Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy
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Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry
Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry Into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs
THE EXTENT AND PATTERNS OF NON-MEDICAL DRUG USE IN CANADA
Note: This file is still under construction.
267. From the outset of its inquiry, the Commission has been concerned with the extent of non-medical drug use, and with the channels through which the drugs are distributed. W e there has been much speculation and perhaps myth-making about both these matters, it is unfortunate that there is relatively little reliable information about either. The problems of gathering accurate information are formidable. However, the Commission hopes to be able to report in greater detail in its final submission.
There does not seem to have been any consistent pattern to the general statements made to the Commission so far on the extent of drug use. We have heard estimates that would appear either grossly to over-estimate or to under-estimate such use. In general, it seems that drug users tend to exaggerate their own numbers (and there is some research evidence supporting this observation). Some low estimates by adults perhaps reflect an unwillingness to face up to a very real situation - a hope that if a problem is minimized it will go away.
The phenomenon of non-medical drug use is certainly not new in Canada. However, during the past decade, there appears to have been a rather sudden change in the drugs in use, particularly by younger people* but this trend is by no means confined to those under 25.
We have a good deal of information about certain aspects of non-medical drug use. Much excellent research has been carried out into the use of alcohol and tobacco. A reasonable amount of knowledge is available about the extent and patterns of the illicit use of heroin and other opiate narcotics. But we know relatively little about the use of such drugs as LSD and cannabis, especially their use by adults, although there are indications that the extent of their use has increased during the past two or three years, perhaps sharply. We have little precise information about the non-medical use of prescription drugs such as the tranquilizers and amphetamines.
268. At this point we should review the sources of epidemiological information available to the Commission.
Prescription records kept by the Food and Drug Directorate of the Department of National Health and Welfare are of relatively little value in estimating the extent of non-medical use of prescribed drugs. Dispensing records kept by physicians, pharmacists and hospitals do not tell us the extent to which drugs may be used for non-medical purposes.
Some inferences can be drawn from other government records, such as statistics showing
the volume of manufacture, importation and distribution of certain drugs. These reports
would indicate that the available supplies of drugs such as the amphetamines and
barbiturates far exceed the most liberal estimates of our proper medical needs. These
drugs and the minor tranquillizers are legitimately available only on prescription and
there is reason to believe large amounts of them pass from legitimate manufacture to
illicit distribution. However, the amount manufactured and imported is so great as to
suggest questionable prescribing judgement by some physicians. The Canadian Medical
Association recognized this possibility in their brief to the Commission.
269. Government records show that in 1968 Canadians bought almost three billion aspirin tablets.' Some 55,600,000 standard doses of amphetamines, and some 556 million standard doses of barbiturates were also produced or imported for consumption in Canada. A study by the Addiction Research Foundation in 19663 found evidence indicating that on an average day 7 per cent of the Toronto population over 15 years of age would be using, on prescription, a mood-modifying drug. This study estimates that 24 per cent of all prescriptions written in Toronto were for drugs of this type; 44 per cent of these were for sedative and hypnotic drugs; 40 per cent were anti-depressants and major and minor tranquilizers. It is also reported that'.. . more than 35 per cent of all mood-modifying prescriptions were dispensed in @ quantities calculated to last more than four weeks'.
270. Police files provide a record of the number of arrests made in connection with drug offences but they are of limited value for purposes of establishing the true extent of illegal drug use or for estimating trends in such use. Changes in the number of arrests over a period of time may reflect changes in the extent of illegal use. However, they may also reflect changes in enforcement policy, changes in police efficiency, changes in the resources available to the police such as the number of officers assigned to drug squads, or changes in the visibility of drug use. Police statistics provide virtually no information about the extent to which drugs available for medical purposes are also used non-medically. Thus they tell us little about the use of barbiturates, amphetamines or tranquillizers.
At the request of the Commission, the R.C.M. Police presented estimates of the numbers of users of cannabis and LSD. The Force provided us with arrest statistics, figures on the number of known users, whether or not arrests had been made, and estimates of the probable total number of users. The first two of these statistics are no doubt accurate, but as pointed out above, they are of limited value in estimating total use.
The third statistic, the estimate of total number of users, seems to the Commission to be highly conservative and should be interpreted in the context of estimates available from other sources. This statement should not be interpreted as criticism of the R.C.M. Police. Any police force would be handicapped in making accurate estimates of this type and the Commission and the Force were aware of this fact when the estimates were requested.
271. However, the Commission believes that police records may be valuable at this time
in estimating the number of persons dependent on heroin, since these users are limited in
number, concentrated in certain areas, generally rather visible and are kept under police
surveillance for extended periods of time. But if certain emerging patterns of heroin use
in the United States appear in Canada, police surveillance will become far more difficult
and consequently their estimates less accurate.
272. Scientific survey data on drug use will be needed before accurate estimates can be made. While a number of surveys have been carried out in Canada in recent years, they have focused on particular populations - usually students and other young people. This particular -attention to youth no doubt reflects the general concern for youth in our present society. It was probably also due to the fact that the young are usually more willing to discuss or report their drug experiences than their elders.
There are further limitations on the value of existing survey data. The studies that
the Commission have examined have varied widely in quality of research design, adequacy of
the samples and in the sophistication and the rigour with which the data have been
analysed. In the time available since it was appointed, the Commission has not been able
to carry out the survey research which it believes necessary. Consequently, in preparing
this chapter we are reporting on information based on a study of surveys carried out
during the past two years.
273. However, the Commission has initiated an extensive programme of survey research aimed at determining, as accurately as possible, the extent and patterns of drug use in Canada in 1970.* Studies will be directed at the Canadian people at large, students in Canadian universities and colleges, and Canadian high school students. The result of these studies will be made available at a later date.
* This project is supervised by Dr C. M. Lanphier and Dr Sondra B. Phillips of the
Institute for Behavioural Research, Survey Research Centre, York University, Toronto.
274. Properly constructed surveys are the most accurate method of making estimates of drug use. A survey is particularly appropriate to describe social facts which include both overt behaviour and attitudes. While much human behaviour is subject to various forms of investigation, only self -reporting by a representative sample of a population will yield information to describe sets of attitudes and experiences that combine to determine differences in behaviour within that population. A survey is basically a descriptive tool which will provide a profile on a given question representative of a population from which the sample is drawn. Whatever estimates are drawn from such a survey will carry with them a statement of the probable error of the estimate. The research being carried out by the Commission will be based on highly rigorous sampling methods.
