When Canada embraces cannabis: Inside the growing public acceptance of legalization

Cannabis Thumb Final

Canada is the first G7 nation to implement legislation to permit a nationwide cannabis market. Being an early leader in a field riddled with so much stigma and misinformation will prove for an interesting cultural shift.

As we embark on a monumental journey with legalization, it’s important that we change the narrative around cannabis use; and it starts by having open and honest discussions about medicinal purposes, recreational usage and the potential risks.

Understandably, recreational cannabis won’t be for everyone. But let’s refresh our perspective, put old stereotypes aside, and take an objective look at it.

Cannabis still has to overcome decades of built up stigma

Alcohol and cigarettes are two substances that have always been legal in our lifetime, but have most certainly been linked to severe health issues. While smoking has become more and more taboo, we are still exposed to countless positive marketing messages about why it’s socially acceptable to enjoy a few drinks. Alcohol is so engrained in our culture that it can seem out of the ordinary when a person tells us they don’t drink.

Some characterize people who use cannabis as a “pothead”, and liken them to Cheech and Chong. That comparison not only shows our age, it’s unfair and may even be stigmatizing people who are struggling with very real addiction issues.

Consider Joe Rogan, you might have recently seen him interviewing, and getting high with, Elon Musk. Joe is very open about his daily cannabis use. He also has the most popular podcast in the world, tours monthly for his stand up shows, hosts high-profile UFC events, is in peak physical condition and is an all round family man.

Does this fit a stereotype to you?

We typically have positive associations with seeing friends for a few drinks, we toast special occasions, we even go on tours to see where our favourite alcohol is made. So why is cannabis any different? It’s a little naïve to talk about cannabis and alcohol on two different levels. In fact there are some very strong arguments that alcohol is more harmful to society, families and individuals than cannabis will ever be.

Canada is committed to communication and education

Over the years we have had numerous public health campaigns warning of the harmful effects of cannabis that sounds like the opposite of a Nike campaign: “Just don’t do it.”

It’s encouraging to see an evolution in the type of messaging coming out. By providing balanced information outlining the pros and cons, everyone can make their own decision.

Health Canada is planning to invest more than $100 million over six years in cannabis public education and awareness. This will be done in part with community organizations and Indigenous groups that are educating their communities.

Gather enough information that will inform your decision

In this information age, there is an explosion of resources and online content. Everyone has a different point of view, and there’s not a lot of medical research at this stage. It’s important to discuss both the benefits and risks while addressing public concerns, such as:

  • Driving while under the influence,
  • Precautions we should take while consuming cannabis,
  • Being aware of potency/dosage,
  • Protecting others from unknowingly ingesting edibles,
  • Talking to your children about cannabis – just as you would with cigarettes or alcohol.

While we have subscribed to a lot of unfair and negative rhetoric throughout the decades, there is still a lot uncertainty around how legalization will play out in Canada.

The world is watching, so let’s be a great example for other countries to follow in our path.

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