Pot. Weed. Grass. Mary-Jane. Ganja. Wacky Tobacky. Whatever name it goes by, cannabis is one of the drugs of choice among many British Columbians.
Studies from a report released by the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., along with the Centre for Applied Research on Mental Health and Addictions illustrate that British Columbians use cannabis more than the rest of Canadians.
The CARBC and the CARMHA analyzed data from the 2004 Canadian Addictions Survey and found that 53 per cent of people in B.C. reported having used or tried cannabis as opposed to 44 per cent for the rest of Canada. B.C.'s reputation as the 'pot capital' of Canada prompted the CARBC to do this analysis.
"We needed to find something that was of public interest to report on," said CARBC research associate Jodi Sturge.
Even though cannabis from B.C.--known as 'B.C. bud'--is rumored to be stronger, findings from the Fraser Institute suggest otherwise.
"THC content is not different from the rest," said Sturge, referring to tetrahydrocannabinol, the main chemical in cannabis which gives users their buzz. "I think really what is going on for 'B.C. bud' is with availability. You'll have a variety of products available--more types to choose from."
More British Columbians also stated that cannabis was easily accessible and that occasional and regular use was harmless. This relaxed view towards cannabis may also explain the support in B.C. for making it legally available. Therefore, changing the legal status of cannabis may not change people's attitudes, nor would it discourage them from continuing to use it, noted Sturge. She suggests an Australian model could be adopted, where there are more tickets and penalties, as opposed to jail-terms and prison times.
"We need to think of different ways of dealing with it besides the way the law deals with them right now," said Sturge. "I think the biggest thing is to really inform the users of the harm related to using the drug."
While these studies suggest there is more occasional and low-risk use of cannabis in B.C., rates of problematic use are not significantly different from the rest of Canada. This trend could be on the rise, however, as the report states: "greater availability, prevalence and acceptability of cannabis in B.C. have resulted in an increase in potentially hazardous use."
Education about health and safety risks and observation of rates of cannabis use should be continued, said the report.