Data upon which to make estimates of drug use have been available to the Commission
from sources other than those noted above. Both in public and private hearings we have had
the benefit of the estimates of highly trained and sensitive observers of the drug scene
such as psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and social workers. Some valuable
information has also been provided by persons involved in the manufacture and distribution
of illicit drugs and by users of these drugs. The Commission is grateful to the many
Canadians as well as the institutions such as the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario
who have made their epidemiological data available.
275. With reference to the matter of illicit drug distribution, one of the most confusing areas involves the market value of certain drugs. Particularly with respect to psychedelic substances such as cannabis and LSD, the mass media, basing their reports mainly on police and Crown prosecution estimates, tend to present highly exaggerated evaluations of drug seizures - a practice that serves to glamorize an illegal enterprise for some youths, and further reduces, among experienced drug purchasers, the already strained credibility of those who make such gross overestimates.
Basic to any understanding of the illicit drug market is the realization that there are many levels of distribution and that there are price mark-ups and additional expenses at every level. The exact value of any illegal drug, then, depends on the level of distribution with which one is concerned. In fact, a drug's market value at any distribution level is simply its replacement cost to the individual possessing that drug.
Just as in the world of legal commerce, illicit drugs have a varying value depending on
whether one is speaking of their production, wholesale, middleman or retail cost. One
pound of marijuana, for example, is worth $ 10 in Mexico and about $50 in parts of
California, and $100 by the time it reaches distributors in Canada. If this same pound of
marijuana is divided into ounces, these ounces (or 'lids') are likely worth $ 10 in
California, $15 apiece in New York, and $20 to $25 to their owner in Canada. Further
subdivisions into 'nickel' ($5) or 'dime' ($ 1 0) lots (generally called 'bags') are worth
exactly that - and no more. It has been customary for the police to evaluate large
marijuana seizures in terms of the number of nickel or dime bags (or even single marijuana
cigarettes - or Joints') that can be drawn from them. But this inflationary practice
contradicts the reality of a market in which there are many distribution levels and in
which dealers almost always sell to the next level down (e.g., someone possessing large
quantities of marijuana is likely to sell it by the 'brick'- a kilo weighing approximately
2.2 pounds - or by the pound; not by the ounce or smaller quantities). The most accurate
means of determining the value of a certain quantity of drugs is to find its purchase
price (for the individual acquiring the drugs), not its selling or, worse still, estimated
eventual selling price. The value of any drug depends on its location in the distribution
network that extends from producer to consumer.
276. Although alcohol use dates back to the earliest recorded history of the human race, it has lost little of its appeal as a drug of choice for non-medical purposes. It is estimated that 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 use alcohol. There are no indications that the popularity of alcohol is slipping. In 1967, the per capita consumption of alcohol in the Canadian population 15 years of age and older was 1.83 imperial gallons .4 That is an increase of almost 25 per cent over the per capita consumption in the same population in 1951 - this, despite an average price increase of 55 per cent.5
Along with tobacco, alcohol remains the most popular and widely-used of the legitimately manufactured drugs. While it is probably most often taken to alter mood, it is also used, unlike the tranquillizers and amphetamines, for other reasons. Its use is so accepted in our society that few Canadians seem willing to recognize and accept it as a drug, although alcohol abuse clearly presents the most serious and widespread drug problem in Canada.
277. The relatively high rate of use of alcohol by young Canadians suggests that these trends will continue. The table found in Appendix D indicates the use of alcohol as found in surveys taken in some high schools during the past two years. Use ranged from a low of 40 per cent to a high of 88 per cent.
In universities, the use of alcohol seems to be significantly higher than in high schools. A survey conducted in four faculties at McGill University, Montreal, late in 1969, showed that more than 80 per cent of the students had used alcohol at least once during the previous six months.
278. Chart I demonstrates the increase in the estimated number of alcoholics in Canada from 1951 to 1965 in the Canadian population 20 years of age and older. During this period, the estimated number of alcoholics increased by 63 per cent.
The annual average increase in the number of alcoholics since 1951 has been about five per cent. Similarly, convictions for offences associated with alcohol use rose significantly over the same period. In 1951 in Canada, there were 117,685 convictions for offences involving alcohol; by 1966, this had risen to 302,278 - an increase of more than 150 per cent. These convictions accounted for a total of between 6.3% and 8.5% of convictions for all crimes in Canada during those years.
279. Of particular significance is the increase in convictions for impaired and/or drunken driving. The rate of these convictions per 100,000 vehicles increased from 234 in 1951 to 448 in 1966 - an increase of 92 per cent.7
One indication of our society's acceptance of the abuse of alcohol is the fact that
while alcoholism has increased by almost 60 per cent since 1951, the rate of convictions
for drunkenness has remained virtually stable in the population 15 years of age and older
in that period (1,149 in 1951; 1,155 in 1966) .8
BARBITURATES AND TRANQUILLIZERS
280. The barbiturates and tranquillizers have been in relatively heavy use in Canada since the early fifties. As with the stimulants, development of therapeutic uses for some sedatives was a by-product of wartime research, although in the case of the barbiturates, there are records of use dating back to the early years of this century. Tranquillizers, however, have been in use only in the past 20 years. At the same time, pharmaceutical manufacturers have lost little time in entering the growing market for these drugs. In North America since 1950, more than 12,000 patents have been issued for tranquillizer barbiturate-stimulant preparations.
According to R.C.M. Police testimony before the Commission, there was no evidence of the illicit manufacture or importation of barbiturates. Likewise, no such evidence exists with respect to tranquillizers. However, because the pattern of use of each of these drugs differs considerably, they will be considered separately.
281. There is more accurate and complete information on the volume of barbiturates
available in Canada than there is on the tranquillizers. The following table9 shows the
number of standard unit doses of various classes of barbiturates imported in each year
from 1964 to 1968:
Barbiturates* Barbiturates Barbiturates
Year Short-acting Medium-acting Long-acting
1964 68,440,000 125,683,333 342,666,666
1965 122,050,000 160,750,000 432,766,666
1966 87,590,000 147,350,000 346,733,333
1967 95,720,000 166,950,000 338,366,666
1968 88,790,000 145,400,000 322,433,333
Short-Acting Barbiturates - 100 mg. (Standard Unit Dose.)
