Oh Cannabis

Let’s talk marijuana, otherwise known as weed, pot, reefer, grass, dope, ganja, Mary Jane, Juanita, Jay, jolly green, joy smoke, joy stick — we counted more than 100 names but wanted to get to actually discussing the drug rather than listing its nicknames. (Note “demon weed” was not on our list.)

One perspective on weed is that it is a dangerous and addictive drug, leading to youth rebellion, social upheaval, political dissent, crime and even death.

While we’d argue that youth rebellion, social upheaval and political dissent are not always bad things, there’s now concrete evidence that marijuana has many benefits beyond rebelling against your parents.

One study showed marijuana had 23 health benefits, including reducing the carcinogenic effects of tobacco and controlling seizures.

Abed Nadir thought marijuana only made people custom paint their vans and solve mysteries. It may also help soothe the tremors from Parkinson’s Disease and relieve the symptoms of Lupus, an autoimmune disorder.

Increasingly, medical professionals view it as similar to alcohol when used recreationally (yes, remember, alcohol is also a drug), and as a legitimate medical drug with beneficial health properties (did we already mention 23 specific and different applications?).

In 1971 in the US, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” calling drug abuse “public enemy number one.” This set drug policy for more than 30 years. Like other drugs, pot was treated with zero tolerance.

This was basically the government line for decades.

Today, American drug policy is rapidly changing. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, and 23 other states have medical marijuana markets and allow recreational use to exist in a “legal gray zone.”

Additionally, the states of Massachusetts, California, Missouri, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and Arizona are all preparing legislation to legalize marijuana over the upcoming months.

Oh (what about) Canada?

In early 2014, a survey commissioned by the Department of Justice found that more than two-thirds of Canadians wanted our marijuana laws softened. (Think there may be some regrets within the federal government on asking and paying for this one?)

More recently, Forum Research found a slight majority (53%) of Canadian voters said they are likely to switch their vote to support a politician or party which promises to legalize marijuana.

Notably, one in five Conservative voters said they would switch their vote to support legalization, demonstrating this is an issue that crosses party lines.

“While not the most compelling issue we track, marijuana legalization has the power to move votes, and it is instructive to see that’s the case among even one-fifth of Conservative voters, whose party does not support it,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

Indeed, The Economist, hardly a socialist rag, has for years advocated for even more liberal drug legalization measures. In 2009, it flatly stated: “Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution.”

Smoke, toke, vape or chew, this could be an election issue.

It’s clear attitudes are softening — apparently faster south of the border within the decision-making ranks, but here too. More and more, the arguments for prohibition are falling flat.

Killing drugs is the new buzzkill.

This year, the chief medical officers of health in B.C., Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia called on Ottawa to rethink its marijuana control strategy, including considering regulation and taxation. The Canadian Public Health Association and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have also gotten behind legalization.

As marijunana continues to be seen more as a public health issue than a criminal justice one, we expect more and more from the health sector will take similar stands.

Given tw0-thirds of Canadians support softening marijuana laws, and health professionals say marijuana won’t kill everyone the way elected officials have been saying for years, isn’t it time politicians listened?

For those who run counter to public opinion, for those who want marijuana possession and consumption to be a criminal offence — we say F-oFF!

Read this article on what a Canada with legal weed would look like.

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