skills and their own reflexes, etc., because alcohol lasts that long in the brain.
Is there any information in Canada with regard to the use of cannabis alone related to motor vehicle accidents?
First of all, thank you for inviting me to speak to the committee.
I'm an epidemiologist. My research in this area typically focuses on addictions and injury prevention. I have a particular focus on road safety and traffic safety.
I'm going to speak to the issue of drug-impaired driving, in particular the role of cannabis. I also have some other interests as well. Some of my research is focused on issues around youth, trends in youth consumption, young adult consumption, this notion of normalization of cannabis and some of the issues about how we define problematic or harmful use. I will speak on these if time permits, and please cut me off, because I can ramble on.
It's important when we're talking about these issues in terms of the health risks related to cannabis to contextualize how cannabis is used or the nature of the use. It's important to think about cannabis in some of the same ways we think about alcohol. Not much of the harm associated with cannabis is linked to what we would call uncontrolled or irresponsible consumption, and where the potential for harm is maximized relative to more controlled use where harm is minimal or non-existent. I want to speak to these issues when I cover these topics.
In terms of cannabis and driving, there are three or four key points that I want to get across around the issue. We know from the experimental research that cannabis, when it's consumed in sufficient quantities, impairs the cognitive and psychomotor skills that are necessary for the safe driving of a motor vehicle. This has come out of an extensive experimental set of studies. Many of the aspects of driving are impaired, including things like vehicle tracking, reaction time, attention, and so on and so forth. This is important because we know from both hospital data and from survey data that rates of driving under the influence of cannabis have been rising in the last 20 years.
Depending on the survey, self-reported rates of driving under the influence of cannabis range from one in ten to four in ten youth, depending on the jurisdiction, who use cannabis and drive within one to two hours. That's an important threshold, the one to two hours, because you're going to see the impacts of THC on impairments on driving performance is going to be within that narrow threshold of time.
We also know from administrative hospital data that between 10% to 20% of drivers in crashes—these are individuals in crashes who are presented to hospital with an injury—test positive for THC. We also know that about 6% of drivers randomly stopped in the recent B.C. roadside survey tested positive for THC. Data from Transport Canada noted that a high proportion of fatally injured drivers also tested positive for THC. In many of these cases, it's polydrug use as well, but THC is present.
Finally, a lot of the surveys, particularly among youth and young adults, that have come out of Australia, the U.S., and Canada, indicate that self-reported rates of driving under the influence of cannabis actually have surpassed rates of drinking and driving. They are higher. This is an area potentially of concern.
The important thing is, from a road safety perspective, how does the consumption of cannabis prior to driving affect the likelihood of being in a crash or an accident? We know that recent or acute use, again, within an hour or two before driving increases the risk of a crash about twofold. That's generally been supported in a number of med analyses, which are systematic reviews which are high level summaries of the evidence that's out there. That has been confirmed when you measure cannabis in blood.
The key aspect is to objectively measure recent use. The finding is less clear when it's measured in urine, when you do an analysis of the presence of THC. That's largely a result of some of the inconsistencies in measuring the exact timing of consumption relative to the driving event.
The association of cannabis with crash rates also is typically stronger when you look at more severe crashes involving injury or death. The evidence is not so clear when you look at less severe crashes or non-injury crashes.
There also appears to be a dose-response relationship so that the crash risk is increased at higher levels of THC that are measured in blood, and that there are strong synergistic effects with alcohol even at thresholds below those at which each drug would independently impair someone.
This is a really important issue, but there are still some discrepancies in the findings. A lot of that has to do with our inability to have the most perfect studies, for lack of a better word, to study the issue.
It's really a challenge to study this issue, because in order to appropriately assess whether cannabis increases the risk of a crash requires taking samples from individuals not only in crashes, but individuals who were not in crashes. That's an extremely challenging issue from a research ethical perspective and logistical perspective: how do we stop people on the roadside and get them to give us blood tests so that we can measure cannabis in the roadside population relative to those involved in crashes? That's a challenging issue. More work needs to be done in this particular area. We need some high-quality studies and studies that measure THC in blood, not urine, and that measure THC, again, in these control samples.
In terms of the legislation, you've probably heard from expert witnesses on the topic around the current state of legislation for cannabis and driving in Canada. There are varying policies across the globe around how we detect and determine impairment. These policies vary in how cannabis drivers are detected, the methods that are employed to determine their legal impairment, and then the associated punishment, whether it's a criminal charge or administrative sanction.
Detection typically takes two forms. One is through an observation of driver impairment while behind the wheel. You probably have grounds that a driver is driving erratically and may be impaired, and therefore you stop them. That's what we use in Canada. You have the probable grounds that they're driving erratically and you pull them over. In other countries, they'll do random stops or spot checks, and assess without specific cause.
