A Senate report urging the decriminalizing of marijuana has pro-family groups worried about the impact it could have on children and families.

The Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs recommended that marijuana be legalized for use among adults and that the Canadian government adopt a system to regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol and expunge criminal records for marijuana possession.

Derek Rogulsky, research director of Focus on the Family Canada, told The Interim his organization is concerned about the message the Senate report sends to society. “In reality,” Rogulsky said, “marijuana is a dangerous substance. That’s why it is illegal.”

Rogulsky said the suggestion to make marijuana easily available to those over 16 will make it even more difficult to keep out of the hands of younger teens. “We all know that high school students are using alcohol and cigarettes despite the prohibition against their use,” by those under (depending upon the jurisdiction in the case of alcohol) 18 or 19 years of age.

Committee chairman Senator Pierre Claude Nolin said during hearings earlier this year, “Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated, not as a criminal issue, but as a social and political issue.”

Rogulsky noted that marijuana presents both health and social problems. He said that marijuana is linked to various cancers and pulmonary diseases. Furthermore, it is a “gateway drug” to harder, more dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroine.

It is also a mind-altering drug and thus can affect the behaviour of people by making them more dangerous to society (for example, a diminished capacity to drive).

Rogulsky notes, too, the social concerns. “Marijuana also impacts behaviour,” Rogulsky said. “They bring about mood swings and diminish the ability to remember. Users have lower productivity at work and at school. Students who use marijuana drop out of positive social clubs at school such as athletics and music.” It is clear that marijuana use hampers the ability to integrate into healthy, functional relationships.

Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper was one of the few politicians who criticized the Senate report and the emerging majority opinion of the political, academic and journalistic elite that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. “As a parent,” he said, “I would be more concerned about pot use than alcohol use by my children, even in moderation.”