Le­gal­iz­ing cannabis will help so­ci­ety

Far from putting Cana­di­ans at risk, the move will be ben­e­fi­cial, Jerry Golick says.

Montreal Gazette - - OPINION - Jerry Golick is an IT con­sul­tant and cannabis ac­tivist who lives in both Mon­treal and Sain­teA­gathe-des-Monts.

Far from putting Cana­di­ans at higher risk, as Ben­jamin An­son sug­gested in his opin­ion ar­ti­cle ear­lier this week (“Le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana is court­ing dis­as­ter” April 18), the na­tional le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis will pro­vide a much safer so­ci­ety, as well as in­nu­mer­able other ben­e­fits.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of ju­ris­dic­tions that have le­gal­ized cannabis sug­gests there is lit­tle change in con­sump­tion rates post-le­gal­iza­tion. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, any­one wish­ing ac­cess to cannabis in a pre-le­gal­iza­tion land­scape can eas­ily ob­tain it today. All we are chang­ing is from whom it is pur­chased.

If Canada were merely to de­crim­i­nal­ize, rather than le­gal­ize, mar­i­juana, that would give crim­i­nals a much freer hand to sell the prod­uct. That is nei­ther a safe nor in­tel­li­gent so­lu­tion.

There is also strong ev­i­dence to sug­gest that for many, cannabis is an ef­fec­tive and much safer so­lu­tion to pain man­age­ment than opi­oids. Ju­ris­dic­tions that have le­gal­ized mar­i­juana have dis­cov­ered both opi­oid pre­scrip­tions and opi­oid fa­tal­i­ties have de­creased. Even Cana­dian ad­dic­tion spe­cial­ists are sug­gest­ing cannabis can be part of ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery pro­grams for those hooked on opi­oids.

Le­gal­iza­tion will lead not only to the end of a cur­rently thriv­ing un­der­ground mar­ket, but also to sav­ings in po­lice en­force­ment, cease ty­ing up our ju­di­cial sys­tem with vic­tim­less cases and spare count­less Cana­di­ans from hav­ing the black mark of a crim­i­nal record. All this means a safer so­ci­ety.

As well, crim­i­nal ele­ments cur­rently pro­vid­ing cannabis will have less in­cen­tive to be in­volved in this busi­ness.

Along with a de­cline in un­der­ground in­volve­ment, there will also be less mo­ti­va­tion for kids to pur­chase cannabis from push­ers. Why bother, when they can sim­ply ask an older

I would pre­fer to have a child ex­per­i­ment­ing with cannabis rather than with booze or to­bacco.

sib­ling to sup­ply some, much in the way they ask for cig­a­rettes or beers? I do not con­done this, but I ac­cept the re­al­ity. How­ever, and this is a key point, I would pre­fer to have a child ex­per­i­ment­ing with cannabis rather than with booze or to­bacco. Why? Be­cause it is im­pos­si­ble to take a fatal over­dose with cannabis (un­like with booze), and if they do be­come de­pen­dent, which hap­pens in an es­ti­mated 10 per cent of cases, the with­drawal symp­toms are im­mea­sur­ably less chal­leng­ing than with nico­tine. Fi­nally, if there are any long-term neg­a­tive con­se­quences to us­ing cannabis (an­other hotly con­tested topic) they are of less sig­nif­i­cance than those of al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes.

And it’s wrong to call cannabis a “drug.” It is not. It is a plant with a com­plex set of com­pounds. Th­ese com­pounds have demon­strated and prov­able ben­e­fits with re­spect to over­all hu­man well­ness act­ing as anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries, an­ti­spas­mod­ics, neu­ral pro­tec­tors and so on. In fact, there is a com­pelling ar­gu­ment to sug­gest th­ese com­pounds are es­sen­tial hu­man nu­tri­ents, much like many of the min­er­als and vi­ta­mins found in other con­sum­able plants. Un­like man­u­fac­tured drugs, once cannabis is le­gal­ized cit­i­zens will be en­ti­tled to grow a cer­tain amount for them­selves. Again, this im­plies no mar­ket for crim­i­nals to take ad­van­tage of.

With re­spect to an in­crease in im­paired driv­ing, the ev­i­dence is in­con­clu­sive. One thing is clear: when peo­ple are very stoned they know they are im­paired and will gen­er­ally choose not to drive, or will drive with ex­treme care. The same can hardly be said for those who drink. Also of note, the im­pair­ment of a stoned per­son is not man­i­fested in the same man­ner as that of a per­son un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. In ju­ris­dic­tions that have le­gal­ized, over­all high­way fa­tal­i­ties have de­creased, sug­gest­ing there may even be a pos­i­tive ben­e­fit.

There is much about the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that I do not care for, but I rec­og­nize there is a need to com­pro­mise. My hope is that some of the more se­vere penal­ties will be scaled back, and op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated to bet­ter study, ex­ploit and ap­pre­ci­ate this truly amaz­ing and ben­e­fi­cial plant.

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