Medium-Acting Barbiturates - 60 mg. (Standard Unit Dose.)
Long-Acting Barbiturates - 30 mg. (Standard Unit Dose.)
282. These statistics deal with the importation and production of barbiturates and tell us little about the prevalence of use or abuse. The submission of the R.CM. Police to the Commission described the abuse of barbiturates generally this way:
Barbiturates are susceptible to two types of abuse. The first is entirely of a medical nature and involves mainly exceeding the dosage prescribed. Not infrequently this results in a dependency which compels the patient to obtain additional supplies in a criminal manner by forgery, theft, or by obtaining prescriptions through more than one physician at the same time ...
The second type of abuse relates directly to the non-medical use and is most prevalent among alcoholics, old-time criminals and addicts who can no longer support a steady opiate habit. Prior to 1961, it was not uncommon for heroin addicts to be in possession of barbiturates.
These drugs were then readily available from legitimate outlets through the medical profession. Since the enactment of Part III of the Food and Drugs Act, particularly the regulations controlling legal outlets, this problem has been very greatly alleviated. Controlled drugs are still encountered by police in the hands of what would be unauthorized persons if legislation existed. Generally speaking, cases of barbiturates being found in the possession of known drug abusers are not reported, except when such possession can be related to a charge of trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking. For this reason, statistical evidence is not readily available.
283. Some statistical evidence does exist of the serious difficulties, both social and medical, brought about by the abuse of barbiturates. In British Columbia, 109 persons died from overdoses of barbiturates ' in 1967; and 158 in 1968. Metropolitan Toronto Police records show that in 1968, 57 apparent suicides and 322 attempted suicides were attributed to barbiturates. Metro Toronto Police also estimate that 30 per cent of the 2,052 drunken female prisoners encountered in 1968 used barbiturates in conjunction with alcohol.
Incomplete though they may be, statistics from poison control centres across Canada also give some indication of the volume of the non-medical use of barbiturates. The following table shows the number of cases of barbiturate poisoning for the years 1961 to 1967:
1961 - 197 cases 1965 - 422 cases
1962 - 325 cases 1966 - 474 cases
1963 - 463 cases 1967 - 478 cases
1964 - 437 cases
284. Chart 11 indicates the trend in reported poisonings resulting from overdoses of both barbiturates and tranquillizers. It is interesting to note the apparent levelling in cases of barbituric poisoning, while tranquillizer poisonings continued to increase sharply.
High school surveys during the past two years show a use of barbiturates ranging from 1.5 per cent to 3.3 per cent (see Appendix D).
The Minor Tranquillizers
285. The minor tranquillizers are among the most widely used mood modifiers. In potency, most of these drugs rank between alcohol and the barbiturates as daytime sedatives, and Canadians and Americans spend well over $500 million annually for them. Since regulations do not require either the manufacturer or the retail pharmacist to keep records of the volume of minor tranquillizers handled, it is not possible to report on the volume of Canadian production or importation. We also lack information on the general distribution of these drugs.
But, again, it is known that the non-medical market for these minor tranquillizers is
supplied, indirectly, by drug companies which manufacture or import far more barbiturates
and minor tranquillizers than are required for medical puposes. How these excess amounts
are then diverted to, and distributed within, the illicit market has not been adequately
researched, but it appears certain that the pharmaceutical industry is well aware of their
overproduction. There is no evidence that these drugs &re produced illegally. It seems
probable, rather, that many individuals procure large amounts improperly through
legitimate prescription channels. They are known to be the toxic agent in a large number
of poisoning cases. Poison control centres report the numbers of cases of poisoning from
tranquillizers in the years 1961 to 1967 as follows: 12
1961 - 63 cases 1965 - 445 cases
1962 - 136 cases 1966 - 709 cases
1963 - 233 cases 1967 - 973 cases
1964 - 361 cases
286. A few surveys have been conducted in high schools in some Canadian centres, indicating a degree of use of tranquillizers among students ranging from six per cent to 27.3 per cent. It will be seen that in all high schools surveyed, use of tranquilizers by females is higher than that by males (See Appendix D).
287. The amphetamines are most commonly prescribed for appetite suppression and weight control, fatigue and the relief of mild depression and certain other special therapeutic applications. Their nonmedical use has risen sharply in recent years, and witnesses appearing before the Commission expressed particular concern about the increased use of amphetamines in high dosages by the young.
Canada is not a pioneer in amphetamine use and abuse. A number of reviews have
summarized the extensive use of these drugs since World War 11 in such countries as the
United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, the United States
and Yugoslavia. Indeed, the Swedish government recently responded to the abuse of
amphetamines by prohibiting their possession for any purpose - medical or non-medical.
288. In Canada, the oral ingestion of amphetamines has been rising since the mid-forties. By 1964, approximately 60 minion standard doses were produced for the Canadian market. This increased to more than 100 million doses in 1966 and dropped to 56 minion in 1968, the last year for Which statistics are pre-
aently avaftMelll But than statistics refer only':W the JeSd manufacture and
importation of the drug. They tell us little about the degree of non-medical use of
amphetamines and n othing about the volume produced and distributed illicitly in Canada.
It has been put to the Commission, however, that the volume of legally manufactured and
imported amphetamines greatly exceeds medical needs. As in the case of other drugs used
widely for both medical and non-niedical purposes - e.g., the barbiturates - it is
believed that a significant proportion of the original supply of amphetamines probably
finds its way to the user through unlawful channels. The relative frequency of illegal
sales and thefts along the route between the manufacturer and the consumer is uncertain,
and illegitimate distribution has been widely reported at all social levels o our society.
289. There is also evidence that some individuals make use of legitimate channels by
obtaining numerous prescriptions from several physicians at the same time, or by using
false identification or forged prescriptions. There has also been some carelessness in
-the vxtent-to which-they bavelbeen -prescribed by physicians. While the tranquillizers do
not appear to be manufactured illegally, there is evidence that amphetamines reach the
streets from both legitimate and illegitimate manufacturing sources.
