BARRETT: Legalization of cannabis won’t go the way it should

Marijuana plants grown in one of the ten grow rooms inside Aurora Cannabis' 55,000 square foot medical marijuana production facility near Cremona, Alberta on Wednesday July 27, 2016. Gavin Young / Postmedia Network

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When it comes to the legalization of marijuana in Canada, I’ve always felt like Luke Skywalker in “The Last Jedi” yelling: “this isn’t going to go the way you think.”

I’m feeling pretty vindicated.

With the release of every school, work or organization policy, or municipal bylaw that has come out since the Trudeau Liberals chose to legalize cannabis, there’s been a fresh wave of outrage over the fact there will be rules and restrictions around its consumption and sale.

WestJet banned those in what they considered “safety sensitive” jobs from consuming off duty. The RCMP are prohibiting officers from consuming within 28 days of a shift, and closer to home, Red Deer College chose to ban cannabis across all campuses, as well as residence units.

Each time restrictions were announced, people got out their virtual pitchforks to go after those behind the decisions.

“How can others decide what you’re allowed to do in your own spare time? Isn’t there a law against that?”
“We should be able to smoke anywhere. I thought weed was supposed to legal.”
“RDC isn’t weed-free now, so why bother?”

Come on people, did you seriously think legalization of cannabis wasn’t going to bring in a slew of regulations? Wasn’t that the whole point behind legalization, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – to prevent it from getting in the hands of youth? In what world would that be achieved by giving everyone easier access to cannabis and the ability to blaze it wherever one felt like?

From the start, pro-legalization people have had this idea marijuana is some sort of miracle substance, that because it can benefit some with chronic pain, epilepsy and other conditions it’s completely harmless. People I know who previously never would’ve touched it are suddenly saying they’re going to try it, because hey, it’s legal now so it must be OK.

Apply that logic to jumping off a cliff, or smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, or gambling. All of them are very legal, but that doesn’t mean they are free of harm, risk – there’s no guarantee any of that is safe. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

It’s that notion that it is completely OK to use couldn’t be further from the truth, and may be what concerns me most about the legalization of cannabis.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, marijuana smoke contains “many of the same cancer-causing substances as tobacco smoke.”

Use can cause an increased risk of psychosis such as schizophrenia, an increased likelihood of addiction (contrary to popular belief that marijuana is addiction-free), an increased risk of experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts.

For pregnant women, it can lead to longer-term development effects for children, including a decrease in attention span and ability to stay focused, as well as a decrease in memory function, problem solving and reasoning skills.

But tell me all about how great it is and why there shouldn’t be regulations around this substance just as there are for tobacco and alcohol.

On the other hand, things aren’t going the way Trudeau wanted them to, either.

After downloading the work to go through with legalization to the provinces, who in turn offloaded it the municipalities, he now thinks he knows best about what the legal age should be for cannabis consumption, telling Quebec that raising the age to 21 was going to open the door to organized crime.

So while trying to make it harder for youth to access cannabis, you’re going to make it easier for older Grade 12’s who can then pass it along to those in younger grades? You’re going to make it easier for them to grow their risk of mental health problems which could potentially lead to crime of all sorts?

This was all pushed through too fast, too quickly. There is too much potential for unintended consequences, there are too many unknowns – like, for example, the effect a homegrown cannabis plant could have on pets and wildlife.

I just hope it doesn’t go the way I think it will – with an increase in addiction, mental health problems or something worse.