One of the things that really bothers me about the decision to legalize marijuana is the sheer ignorance of what it does to the body.
Let's rewind back to about 1920. Alcohol has been prohibited in all forms - including medicinally when the law originally came down (that was overturned in many jurisdictions in 1921). The reason was fairly simple: When intoxicated both men & women were dis-inhibited leading to domestic violence and saloons were grounds for sexual depravity & political corruption. After prohibition was discontinued in 1933 the amount of alcohol being consumed appeared to have dropped for a short time but, according to legal, medical, and social studies, that period ended several decades ago and the use of alcohol - and subsequent behaviours - have become similar to pre-prohibition levels.
So why did prohibition end? Violent crimes had increased, sure, but the majority of those imprisoned were for simple possession. Many of the most violent criminals were killed in shootouts or put to death where capital punishment was legal so there was no longer-term cost (compared to cost of imprisonment). Weak and inconsistent enforcement caused many - including supporters - to question the validity and reliability of the law. Levels of domestic violence did not appear to change during the prohibition period. The clincher was the concept of millions being lost because you cannot tax products that have no legal value. And so, shortly after his election in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt followed up on his campaign promise to repeal the 18th Amendment - which assisted in his defeat of Herbert Hoover - and alcohol production, distribution, and possession were made legal again.
All of that, and what remained out of the repeal decision was the actual effect of alcohol on the body. The use of alcohol - especially whiskey - in the medical field brought many to believe that alcohol was quite useful and healthy in the body while ignoring the prospect of sclerosis, addiction/dependence, impulsivity, dehydration, and - in extreme cases - death from alcohol poisoning.
We really don't learn anything from history. At this point marijuana - and its associated products/substances - are illegal with the exception of medicinal use. There is inconsistent upkeep of the law and disproportionate consequences for the use or possession of the substance. And, similar to FDR, Justin Trudeau plans on making good on his campaign promise right on time to begin campaigning for the 2019 General Election.
The thing that really gets to me about the concept of legalization is that the people who "need" it - chronic physical pain sufferers - already have access to it. The active chemical in marijuana is THC - tetrahydrocannabinol - a chemical naturally produced by the cannabis plant as a form of 'self-defense' against herbivores creating effects ranging from an uncomfortable high to toxic shock when consumed by animals, insects, and birds. In humans and in the right concentrations cannabinoids can be used to treat chronic pain, as a catalyst in some cancer treatments, and its anti-inflammatory effects - the same effect that also makes it an effective pain killer - seem to mitigate the spastic (movement disorder) effects of Multiple Sclerosis (1) without risk of dependency or addiction.
Even those who would not receive an improvement in their day-to-day life have access to it now that marijuana has been sourced as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2, 3, 4) and other mental illnesses (3, 4).
The following is from the Liberal Party of Canada website:
Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.
Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses. At the same time, the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs.
To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.
We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework.
We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.
I agree completely that the current legal process surrounding the prohibition of marijuana is not working. Those who cannot afford legal council end up in jail while those higher up the chain can afford council and get community service hours, at worst. It is also completely clear that the proceeds from the illegal trading of marijuana are supporting organized crime. Those ultimately responsible for the production and distribution do not get caught because of anything from low-end distributors not talking to issues of jurisdiction.
Big glaring problem right there: Distribution networks will remain uncontrollable. One things we have learned from the legalization in the USA is that legal dispensaries are grounds for former dealers to serve both their distribution network and the government that licensed them after some dozens of dispensaries were shut down. Even with legalization of alcohol, the World Health Organization estimates that around 30% of all alcohol consumed globally is illegally produced and unregulated. The same could easily go for legally dispensed marijuana.
The next few lines in the platform somehow manage to be more ridiculous. Somehow, by legalizing, regulating, and restricting access to marijuana and creating stronger punishments for those who provide it to minors the drug will stay away from children. Until I saw that line on the platform I didn't believe people actually believed that to be the case. I went to three high schools in two cities and one thing I learned is that just because it is legal, regulated, and restricted does not mean that kids will not acquire it. Drive passed Fellowes High School at lunch hour and see the smoking bench where kids (from 14 up) are smoking cigarettes & joints and drinking various alcohols. Daily. You can find similar behaviours throughout our fine county and across Canada.
And then there's the perception that marijuana is 'just a plant' and that it is 'not addictive'. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is clear that regular use can lead to addiction symptoms such as cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is more rare for addiction to occur compared to users of other drugs - approximately 1 in 11 for the general population of users - but is does happen. Additionally, the chance of an addiction or substance dependence occurring increases based on two major conditions: (A) Age: The chance of becoming addicted moves from 1 in 11 to 1 in 5 if marijuana use starts before the age of 20 (4). (B) Strength of strain: Not all weed is created equally, even from the same plant!
It is also important to note that the effect of marijuana varies greatly among users and there is no concrete method of distinguishing which effect you will get. Some will become quiet or withdrawn while others are easily excited. Hallucinations, changes in heart rate, distortions in perception of time, paranoia, changes in immune response, and issues with memory are all regularly reported even with low use(5, 6, 7). This is not entirely surprising considering the vast effect THC has on the release and uptake of dopamine, especially in the ventral striatum (reward region of the brain) (7). These effects do not even begin to include how THC is stored in fat cells and released randomly back into the bloodstream weeks after use and can effect anything from driving to studies (CAMH, 2012).
The conclusion is as simple as this: The practical applications of marijuana and THC products have been explored and are legal in most cases. Hemp products are easily found, medicinal marijuana is legal and being used both in treatment and pseudo-treatment capacities, and the risk of legalizing is greater than we give credit for. Instead of skipping straight to legalization - considering the major argument for legalization is the excessive criminal consequence of possession - we should be taking measures to change the consequence.
At this time, the first-time conviction for possessing 30 grams or less can result in a six-month prison sentence, a $1,000 fine, or both. The maximum penalty for a second offense is a $2,000 fine and one year in prison. If we were truly desiring the good for those implicated we would offer decriminalization for minor offenses and real rehabilitation which is over and above what the current justice system provides.
This is not the start of a move toward good, lasting change. Stop playing it up as such.
1) Koppel, B.S. et al. (2014). Systematic review: Efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 82(17). Link.
2) Yarnell, S. (2015). The use of medicinal marijuana for posttraumatic stress disorder: A review of the current literature. Primary Care Companion for CNS disorders, 17(3). doi: 10.4088/PCC.15r01786
3) Wilkinson, S.T., Radhakrishnan, R., & D'Souza, D.C. (2016). A systematic review of the evidence for medical marijuana in psychiatric indications. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 77(8). doi: 10.4088/JCP.15r10036
4) Steenkamp, M.M., Blessing, E.M., Galatzer, I.R., Hollahan, L.C., & Anderson, W.T. (2017). Marijuana and other cannabinoids as treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: A literature review. Depression and Anxiety, 34(3). doi: 10.1002/da.22596
5) Volkow, N.D., et al. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine, 370. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1402309
6) Thomas, G., Kloner, R.A., & Rezkella, S. (2014). Adverse cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular effects of marijuana: What cardiologists need to know. The American Journal of Cardiology, 113(1). Link.
7) Volkow, N.D., et al. (2014). Decreased dopamine brain reactivity in marijuana abusers is associated with negative emotionality and addiction severity. Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(30). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1411228111
Just a way to get a few thoughts across outside of the office. In this blog you may even find entries that assist in your healing without needing a session