Canada’s PM says weed is ‘infinitely worse’ than tobacco and experts call bullshit

published on October 5, 2015 by Tamara Khandaker in VICE News

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters that marijuana is “infinitely worse” than tobacco – a claim that was widely dismissed by public health experts.

The comment was made at a press conference on Saturday, after the final federal leaders’ debate of the Canadian election, in which Harper criticized the Liberal party’s policy of legalizing and regulating the sale of pot.

“There’s just overwhelming and growing scientific and medical evidence about the bad long-term effects of marijuana,” he said, answering a reporter’s question on his opposition to marijuana despite its legal medicinal use and the fact that alcohol and tobacco are regulated.

Dr. Dan Werb, director of the Toronto-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, says Harper is only half-right – tobacco is very dangerous.

However, after a lifetime of use, less than 1 in 10 of all marijuana users are estimated to become addicted, while over two thirds of nicotine users become addicted over a lifetime of use, he says, adding that on a range of metrics, including short and long-term cognitive impairment, and risk of death, marijuana is consistently shown to be less harmful than drugs like alcohol and tobacco.

“With respect to the notion that regulation encourages drug use, would the prime minister suggest that Canada’s tobacco regulation system encourages tobacco use?” Werb asked. “The opposite is actually the case – the annual rate of smoking among Canadians has been dropping steadily for the past two decades, with the highest decline among youth aged 15 to 19 years old.”

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