When you determine impairment, in Canada we have, as you probably heard, the drug recognition expert program, where we detect impairment through a series of 12 stages. First is to look for alcohol impairment, and then move on to other drugs. Other countries set zero tolerance levels, where any amount of THC present in the body is indication of impairment. That has some problems, because of the way you measure THC. If you measure it in blood, it's a little bit better, but most of the time it's in urine, and that's not so good, because it could include use that happened weeks prior. Other countries have per se limits like we do for alcohol, where you have 80 milligrams per cent for alcohol as a Criminal Code sanction. There have been suggestions of what that should be set at. Some places have a range in the 5 nanograms a microlitre, or 7 nanograms to 10 nanograms a microlitre, which would be equivalent to about a 50 milligram per cent for blood alcohol content. These are different examples.
We don't have very good roadside testing technologies. We don't have a breathalyzer for cannabis. There is some testing that's going on in Australia, for instance, using saliva tests, using saliva strips, but they have their own problems. These oral fluid tests have problems in terms of false positives and false negatives, so the jury is still out on that particular issue.
Do I have another couple of minutes?
I just want to touch on one of the other areas in which we've done some work, and that is how we define harmful or problematic cannabis use. A national and international group I work with has looked at how we define this issue. I know it's an issue of concern for the committee.
Simply put, there are various tools that are used by clinicians to assess or screen for problematic use. These tools include the WHO's ASSIST, for instance, and others, such as the CUDIT, the cannabis use disorders identification test. These tools are used to identify people at potential risk for cannabis misuse and problems.
When we look at this issue, we find that these items typically set the threshold or the bar too low. These items typically identify any use as being problematic use, so we see them as not very useful tools. What often gets looked at is simply whether somebody uses and the frequency of use.
For instance, with the ASSIST tool, you could use cannabis once a month and be identified as being a problematic or harmful user, and that would over-screen people from a health care perspective. That would be a terrible tool to identify problematic use. What gets excluded are true problems related to use that might be experienced by the individual. I think we have to be careful when we use these kinds of tools to identify problematic use, and we must consider broader issues around real harms that might be affecting the individual.
One of the things we looked at is that it's maybe more important to measure the quantity of consumption, as we do with alcohol. We can draw on the alcohol literature here. Quantity is more important than frequency. Bingeing is more important than regular use of one joint a day. It would be more important to look at somebody who smokes in excess of three or four joints in a single sitting at more irregular intervals or at somebody who uses multiple joints in a particular day. Drawing on the alcohol literature, I think quantity is something that's not considered strongly enough when we're looking for problematic and harmful use.
I have a lot more to say, but I'll leave my points right here and answer questions.
Good morning. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to speak. I have some brief prepared remarks and then I'd be happy to take any questions.
By way of introduction, I'm a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia. I hold a Canada research chair in inner city medicine. I am the medical director for addiction services at Vancouver Coastal Health and I'm an American Board of Addiction Medicine accredited addiction medicine physician.
Today I will summarize some of the health harms of cannabis at the individual and public health levels and hopefully offer some insight into how these harms can be mitigated.
In recent years research has concluded that cannabis can contribute to some health harms, although I think in many instances these have been overstated, and I'd be happy to talk about in which instances I think they have been. As previous presenters have noted, while these health harms are a matter for concern, especially among vulnerable populations, relatively speaking, the health harms of cannabis in terms of individual health are believed in the scientific literature and in the medical community to be less serious than those of tobacco and alcohol.
Most importantly, I should note that cannabis is one of the most commonly used, certainly the most commonly used illegal drug. Most users use it infrequently and with no obvious harms to themselves.
I really come to this issue from a conservative perspective with respect to government accountability and the need for impact assessment of taxpayer-funded interventions. As you are likely aware, despite more than an estimated $1 trillion spent in the last 40 years trying to suppress the drug market in general, cannabis remains freely available to young people in our society. In many respects it is more accessible to young people than alcohol and tobacco. There are statistics from various U.S. government-funded sources, including the Monitoring the Future study, that show that about 80% of young people find cannabis easy to obtain.
In recent decades, rates of cannabis use have climbed; cannabis potency has increased, and the price of cannabis has decreased. Despite our best efforts in public education and law enforcement, it's clear we've not been able to effectively curb cannabis supply and demand, and importantly, a violent unregulated market has filled the void to supply cannabis to consumers.
The Fraser Institute, an economic and public policy think tank, has estimated that the market for illegal cannabis in British Columbia may be as large as $7 billion per year. This is more than double the total revenue from the province's agricultural, forestry, and fishing sectors combined. The well-intentioned efforts to reduce the availability and use of cannabis by making it illegal, like alcohol prohibition before it, has had a range of unintended consequences in terms of its contribution to organized crime. It's important not to separate the cannabis market from other illegal industries. For instance, the RCMP has done a very nice job describing how the export market for cannabis to the United States contributes in a substantial way to the importation of cocaine and guns into Canada.
