London Free Press Contact: Pubdate: May 8, 1997 COURTS Pot-smoking driver said safer than one who talks on phone A psychiatrist at the trial of a London hemp shop owner says he tried marijuana once: 'I just felt silly.' By Michelle Shephard Free Press Reporter A driver talking on a cellular phone is more of a menace on the roads than one who has just smoked a marijuana joint, an expert witness testified at a London trial Wednesday. Heinz Lehmann, who said he has been practising psychiatry since 1937, said, "I would rather get in a cab and have him smoke a marijuana cigarette than use a cellular phone." Lehmann was testifying as an expert witness at the trial of London hemp store proprietor Chris Clay on charges of possessing and trafficking in cannabis sativa seeds and seedlings. Lehmann, who has a lengthy resumé of experience in New York, Ontario and Quebec, is a professor at McGill University in Montreal. He said he is an advocate of the legalization of cannabis. FINDINGS DEBATED: He testified two of the major -- but often debated -- findings in his studies were that marijuana is not addictive and does not inflict mental damage or create a psychiatric illness. "I've never had an opportunity to treat someone with a marijuana addiction," Lehmann said, indicating he has treated nearly 20,000 patients in his lengthy career. Alcohol, nicotine, tranquillizers, cocaine and opiates (such as morphine or heroine) were some of the substances he cited as addictive. Under questioning of defence lawyer Paul Burstein, Lehmann also discussed study findings that quashed theories of a tolerance developing from marijuana use and the gateway theory -- that marijuana use will lead to other drug experimentation. Lehmann said there was no evidence showing marijuana promotes criminal or aggressive behavior or decreases a person's motivation. "I am convinced (decreased motivation) is not due to excess marijuana use . . . but excess marijuana use is a consequence of a personality disorder," he told the court. Lehmann laughed when asked whether he has smoked marijuana and admitted to once trying it in Puerto Rico when it was legal. "I had to be taught to inhale which was quite an ordeal . . . and then I just felt silly," he said. Lehmann also referred to a report where adolescents were studied -- those who experimented with marijuana and those who didn't -- since they were children. The study showed the majority of 18-year-olds who had smoked marijuana had better social skills and were better adapted. Witness Eric Single, a preventive medicine and biostatistics professor at the University of Toronto, testified about the societal costs of substance abuse. Referring to a study he worked on concerning the costs in Canada in 1992 (the report was released in 1995) he said of the total cost of all substance abuse was $18.45 billion. Illicit drugs -- compared to high alcohol and tobacco cost -- reached a total of $1.37 billion. Single also said a Health Canada opinion poll stated that 69.1 per cent of Canadians object to the current cannabis laws of imprisonment upon conviction. The trial continues Monday.