Analyzing the misplaced stigma surrounding cannabis consumption
After years of debate, marijuana is finally legal in Canada. On Oct. 17, the first dispensaries opened across the country. This is a massive step toward not only making pot safer and more accessible, but also ensuring a degree of product quality that couldn’t be guaranteed in an unregulated market. That being said, I believe significant progress is still needed in regard to the elimination of the stigma associated with marijuana use.
Certainly, cannabis is by no means a product without fault. Just like everything else, overuse of marijuana can have serious side-effects. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry noted that acute cannabis consumption at a young age has been linked with the inhibition of psychomotor skills, short-term memory, and minor cognitive functions.
There have also been studies aimed at examining and contrasting the overuse of marijuana at a young age with the development of certain mental disorders. While there is a certain correlation, it is crucial to remember that researchers have yet to find any meaningful causality. According to CBC News, Matthew Hill, an associate professor at the University of Calgary Hotchkiss Brain Institute emphasizes that we shouldn’t fall into the stereotypes about pot; instead, we should have faith in the studies being conducted which disprove them.
With all its potential side effects, the stigma around cannabis consumption still massively outweighs the real risks. We live in a world where the majority of the population is comfortable with people drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes (more or less). While people aren’t necessarily okay with others being addicted to opioids or pharmaceuticals, it’s definitely still a very common and accepted pain relief method. Yet some of the same people are still adamantly against the very thought of marijuana.
That being said, alcohol, cigarettes, and pharmaceuticals/opioids are distinctly worse for your health in every aspect and deadlier than marijuana could ever be. Unlike booze, pills or cigarettes, marijuana does not create a chemical dependency in the brain. While attitudes like psychosocial dependency can be developed, the detox period for this is significantly less painful and shorter than the detox period for chemical addiction, according to CBC News.
Another factor to keep in mind is that not a single person has ever died solely due to marijuana consumption, according to Greencamp, a website that researches cannabis use. Not a single one. Ever. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, smoking has killed 37,000 people in Canada this year alone, and opioids have taken 8,000 Canadian lives since 2016 according to CBC News. Marijuana is increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to prescription drugs with research being performed at facilities such as CanniMed and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse on the medical benefits of cannabis. This shows how invaluable it could be for the creation of effective and addiction-free treatments.
According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, alcohol consumption also led to the hospitalization of nearly 77,000 Canadians in 2016. Yet pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, and alcohol are accepted aspects of society with no legislation aiming to ban them. Unfortunately, marijuana is consistently demonized, and will remain so for several years to come.
In his book Weed: A User’s Guide, columnist for the cannabis website Leafy and host of the Roll-Up podcast David Schmader explained that a person would need to smoke roughly 1,500 pounds of cannabis in an hour to fatally overdose. According to calculations by the peer-reviewed journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, that would come to about 1,943,965 joints. In one hour. Good luck with that.
At its core, legalization of marijuana takes the first step toward the de-stigmatization of its consumption. Regardless of the potential health benefits or the toxic and deadly products we deem more socially acceptable, marijuana use still has a negative connotation to it. However, with the progressive steps governments are taking to not only decriminalize cannabis, but make it more accessible, one can hope this stigma won’t remain a mainstream concept for much longer.
Graphic by @spooky_soda