A change in at­ti­tude

N.L. na­tive teach­ing in Colorado says change in law forces re­think in so­ci­ety

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LIFE - BY DIANE CROCKER Diane Crocker is a journalist with The Western Star in Cor­ner Brook.

Le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana is not just about a chang­ing of the law, it's about chang­ing at­ti­tudes.

“The day-to-day dif­fer­ence from Oct. 16 to Oct. 18, it prob­a­bly isn't go­ing to seem that dra­matic,” said Paul Se­aborn. “But over time it re­ally forces ev­ery­one, whether they're a young adult, or a par­ent, or a doc­tor, or an em­ployer, to kind of re­think their at­ti­tude to­ward cannabis. And that just takes a while be­cause it's had such a stigma for many decades.”

Orig­i­nally from Cor­ner Brook, N.L., Se­aborn has be­come an ex­pert in cannabis and teaches a course on the busi­ness of mar­i­juana at the Univer­sity of Den­ver's Daniels Col­lege of Busi­ness in Den­ver, Colorado.

He moved to the state — one of nine where the recre­ational use of mar­i­juana is le­gal — af­ter com­plet­ing his PHD in strate­gic man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Toronto in 2011.

At that point, Se­aborn said, he was prob­a­bly less knowl­edge­able than pretty well any­one about mar­i­juana.

But tim­ing is ev­ery­thing.

“That was just when the le­gal mar­ket was re­ally tak­ing off in Colorado and you had busi­nesses open­ing and all sorts of new things hap­pen­ing.”

The vote to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana was in Novem­ber 2012 and the law went into ef­fect Jan­uary 2014.

Se­aborn's teach­ing and re­search has al­ways fo­cused on busi­ness and govern­ment is­sues, reg­u­la­tion and lob­by­ing.

It makes sense then that Se­aborn is fol­low­ing what's now hap­pen­ing in his home coun­try.

He said when he first started teach­ing the busi­ness of mar­i­juana course a year and half ago, Canada came up quite a lot.

Once le­gal­iza­tion does oc­cur, Se­aborn can see many of the things he's found study­ing mar­i­juana in Colorado car­ry­ing over to Canada.

“I think it may be a sur­prise how lit­tle day-to-day life changes as peo­ple walk down West Street (in Cor­ner Brook) or go to the gro­cery store.”

While hard to imag­ine see­ing dis­pen­saries the next time he comes home, he said in Den­ver they have sim­ply be­come part of the land­scape. Lit­tle is per­ceived to have changed.

“Grad­u­ally peo­ple's at­ti­tudes and un­der­stand­ing are re­ally be­ing shaped and they're re­think­ing how they view cannabis ver­sus al­co­hol or other things that they re­ally take for granted.”

In a sign of ac­cep­tance, univer­sity stu­dents and alumni are tak­ing jobs in the in­dus­try. De­spite other em­ploy­ment op­tions, they see it as a le­git­i­mate and very ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity.

On the other hand, Se­aborn doesn't think any U.S. states have re­ally fig­ured out the so­cial con­cept of cannabis.

“That's one of the things that re­ally has de­layed the full ac­cep­tance.”

When it was le­gal­ized in Colorado, peo­ple couldn't con­sume it in pub­lic, in a ho­tel room, a bar or a res­tau­rant. Se­aborn said re­search has shown it's most com­mon for peo­ple to con­sume cannabis by them­selves, at home.

“That's maybe not the im­age that peo­ple have of sort of a big cloud of smoke cov­er­ing down­town.”

A big sur­prise in Colorado un­der le­gal­iza­tion was the pop­u­lar­ity of the ed­i­ble forms of cannabis.

“I think part of it is that smok­ing in gen­eral is not some­thing that most peo­ple pre­fer to do. And then, se­condly, when it's not le­gal to do openly in pub­lic those other op­tions are a lit­tle bit more dis­creet.”

It could be a year be­fore those forms of cannabis will be legally sold in Canada.

He ex­pects over time Canada will fall to the same con­clu­sion Colorado did — that ed­i­ble forms for so­cial use are ac­tu­ally just a very use­ful prac­ti­cal ap­proach. CON­CERNS

In terms of so­cial con­cerns, Se­aborn said the two big ones are how le­gal­iza­tion af­fects youth and the com­pli­cated is­sues with im­paired driv­ing.

He said there is con­cern le­gal­iza­tion will mean youth will use mar­i­juana more fre­quently.

In fact, he said, in some cases it's the op­po­site since it's now more com­mon­place for peo­ple's par­ents to use, for med­i­cal rea­sons.

Still, he said, par­ents have to be vig­i­lant on where they store their mar­i­juana.

As for im­paired driv­ing, Se­aborn said that has gen­er­ated new dis­cus­sions. It's not the same as al­co­hol and the body doesn't ab­sorb and process the two in the same way.

“Le­gal­iza­tion is re­ally a chance to bring that into the open and fig­ure that out.” Is Canada ready?

Se­aborn thinks the time is right for Canada and there is the ad­van­tage of learn­ing from oth­ers who have done so be­fore them.

And hav­ing le­gal­iza­tion as a na­tional pro­gram, and not state-by-state as in the U.S., has many ad­van­tages.

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