290. It is difficult to determine precisely when non-medical use of amphetamines began
in Canada. In his appearance before the Commission, R.C.M. Police Assistant Commissioner
Prior to 1961, the extent of the abuse of amphetamines and methamphetamines was not
known. Following the enactment of Part III of the Food and Drug Act, it was found that an
extensive traffic in these drugs existed among long distance truck drivers. By 1963,
through the cooperation of several trucking firms, publicity and investigation, the use
among drivers was virtually non-existent. With the emergence of marijuana and LSD abuse,
the amphetamine drugs, particularlymethamphetamine,,gaintd considerable popularity to
the POintwhere today a veryactiv&Bicit traffic is in WdMenM
Low-dose oral amphetamine use and dependence are not un-@ common in every age group.
ffigh school students swallow them for kicks, as a cheap, readily available and
easily-taken drug-, housewives can become habituated to the mood-elevating and energizing
effect of amphetamine-type diet pills; tired professionals and executives use them; and
even members of men's clubs meet to take these stimulants and strong coffee while their
friends enjoy the more traditional pleasures of the afternoon cocktail.
The prevalence of stimulant use can not be determined with any degree of accuracy.
Recent surveys, published in Appendix D, show that among high school students in the areas
surveyed, use ranged from 3.6 per cent to 9.7 per cent. These surveys do not indicate the
circumstances under which the stimulant was taken, nor the dosage.
291. In the last year or so there has been increasing reference to the use of 'speed' - prolonged, high-dosage use of amphetamines, usually methamphetamine, and usually by intravenous injection. It should be pointed out, however, that the use of 10 to 15 milligrams, the normal prescribed daily dosage, is not considered an aspect of the 'speed' phenomenon. Rather, this phenomenon is characterized by high levels of dosage rising to 150 to 250 milligrams daily and, in some cases, as much as. a gram or more a day.
'Speed' use appears to be, on the increase in Canada, particularly in some of the larger urban centres. Distributors have given private testimony with respect to the quantities of am@ phetamines being used in certain areas.
The young people who have appeared before the Commission have stated that most 'speed
freaks' are in their teens or very early twenties. This parallels the findings of studies
Japan which reveal that the 'speed' user is almost invariably young.114
292. It is known that in addition to the regular commercial
supplies, there'exists a considerable amount of 'home-made' amphetamine on the illicit market, produced by clandestine .speed factories'. Since these drugs are rather easy to synthesize, after even limited formal training in chemistry, and because the chemical ingredients are inexpensive, bootleg production and distribution by amateurs is therefore quite feasible.
Despite the relative ease with which some amphetamines can be produced, analyses of street samples in recent months indicate that alleged 'amphetamines' are by no means invariably free of impurities. Of 38 samples analysed by Dr J. Marshman in Toronto, 45 per cent contained traces of other drugs.15 The serious dangers of heavy amphetamine use have been well known to the 'hip' sub-culture for several years, as reflected in the 'Speed Kills' buttons sold at 'head shops'. Many experienced drug users have expressed their anxieties to the Commission in public and private hearings about this drug and its apparent growing use.
At many points the Commission was told that the use of amphetamines is feared by most young people and the 'speed freak'is looked down on by many of his peers.
In the ensuing year, the Commission intends to investigate further the prevalence and
characteristics of this phenomenon.
LSD AND THE OTHER STRONG HALLUCINOGENS
293. LSD is by far the most frequently used of the stronger hallucinogenic drugs. It is the only one in this group which appears to be used to any significant extent in some communities. The rapid spread of its use occurred some years after the onset of the cannabis phenomenon.
The R.C.M. Police made the following comments concerning the use of LSD in their brief
at the Toronto hearings:
All marijuana users are capable of using LSD; however, it is not suggested that this
has yet happened. The consensus of opinion among our investigators is that the large
majority of cannabis users also use, or will use, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and
LSD.... It is much more prevalent than previously conceived.
Ile Force reported that it first became aware of the use of LSD during 1963. At that
time only the sale of LSD was prohibited, and police powers for search and seizzure of
this drug did not exist. The spread of LSD use was influenced to some degree by factors
similar to those which contributed to the growth of cannabis use.
294. We have been told repeatedly that LSD use increased rapidly during periods wrhen
cannabis was in short supply. Drug users and non-users alike have suggested that the
effectiveness of Operation Intercept in the United States in reducing the supply of
marijuana available in Canada was a major cause of the increase in the demand for 'acid'.
This statement has been repeated by several dealers. A number of other forces have been
active in encouraging experimentation with this drug. Individuals such as Dr Timothy
Leary, who regard LSD as a sac4 rament in a new religion, have had an impact. The popular
music industry has provided a repertoire of songs that quite directly endorse its use. The
psychedelic quality of much modern advertising helps to create an aura in which LSD use
becomes more plausible. But as with cannabis, the personal testimony of one friend to
another, along with a desire to experiment and find new drug experiences, has played a
major role in increasing the use of LSD.
295. During 1968 and 1969, some surveys of the extent of LSD use were carried out in
high schools and universities. For example, the Loyola College study in 1969 found that
1.6 per cent of the freshmen had taken the drug. The McGill study of the same year found a
6.0 per cent level. Research at Bishop's University showed a level of 0.7 per cent in the
fall of 1968 but this level was later discovered to have jumped more than four times to
3.1 per cent by April 1, 1969, and to have increased very sharply again during that month.
Surveys of high school populations during 1968 and 1969 found the level of use ranging
from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent. The findings of certain of these studies are summarized
in Appendix D.
The Commission has the impression that in recent months the use of LSD has risen beyond
the levels reflected in the high
school saveys. The Narcotic Addiction Foundation of British Columbia reports that a
survey of students in six school districts of British Columbia during 1969 indicated that
6.6 per cent had used LSD at least once in the previous six months.""
Representatives of the Department of Justice and other federal officials have testified
that they believe the prevalence of LSD use to be rising. The study of Professor Low,
McAmmond and Skirrow -of the University of Calgary found levels of use of LSD that may
reflect more accurately the picture that could emerge in 1970:"'r
The high incidence of LSD use (49.8 per cent) is surprising only if the wishful
thinking of other investigators who have been out of touch with the youth is taken
seriously. In our experience most young people do not buy the scare stories about LSD.