Economists considering this issue have helped me understand that this is just simply the laws of supply and demand; that is, any consequential intervention into the cannabis market that in any way reduces supply will have the perverse effect of driving up the price of cannabis and incentivizing new individuals to get into the marketplace. In light of the harms of cannabis use and the social harms of cannabis prohibition the question is: what should be done next?
It's commonly argued that rates of cannabis use would be higher if law enforcement measures such as these were not in place, which raises the question: should anti-cannabis provisions be strengthened? Importantly, the scientific evidence does not supply this approach. A survey of UN member states that looked at how aggressively anti-drug laws, including anti-cannabis laws, were enforced demonstrated that there's no association in per capita rates of use in relation to how aggressively anti-cannabis prohibition are enforced.
Quite the contrary, settings with softer laws with respect to cannabis, such as the Netherlands, where cannabis has been de facto legalized, are lower than in settings where anti-cannabis prohibitions are aggressively enforced, at least traditionally, such as the United States.
While you've already heard from other speakers that the cannabis available on our streets is more potent than ever before, it's important to note that this has happened despite escalating expenditures aimed at reducing the cannabis supply. Our best efforts to limit supply and demand have not been successful. As a result, cannabis is freely available throughout the country in an unregulated way and to the benefit of organized crime.
As a physician and researcher, I stand with leading public health bodies, including the Health Officers Council of British Columbia and the Canadian Public Health Association, which have argued that we should be looking at the taxation and strict regulation of adult cannabis use as the best way to wage economic war on organized crime, and certainly to have the potential to better protect young people from the free and easy availability of cannabis that exists under prohibition.
I'll stop there. I'm happy to answer any questions that members of the committee may have.
I want to thank the committee for inviting me to talk about what, in my opinion, is probably one of the most controversial but also very scientifically challenging topics in mental health. Talking about mental health and addiction, psychiatrists leading the addiction psychiatry unit at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, also leading a laboratory focusing on the endocannabinoid system and the neurobiology of addiction....
I have the chance to follow, I think, an amazing group of highly skilled very renowned researchers that probably talked about a lot of different aspects of the risks related to cannabis. Therefore, I'll be able to focus on a very specific aspect of cannabis and risk that's related to that substance. That is basically the content of cannabis, which in my opinion is one of the very important factors to take into consideration when trying to understand the risks that can be related to cannabis.
As a general introduction, one thing that is very interesting at this point in science related to cannabis is actually the growing understanding we have of the neuroscience of addiction, and more specifically the understanding of the endocannabinoid system, which is what we now understand to be main compounds that are found in cannabis, namely THC. I think that understanding really allowed us to get a better sense of what the short-term and long-terms effects of exposure to cannabis are. Also, the emerging knowledge that we have now, that we'll talk about very soon, is about the content of cannabis, which is a very complex substance.
As you probably have heard, there are different outcomes that have been assessed in relation to cannabis exposure. Obviously, there are some very specific outcomes related to mental health that have been very well studied, including: the relationship between cannabis exposure and psychosis; between cannabis exposure and the risk of developing addiction to that substance but also other substances; the relationship between cannabis exposure and the risk of developing anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as developing learning and cognitive problems.
In the last five to ten years, probably more the last five years, in the neuroscience world and also the clinical and the addiction psychiatry world, the growing knowledge that really highlighted and put a new light on the association between cannabis exposure and various outcomes is the fact that clearly all are not equal in front of cannabis exposure. By that I mean, very clearly, when you look at the general population who are not vulnerable from a mental health or even a genetic perspective, the exposure to cannabis is quite rarely related to very severe long-term negative effects, including mental health.
What is clear now is also the fact that there are some factors that can really increase the risk of developing very significant negative effects when someone is exposed to cannabis. Among these factors, one is definitely genetics. When you look at all the data on the relationship between cannabis exposure and psychosis, certainly there are genetic factors that will definitely modulate the risk of developing psychosis when you're exposed to cannabis. Among other factors, obviously, is age. Probably other researchers have talked about the fact that age will definitely modulate the risk of developing, for example, cognitive problems when you're exposed to cannabis. The younger you are when exposed, the longer will be the term you'll probably have cognitive problems.
One of the factors, which is why I'm here and what I want to talk about today, that will clearly modulate the risk associated with cannabis exposure and other cannabinoids is actually what is found in cannabis. For a long time the main focus has been on THC, which in laboratory settings has been associated with a lot of the outcomes that I talked about—cognitive problems, psychosis, anxiety, for example—but now we have a really good understanding, actually a better understanding, of other cannabinoids that are found in cannabis. Clearly, there is not only THC. For example, there's cannabinol and also there's cannabidiol.
