As October 17 nears, there are several interesting observations to make about the legalization of cannabis in Canada. For one, no one officially talks about marijuana and pot anymore. Those words were used when the stuff was forbidden. Make it legal and cannabis is the nice word that makes people feel better.
As the only G7 country to legalize cannabis, one could think Canada and it’s hip prime minister are way out there in Never-Never Land, but there has been little stir or comment within the G7. Other leaders of major industrial countries are obviously not ready to do it, but none is clamouring that Canada is doing something wrong, reckless or radical.
So much silence from so many economically advanced industrial countries is a clear sign that Canada may not be going to pot after all. There is a strange feeling that comes with the silence. The feeling that cannabis usage is more commonplace in G7 countries than anyone would care to admit. It was certainly the case in Canada. Justin Trudeau knew it, and once in office, followed his instincts and delivered the legalization he promised in the 2015 campaign.
The legalization debate in Canada was a meek affair. Political opposition always seemed to be on the periphery. It was specific issues, like driving-under-the-influence, which kept the opposition busy. There was never an all-out onslaught against the legislation, which may have been expected in some conservative circles. The Conservative Party never stated or even suggested it would kill the cannabis law once in power. Cannabis, it would appear, will be part of the Canadian fabric long into the future.
For those of a certain generation, it is a seismic switch. No one could have thought of this development in the 1960s because no one would have thought the medical profession, knowingly or unknowingly, would one day rip the cover off the ball that made cannabis an illegal substance.
When the medical community publicly recognized cannabis as being medically helpful for a number of diseases and symptoms, the clock-of-logic began to tick. At a certain point, it became clear it was hard to hold to the line that recreational use was a hazard.
I recently watched the Ken Burns documentary, “Prohibition,” and learned that while Americans could not legally buy alcohol from 1922 to 1933, it was possible to get a number of ounces per month with a doctor’s prescription. Canada’s medical marijuana law was a mirror image.
By no means does the entire medical profession approve of the new law. It would be silly to imply that, but like the political opposition, the dissenting voices in the medical community were neither that numerous nor that loud.
On the surface, it is hard to believe that there was no organized campaign from the medical profession equating smoking cannabis with lung cancer. There was no organized campaign to warn against the dangers of brain damage or memory loss. While there were dissenting voices all through the debate, dissenting voices do not have the power to change a government’s direction. The Canadian medical establishment chose not to employ its clout.
Anecdotally, I recently overheard a doctor talking about the new law. He said he feared it would hurt young people who would have more opportunity to get cannabis, even if they were underage. He believes cannabis can do damage to a still-developing brain. However, the same doctor said that after years of emergency room service, that unlike alcohol, he never saw cannabis as the cause of a gunshot, a stabbing or an assault.
As Canada prepares for legalization, the parameters of so many things will change. When the long forbidden fruit is no longer forbidden, ask yourself how many people among your family and friends will try it? How many will come out as long established users? Can you imagine going to a wedding that has a scotch bar and a room filled with brownies?
No democratically elected government knowingly does something stupid to get themselves defeated. Perhaps the muted opposition from other G7 countries, from the political opposition, as well as from the medical establishment, indicates that cannabis legalization is not stupid or daring.
What we are about to discover is how mainstream cannabis may already be.