However, their use of the drug tends to be restrained and carefully structured. it is not
the sort of thing they would want to do every week-end.
We have also heard testimony to the effect that in some high schools most of the
students who have used drugs at all have used LSD, although this is not supported by
296. It must again be pointed out that surveys can only determine the proportion of a population who think or believe they have taken a particular drug. The proportion whobave in fact taken pure or even relatively pure LSD is very much smaller. In an analysis of samples of street drugs gathered principally in the Toronto region during 1969, it was found that less than half of those purported to be LSD did in fact contain the drug in a
relatively pure form. The actual composition of 116 alleged
Relatively pure LSD 48 per cent
Impure LSD 14
Mixtures apparently resulting from unsuccessful
synthesis of LSD 29
No drug 7
Other drug 1
Not identified 1
100 per cent
297. ln-the@early'-1960s itwas thought that the LSD beingi uged'non-medically came primarily, if not exclusively, from legal manufacturing sources in Europe. More recently it has come mainly from clandestine factories in the United States, but there may be a certain limited production in Canada. LSD can be very easily smuggled. In pure liquid form, enough could be brought into the country on a blotter to provide doses for some tens of thousands of individuals. A single average dose in pure crystalline form would be all but invisible to the naked eye. When in liquid form, LSD is tasteless, odourless and colourless. However, most of the LSD brought into Canada comes in the form of tablets of capsules. It has been suggested that as many as 45,000 single doses a week have been reaching the Toronto market. The structure of distribution at the local level seems to parallel that for marijuana, in that most dealers carry several drugs.
Since the production of LSD requires special chemicals, apparatus, and highly trained
personnel, improperly synthesized or contaminated substances are often sold as LSD. The
illegality of LSD has also led to the clandestine laboratory production of non-prescribed
hallucinogens like MDA, STP (DOM) and PCP, the psychological and physiological effects of
which are even less well established than those of LSD.
298. STP (the initials stand for Serenity, Tranquillity and Peace or Super-Tested Performance) appeared on the illicit market late in 1967. The drug has in fact only rarely been available in Canada.
DMT and DET (ditnethyl-, and diethyltryptamine) are milder hallucinogens producing what has sometimes been called the 'businessman's trip' marked by relatively short-lived effects. These drugs are usually sniffed or smoked with some combustible material such as tobacco. Like STP, they have infrequently been reported in Canada.
There have been a few reports of the availability of psilocybin. However, none of the street samples analysed actually contained this drug.
The Commission is aware of numerous reports of mescaline availability and use. Many
experienced drug users have spoken
of it as their drug of preference. It is reputed to provide a very smooth 'trip'. However, pure mescaline has seldom been found in this country. Marshman in Toronto analysed 33 street samples purported to be mescaline and found that 12 per cent were impure LSD, 18 per cent were incompletely synthesized LSD, and 40 per cent were relatively pure LSD. None were mescaline's The Commission was informed by the staff of the Haight-Ashbury Clinic in San Francisco that despite frequent reports of its use, they had not found mescaline present in the street samples analysed there.
MD A (methylenedioxyamphetamine) has been found fairly often in Canada since last summer. Some of it is manufactured in this country. A dealer informed the Commission that Canadian-made MD A is thought by many to be the highest quality available in North America.
Among other drugs which may produce similar effects at high dosage and that have received more than passing notice from drug users have been Asthmador (a proprietary medicine for the relief of asthma), nutmeg and Morning Glory seeds (of Heavenly Blue and Pearly Gates varieties).
When available, all but the drugs mentioned in the last paragraph seem to appear
through the same distribution network as LSD and the cannabis products.
299. Cannabis was included in the schedule of the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1923 (see Chapter Five), but there was little evidence of its use in Canada until the early 1960s.
The R.C.M. Police report that in 1969 they had identified some 13,500 users of cannabis
and they estimated that there were an additional 45,000 persons who had used the drug. The
Commission is of the opinion that this estimate of a total of 58,500 is conservative. If
only eight per cent of the students in high schools and only 25 per cent of those in
colleges and universities have used the drug, then we should have a total of 215,000. This
hypothetical but not unreasonable figure does not include any estimate of the number of
users who are neither in high school nor university.
The R.C@M. Police report that cannabis use began to increase after 1962. In that year
20 cases connected with the drug were reported by the police. By 1968 the number had
climbed to 2,331 and in 1969 there was a further increase to 4,215. In his presentation of
the R.C.M. Police brief to the Commission, Assistant Commissioner Carri6re stated:
Prior to 1962, isolated cases of cannabis use were encountered but generally, in
connection with entertainers and visitors from the United States. Although marijuana
arrests were effected sporadically in the middle 40s, its use on a more frequent basis
appeared in Montreal only in 1962, in Toronto in 1963 and in Vancouver in 1965. Abuse
arose concurrently with the development of the hippie sub-culture. It began in our
universities and spread rapidly to high schools. Today it is most common among the 17 to
25 age group. In addition, it can be found in virtually every suburban centre, regardless
300. It appears to the Commission that there has been a good deal of variation in the
development of patterns of marijuana use. Thus, in some centres, the first to experiment
with the drug had already used other drugs such as glue, Denzedrex inhalers or cough
syrups such as Romilar*. In other places there was no prior history of non-medical drug
use except for traditional adolescent drinking. It is unfortunate that there have been
almost no carefully executed studies of the spread of marijuana use through particular
301. Several recent surveys (See Appendix D) have reported
that a significantly greater number of boys than girls are in-
volved in the use of cannabis and other drugs. (One exception is
minor tranquillizers.) Marijuana users, according to a number of studies (London,
Toronto, Halifax, Montreal), are twice as likely to be male as female. Non-using males are
also said to be twice as willing as non-using females to try cannabis if presented with
the opportunity. The authors of one Toronto study suggest the following reasons for this
Girls tend to be more passive and will usually accept norms of 203
-behaviour. Boys, on the other hand, are more aggressive and assume more freedom of
302. Several high school studies have found that the proportion of cannabis users to non-users tends to vary according to grade level. However, there is limited agreement on the patterns involved in this variation. Some surveys have revealed that cannabis use peaks in the mid-high school grades and then declines, while others (notably Whitehead!s -Halifax researc 1) suggest a regular micrease from grade seven to 12. Whether this midhigh school peaking process reflects a drop-out syndrome or a period of temporary youthful indiscretion, and whether the Halifax data represent a nationally ascendant or merely local trend, await further research.
