The weather has warmed and spring is well on its way, if we’re lucky. Like me, I’m sure you can’t wait to be able to open your windows wide and breathe in the scent of blooming flowers and freshly mowed lawns mixed in with the sweet scent of your neighbours smoking pot...
Wait... that last one is definitely not something I’m looking forward to, but, it is something that could be all too real for many Canadians. The federal government is expected to release legislation on the legalization of marijuana in the next few months and, in anticipation of this, dispensaries have been popping up in cities all across the country preparing for the day when they can add this ‘grass’ to their product lineup.
Personally, I have been fortunate enough to not need cannabis medically, nor have I had the desire to partake in it recreationally, despite the many opportunities available to do so in my teenage years. So, for these very simple reasons, I automatically side with those against legalization.
Earlier this year, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) released a position statement on the legalization of non-medical cannabis. It points out the many complex layers that need to be addressed by government, including how the drug is produced, distributed and used, noting of particular concern, the age of purchase and the effects of cannabis on the developing brains of children and youth.
“The legalization of non-medical cannabis in Canada has the potential to increase the use of the drug as well as the associated harms and risks from heavy use including damage to brain development, psychiatric illness, addiction and poor performance in school,” said AFM Knowledge Exchange Lead Dr. Sheri Fandrey in the statement. “There is a common misconception that cannabis is a harmless substance but we know that its use can be associated with health, social, legal and economic harms.”
It seems like only a few short years ago that I was a teenager surrounded by temptation and peer pressure but, sadly, it’s been about 15 years. I know how easy it was for my peers to get their hands on pot back then, I can only image how much easier it is now.
The AFM also projects that legalization could lead to increased use of cannabis, and subsequently lead to increased demand for addiction treatment services.
This is furthered by Colorado blogger Steve Kortenhoeven, whose post about the effects the legalization of the drug on his state has gone viral. Kortenhoeven notes the increase of medical emergencies from ER visits to traffic accidents.
To back this up, Manitoba Public Insurance surveyed drivers last fall with results showing that one in 10 Manitoba drivers who participated tested positive for drugs, 53 percent of which was cannabis use. Data also shows that in 2013 (the last year available), 95 percent of fatally injured drivers in Manitoba were tested for the presence of drugs in their system – 40 percent of which tested positive.
They also said that a recent medical study published by the British Medical Journal shows that crash rates for drivers under the influence of cannabis are two to six times higher than for drivers who are not impaired. The different rates are due to how much and how often drivers have smoked cannabis.
These few arguments are just the tip of the iceberg on the negatives of the drug and examples of where legalization could compound these figures. But, the truth is that marijuana is already everywhere. I’m sure as it becomes legal and more socially acceptable, we will be shocked to find out which of our neighbours have been users for years.
Because it is already readily available, a counter argument could be made to the fact that legalization will lead to heavier controls on manufacturing and safety in the quality of the product. And, decriminalization along with legalization would also free up valuable court time so they might deal with more pressing issues.
No matter how you slice it, one thing is for certain, the government stands to make a lot of money off the legalization. Like they do with other vices like alcohol and tobacco, they will tax marijuana to the nines.