Dark side to marijuana legalization
While there are many looking forward to the impending legalization of marijuana, some are less enthused. The executive director of the U-Turn Drop-In Centre in Carbonear worries that legalization of the drug will create problems for youth and lead to a wider acceptance of drug culture.
Jeff Bourne knows a thing or two about the trouble caused by addiction. An admitted addict now several years sober, the executive director of Carbonear’s U-Turn Drop-In Centre has put in a lot of time helping others find ways to overcome battles with drugs and alcohol.
While there are many who might welcome news the federal government is looking to legalize marijuana, Bourne isn’t among them.
“I don’t feel comfortable myself, personally,” the Victoria native told The Compass last week. “Number one, years ago marijuana was taboo. It was bad to be doing it. Now we’ve come to a place in society where it’s acceptable. In 20 years down the road, is cocaine going to be legalized and acceptable?
Bourne says compared to what it was years ago, marijuana is on the verge of being classified as a hallucinogen. That’s due to higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the drug. According to the Government of Canada’s Healthy Canadians website, studies have found the average level of THC in mari- juana has increased by 300 to 400 per cent over the last few decades.
“The stuff that the government grows and puts out there, the THC level isn’t going to be so high,” said Bourne. “So if you go to a corner store and buy it, you’re not going to get your bang for your buck, so you’re going to go and buy it off your buddy down the corner. So the ones that smoke it daily that are used to this high THC level are not going to be the ones buying it from the store when it’s legalized, because they’re not getting their fix.”
Bourne also has concerns about what legalization will mean for youth. He worries that legalization will help create more drug addicts down the road.
Not for public places
Kevin Coady from the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco has his own concerns about legalization.
“We’re certainly keenly interested, because we’ve had the battle of trying to get people to realize they can’t light up their cigarettes wherever they feel like it, and they should avoid doing so around young people because of the message it sends. I think it would be the same thing for the marijuana use.”
Coady, the organization’s executive director, expects there will be a need for programs to help those who find themselves needing to eliminate marijuana from their lives, just as there are smoking cessation services out there for the public. Programs targeting youth will also be necessary, he reckons.
“Our goals for our group include protection, prevention, cessation and denormalization we’d like to be a part of any group or discussion that would prevent young people from ever starting the use of marijuana, and then of course protecting people from the second-hand smoke from the marijuana, same as cigarettes. And the cessation for those who get hooked and want to quit.”
Ultimately, Coady hopes the federal government handles legalization responsibly and appropriately to avoid creating new problems.
“I think they need to do a bit of homework on it, because there’s so much work that has gone into correcting the mistakes of the tobacco activity. It would be terrible if we opened up all those doors again and then have to close them.”
Bourne believes legalization will open up a serious can of worms and leave governments scrambling to deal with the demands placed on addictions services.
“I’ve been around the rooms of recovery for a while, and I came across people that lost their jobs, their houses, their families — the whole nine yards — just because of a draw of marijuana. That’s the only drug they did, but they lost everything they had.”
The impending legalization of marijuana will not come without some costs according to a local addictions expert.