While it is generally assumed that youthful cannabis users tend to have middle-class
origins, it is impossible to confirm this hypothesis at the present time. 'Me data
collected in one large Toronto high school survey suggest that a significant relationship
between a student's reported inclination to use drugs and his father's occupation does not
exist. On the other hand, the assumption that there is a strong direct relationship
between a student's socioeconomic status and his use of cannabis is borne out by a recent
Maritimes study. The author of this survey reports that:22
There is a steady increase in the rates of marijuana and LSD use as one moves from the
lower status occupational category (of a student's father) to the higher occupational
Overall, the most potent factor in the rapid spread of cannabis use is probably the
direct influence of one individual or another reporting first-hand the experience as
interesting, pleasant and harmless. There is no doubt as well that cannabis
experimentation has been encouraged by the amount of public attention paid to the drug
controversy and by the increasing volume of literature praising the drug effects and
minimizing its hazards. The popular music industry has played a major role in encouraging
drug use in general and cannabis use in particular through the lyrics and other aspects of
the records it has marketed. (It is reasonable to assert that this industry has, in fact
provided an extensive advertising campaign on behalf of drugs.;
The, undawound, press has also qaite epenly advocated, and encouraged drug use and
provided information on the charac. teristics of specific drugs. The overall message was,
Of Course, reinforced by the presence of a culture that accepts and indeed encourages the
use of drugs to influence mood and provide pleasure. In some circles, marijuana seems to
have had a par-. ticular appropriateness to the general mood of students and young people.
In our conversations with them they have frequently contrasted marijuana and alcohol
effects to describe the former as a drug of peace, a drug that reduces tendencies to
aggression, while suggesting that the latter drug produces hostile, aggressive behaviour.
Thus marijuana is seen as particularly appropriate to a generation that emphasizes peace
and is, in many ways, anti-competitive.
303. We have been told repeatedly that many young people were initially deterred from experimenting with cannabis by reports of the dangers of drugs. However, from the personal experience of friends, many soon learned that some of these accounts were exaggerated. As a result, the credibility of much of the literature critical of the drug experience was lost, and with it much of the credibility of traditional authority figures such as teachers, parents, physicians and the police.
These are but three of the factors influencing the extent of use. Many other factors
have been operative and some of these are dealt with in greater detail in Chapter Four.
304. Some data on the extent of use have been available to the Commission from a number of surveys of cannabis use in certain high schools and universities (see Appendix D).
A 1968 survey of freshmen at Loyola College in Montreal found that 15 per cent of the
males and 7 per cent of the females had used the drug at least once.23A study at Bishop's
University in Lennoxville, Quebec, found that in the fall of the 1968-9 academic year,
19.6 per cent had tried cannabis, but the pro. portion increased to 27.3 per cent in a
second study in the spring of that year.24 In 1969, surveys were carried out among
students at McGill University and the Universities of Toronto, British Columbia and
Saskatchewan (Regina Campus). At
McGill it was estimated that 34.6 per cent had used marijuana and 29.3 per cent had used hashish. The surveys at Toronto and British Columbia were limited to the Law faculties and found levels of use to be 35.9 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. At the Regina Campus, use was over 30 per cent. The Commission is presently conducting a survey of the extent of non-medical drug use in a representative sample of university students in Canada.
The results of surveys of a number of Canadian high school populations are outlined in
Appendix D. It will be seen that usage estimated on the basis of surveys conducted in 1968
ranged from 5.7 per cent to 19.7 per cent and that the range for similar surveys in 1969
was from 5.9 per cent to 24 per cent. It should be emphasized that these surveys varied in
the methods used, the extent to which the samples were adequate and representative, the
questionnaire design, the sophistication of the approach, the analysis of the data and the
reliability of the findings. Given these limitations, it would be unwise to attempt to
generalize from them.
-305. There can be no doubt that many of the students who have used cannabis, at both the high school and university levels, have done so only once or, at most, a few times. Others who may have used the drug more frequently may now have terminated their use. For these reasons it becomes important to have data on frequency and patterns of use. Unfortunately, we have even less information on this point than about the prevalence of use, and this makes it more difficult to compare the results of the various studies.
The second Bishop's UniverSity25 study found that about half of those who had used
marijuana had used it less than five times. Nearly 20 per cent of those who had used the
drug had discontinued their use. A study of 431 marijuana users conducted by faculty
members of the University of Calgary26 revealed that 31 per cent of this group had used
the drug once a week or more. Ten per cent had used it only a few times, as an experiment.
In the 1968 study of Toronto high schools carried out by the Addiction Research Foundation
'27 60 per cent of those who had tried marijuana had used it less than four times.
A 1969 survey of some 4,500 Montreal high. school students carried out by OPTAT28
(Office de la Pr6vention et du Traitement de I'Alcoolisme et des Autres Toxicomanies)
revealed that 55 per cent of the students who had used marijuana had used it less than
five times, and 67 per cent less than seven times. It is, of course, impossible to apply
any generaaations from these few isolated studies to the Canadian student popum lation as
In its public and private hearings the Commission heard many estimates of the extent
and frequency of use. For example, some students have suggested that the proportion who
have used cannabis at least once may be as high as 50 per cent in some universities.
However, it is difficult to gauge the accuracy of these generally personal and
306. The Commission has also been made aware of what 'appears to be an extensive and
growing marijuana use by adults. The evidence of such use has come to us largely from the
statements of individuals, many of whom have given private testimony, and from a large
volume of correspondence received at the Commission's office. An examination of this mail
reveals that, of those who indicated their age, 20 per cent claimed to be over 40, 25 per
cent between 30 and 40, and 40 per cent between 20 and 30. Most were married and on the
whole claimed to have reached an average or above average level of education. The
Commissioners have spoken to physicians, lawyers, bankers, politicians, teachers,
scientists, pilots, business executives and journalists, to mention only a few, who have
smoked marijuana or hashish. Many of these reported using the drug with colleagues and
many expressed the opinion that the use of these drugs would increase among their friends
and associates. The purpose of cannabis use in this population seems to be largely for its
relaxing and intoxicating properties. A dealer supplying such people said: 'You can
achieve the same sort of thing out of a drink or two before dinner.'