Why I talk about this is that all of these other cannabinoids that we find in cannabis are very different from THC. I'll give you an example. Clearly, when someone comes into a laboratory...and groups around the world have shown that when someone comes into a controlled setting and are administered THC in sufficient dosage, you'll see cognitive problems. You'll see psychotic symptoms. You will see anxiety symptoms very easily. On the other hand, when someone in a controlled setting is administered another cannabinoid, for example CBD, cannabidiol, you see very different effects. I'll give an example.
In the lab, when you administer THC to someone at a significant dosage, you will induce symptoms very similar to schizophrenia. If you pre-treat these people, these subjects, with cannabidiol, you can decrease the symptoms of psychosis. That's just to give you an example of how this drug is very complex, but different compounds will have a different effect.
That has very important implications in terms of how we understand the risks associated with cannabis, but also what kind of data we need to really be able to get a better sense of what the risk is associated with cannabis and also how to deal with changes in the laws and how we'll deal with, for example, therapeutic cannabis, if we were to go that way in society.
I think the implications are very important. First, I think the assessment of clinical effects and the risks associated with cannabis can only be made accurately if THC and CBD contents are taken into account, because depending on the ratio of CBD and THC, the effect of that substance can vary widely and very importantly.
The therapeutic use of cannabis is not a topic I talk about, but there is clearly some therapeutic potential for that substance as a whole, and it can only be made in a scientific evidence-based manner with rigorous control of the THC and CBD content. We know that each substance has a very specific effect, and if we want to use them in a therapeutic manner, we have to be able to control that, just as we do with all other medications.
In terms of research, I also think that significant research effort should be devoted to examining and discriminating the specific effect, but also the risk associated with THC and CBD. Studies looking at cannabis risk and therapeutic properties should consider THC and CBD content when looking at that association.
In terms of recommendations, if I can make some, as a general statement I think it's crucial to underline that much remains to be understood in regard to the deleterious effect of cannabis. The risk can only be truly understood by taking into account all the factors that can modulate that risk. Again, all are not equal in front of cannabis exposure. One of the major issues that needs to be solved is the understanding of the specific effects of the various cannabinoids that can be found in that substance, mainly THC and CBD.
In terms of regulation, I think that definitely the content ratio of CBD and THC should be taken into account as part of any regulation regarding cannabis, both for recreational purposes and for medical therapeutic use.
I also think that compound simple with high CBD and low CBD should be considered for now as potentially safer in the absence of more definitive data, based on what we have available in terms of scientific data on the effect of both compounds.
I definitely think that research related to other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol, but also cannabinol and other cannabinoids—there are dozens in cannabis—should be facilitated, including by alleviating some of the burdens that are related to the study of that substance. It's pretty amazing at this time that for a researcher, it's much more difficult to study specific compounds, specific cannabinoids, in an evidence-based, very strong scientific manner than it is to study a substance such as cannabis that will have a very different content. It is really difficult to study it as a medical compound for medical use.
I also think that regulations that pertain to other cannabinoids, including CBD, should be revisited. Actually, cannabidiol, which is anti-addictive, does not induce psychotic effects, is not abused on the street, is considered as dangerous and as addictive in terms of scheduling in terms of regulation as substances like THC that can be addictive, or other substances such as cocaine or heroin.
I'll be happy to take questions.
I'm not sure if you're aware of a study from 2011 conducted by the Canadian alcohol and drug use monitoring group. It's a survey they ran, and it showed that in the last year.... They measured how many folks actually used marijuana. In 2004, 14% of the general population—they're extrapolating—had used marijuana at some point in the previous year, but by 2011 it was down to 9.1%. That's a statistically significant decrease. It's also a very sizable decrease. It seems as though it was much more popular in 2004 but was very much diminishing in popularity by 2011.
I guess we're somewhat concerned that all of a sudden this has become a political football, and people are trying to throw this out on the front pages and so on, when in fact there isn't this big clamouring for legalization or the ability to sell marijuana at every corner store. I'm particularly concerned about what the impact would be on the developing mind, about what those health consequences are.
This is actually our last day of testimony for this study. What we're struggling to find is independent scientific evidence that really speaks to the effects and the impact on individuals' health of using recreational marijuana, especially on developing minds. That study said that the overall population is really not using marijuana quite so much, but it did find, however, that youth really are using marijuana, and some of the numbers are really, really high. In the past year, cannabis use by youth was 21.6%, or three times higher than that of adults.
I guess the concern is that if you were to make marijuana readily available at variety stores and simply say that you needed to be a certain age in order to purchase it, similar to cigarettes.... I think we could all say realistically that we've seen teenagers smoking cigarettes, so somehow they have them in their possession. Have you undertaken any research on young participants, 13-, 14-, or 15-year-olds, to see what the health consequences are of recreational marijuana usage, or are you aware of any studies or science on this issue?