307. A further caution must be applied to the reports. Even if we assume the honesty of
those who report cannabis use, we cannot assume that the drug in question was in fact
cannabis. Analyses of street samples of marijuana have frequently found
that what,was,41oiwd -or said to be the-drug wasi in fact, alfalfa, marjoram, dried
parsley or marijuana of very low potency. Hashish has almost always proved, on anaLysis,
to be as represented.
308. The supply of both marijuana and hashish has been irregular and has varied widely on a regional basis. Although there is some generally low-grade cannabis grown in Canada, most cannabis products are illegally imported. marijuana from Mexico by way of the United States, and hashish from the Middle and Far East and North Africa. The R.C.M. Police, representatives of the Department of Justice. and a number of witnesses have reported that marijuana, long the staple of the drug-using subculture, is now being replaced by hashish as the widely used illegal drug in some parts of the country. This shift in popularity can probably be attributed to a growing difficulty in obtaining marijuana (American and Mexican authorities lately have been intensifying their efforts to control its cultivation and prevent smuggling activities), the greater ease with which hashish, a concentrated form of cannabis, can be hidden and thus transported, and the greater profits in hashish trafficking. Hashish can be purchased at its source for around $50 a kilo and resold in Canada at $1,400 a kilo, while marijuana costs from $20 a kilo in Mexico to $100 a kilo in southern California, and can be resold in Canada for about $300 a kilo; an ounce of hashish sells for between $ 75 and $ 100 in contrast to about $20 for an ounce of marijuana.
The R.C.M. Police have provided the Commission with iufora mation about the amounts of cannabis products they have seized. In 1968 they confiscated 857 poundsof marijuana, and 481 pounds in 1969. Hashish seizures increased from 83 pounds in 1968 to 404 pounds in 1969. This shift in popularity of cannabis products can be better understood by indicating that the wholesale value of these seized drugs (based on the above-mentioned Canadian kilo prices) has, in the case of marijuana, declined from approximately $ 1 10,000 in 1968 to $66,000 in 1969, while the value of hashish seizures has increased from $ 53,000 in 1968 to over $250,000 in 1969.
Because of the illegal nature of the operation and the severe 208
low sanctions against such activities, thereare very few reliable studies of the distribution of cannabis. Some preliminary research has been conducted in the United States (for example, E. Goode's The Marijuana Market and J. T. Carey's The College Drug Scene), but it is primarily limited to the New York and California markets and deals solely with marijuana. The Commissioners have been able to hold discussions with a number of _persons involved in the distribution of both hashish and marijuana. However, it is not possible at this time to provide an accurate or comprehensive account of the complex system of cannabis importation and distribution.
The information we do have indicates that a large number of individuals have been involved in the importation of marijuana, often in fairly small amounts (which suggests the desire to provide for personal consumption rather than any mercenary motivation). While it appears true that co-incidental with the spread of cannabis use, an increasingly well-organized importation-distribution network has developed, there is no evidence available to us, beyond unsubstantiated rumours, that organized crime has become involved in the importation of marijuana. Rather, it seems that importation is more likely organized by a number of independent entrepreneurs supplying local markets, parts of local markets, or even a small group of friends and acquaintances. A few dealers across the country are probably involved in the importation of larger amounts of marijuana, up to several hundred pounds in a single or continuing operation. These persons'motivation is primarily commercial and they can be seen as traditional entrepreneurs who choose to trade in a contraband substance, chiefly because of the tremendous profit margin afforded them by the drug's illegality and the steadily rising demand from marijuana consumers. Such dealers are exceptional, though not rare, and it can be safely said that the high degree of centralized importation and distribution that typifies the opiate narcotics traffic is not a characteristic of the marim juana market.
There are several levels of dealers below the importer in the marijuana distribution
system, but precise details of its make-up are at the moment impossible to ascertain. This
is partly because of the necessarily clandestine nature of such commerce, but also
because of rapid changes in personnel, variations in the avail. ability of the drugs, and the difficulty in drawing any clear-cut distinction between sellers and buyers since essentially all dealers use marijuana and nearly every regular marijuana user has at some time sold some of his 'stash' (personal marijuana supply).
If the original marijuana shipment is large enough, it is usually sold in lots of
several pounds or kilos to a local dealer who, in turn, sells it to more junior dealers by
the pound, or half or quarter pound. These dealers are likely to subdivide their purchases
still further, and occasionally will dilute the product with various substances resembling
the crushed plant. At each level of distribution the monetary value of the cannabis is
increased, but the dealer's total profit concomitantly decreases. There are few, if any,
'rich' dealers below the very upper echelons of the distribution hierarchy, and many
persons involved in the selling of marijuana do so only to supplement their regular
income. As well, as has been noted earlier, most cannabis dealers are likely to distribute
other psychedelic drugs besides marijuana and hashish.
309. It is essential to any understanding of marijuana distribution to realize that, at
the level of the user, transactions are so far removed from the impersonality that
characterizes conventional purchasing relations that one sociologist has described the
marijuana dealing-using sub-culture as 'an island of tribalism in a sea of commercial
ethic '.29 There is no doubt that among users much of it is given away, offered to
visiting friends, or used as barter currency. As Erich Goode explains it: 30
The closest thing to marijuana in the 'straight' world is food. It is an act of
hospitality to feed one's guests, a breach of good manners to allow them to go hungry.
Smoking marijuana like eating together, binds people into a primitive sense of fellowship.
At the local level the distribution of hashish seems to be virtually identical to that
of marijuana. There may, however, be a more complex system of importation. It seems
reasonable that organized crime might be attracted to hashish distribution be-
cause of its place of origin and the relative case with which it can be smuggled,
compared with marijuana.
310. Users of the opiate narcotics are more readily identifiable because of their serious dependency that arises from the use of these Arugs. According to the Division of Narcotic Control, Department of National Health and Welfare, there are more than 4,000 known addicts in Canada of whom 62 per cent are in British Columbia and 23 per cent in Ontario.31
The extent of use in the sixties revealed by the statistics of the Division of Narcotic
Control is as follows:
Criminal* Medicalt Professional:
Year Addicts Addicts Addicts Total
1961 3,048 224 123 3,395
1962 3,136 306 134 3,576
1963 2,963 262 130 3,355
1964 2,947 273 132 3,352
1965 3,180 251 142 3,573
1966 3,182 259 151 3,592
1967 3,335 231 149 3,715
1968 3,459 200 145 3,804
1969 3,733 178 149 4,060
* Criminal addicts include all cases where the Narcotic Control Division has some record of the individual for ten years, not necessarily a criminal record, but perhaps criminal associations.
t Medical, or therapeutic addicts, are those whose addiction has arisen through medical treatment and who have no criminal record. Names are dropped after five years.
: Professional addicts are members of the medical profession, nurses and pharmacists.
These names, too, are dropped after five years.
31 1. An analysis of the above table reveals that although the population of Canada
increased almost ten per cent between 1961 and 1966, the criminal addict population
increased only 4.4 per cent during the same period, and the total addict population
orAy 5.6 per cent. In effect,the opiate narcotic addict,population, has declined in proportion to the total population of Canada and is continuing to do so.
Further analysis of the 1969 statistical evidence reveals that 69 per cent of the
criminal addicts were males. By occupation, the criminal addict population broke down as
Labourers and unskilled 23 -0 per cent
Service Occupations 12,2 99
Skilled Workers 7,0
Natural Resources Workers 5,5
Clerical and sales 4,4
Other Occupations 2,4
Not known 33,3
312. The age groupings of the criminal addict population in Canada provide some
indication of the pattern of use. The statistics for the calendar year 1969 are as
Under 20 years 1-5 per cent
There are some indications that the number of young addicts in Canada is increasing,
although the overall opiate narcotic dependent population has been dropping on a basis
proportionate to the whole population since 1959. The Narcotic Addiction Foundation of
British Columbia has reported that 81 Dew heroin users coming to its attention in 1969
(all of whom
had alto used other drugs) were in the 16-23 age group. Whether these persons were in
fact 'addicts' is unclear. In any case, the latest Division of Narcotic Control statistics
for British Columbia report an increase of only 44 criminal addicts (from 252 in 1968 to
296 in 1969) in the under-25 category. The Commission does not have further statistical
evidence of this pattern of heroin use by the young in Canada, although this has been
reported in some areas of the United States in recent months.
313. As mentioned in Chapter Two, solvent inhalation has become more widespread in recent years, confined mostly to the relatively young. Because the substances being inhaled (plastic glue, nail polish and remover, paint thinner, lighter fluid, etc.) can be obtained legally and with no difficulty, and because they have a multitude of both industrial and domestic applications, it is virtually impossible to determine accurately the degree of abuse to which they are put.
For decades there have been accounts of intoxication brought on by the inhalation of
toluene and gasoline fumes. Ether has been used in this way for almost a century. In
addition, prison workers have long known of the deliberate sniffing of paint thinner and
gasoline as a means of intoxication. Only in the early sixties, however, did the
prevalence of solvent inhalation among the relatively young come into prominence in the
United States and Canada.
314. How widespread is solvent sniffing in Canada today? Surveys in some high schools in Canada in 1968 and 1969 indicate that between 2 and 13 per cent or more of the students surveyed had used the solvents at least once in the previous six months. (See Appendix D.)
Other indications of the prevalence of solvent use among children can be found in
poison control reports to the Department of National Health and Welfare. 32 These reports
win, of course, contain some cases of accidental ingestion, although_ many are suspected
of being deliberate. Incomplete reports for the years 1968 and 1969 provide additional
insights. Nail polish remover and plastic glue are the most popular, although there
are a number of cases of poisoning from naphtha, chlorine, paint remover, ether and
315. Ages of the users in the reported cases ranged from nine years (glue sniffing) to
22 years (nail polish remover sniffing), with an average of 14.5 years. This tends to bear
out the suspicion that solvent inhalation is most common among older children and younger
1. Department of National Health and Welfare. December, 1969.
2. Department of National Health and Welfare. Consumption of barbiturates and
amphetamines. September, 1969.
3. Cooperstock, R., & Sims, M. Mood-modifying drugs prescribed in a Canadian city:
Hidden problems. Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, Substudy 1-31 and 29-69, 1969.
4. Eighteenth annual report of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation. Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, 1969.
9. See reference 2.
10. Brief of the R.C.M. Police to the Commission. October, 1969.
1 1. Department of National Health and Welfare. Poison control programme statistics. 1968.
13. See reference 2.
14. Brill, H., & Hirose, T. The rise and fall of a meth-
amphetamine epidemic: Japan 1,945-55. Seminars in Psychiatry, 1969,1, 179-94.
15. Marshman, J. A further note on the composition of illicit drugs. 1970. Mimeo.
16. Russell, J. Survey of drug use in selected British Columbia school districts.
Vancouver: Narcotic Addiction Foundation of British Columbia, 1970.
17. Low, K., McAmmond, D., & Skirrow, J. The marijuana user. 1969. Mimeo.
18. See reference 15.
20. Smart, R. G., & Jackson, D. J. A preliminary report on the attitudes and behaviour of Toronto students in relation to drugs.
Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation, 1969.
21. Whitehead, P. The incidence of drug use among Halifax adolescents. June, 1969. Mimeo.
23. Menard, L. C. In Loyola conference on student use and abuse of drugs. Montreal: Canadian Student Affairs Association, 1968.
24. Campbell, 1. Marihuana use at Bishop's University. (A preliminary statistical report). January, 1969. Mimeo.
25. Campbell, 1. Marihuana use at Bishop?s University. (A second preliminary
statistical report). May, 1969. Mimeo.
26. See reference 17.
27. See reference 20.
28. Laforest, L. La consommation de drogues chez les itudiants
du secondaire et du collegial de t1le de Montr6al. Quebec: Office de la prevention et du Traitement de I'Alcoolisme et des Autres
29. Goode, E. The marijuana market. Columbia Forum, 1969,12 (Winter), 4-8.
31. Department of National Health and Welfare, Division of Narcotic Control. Total addict population in Canada, by class, province and sex, for 1969.
32. See reference II.
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