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This week it was announced that Canada legalized marijuana. While medical pot has been legal for some time, there were a number of restrictions in place, which have lessened over recent years. Cannabis provides a lot of medicinal benefits for people: Pain relief, cancer and chemotherapy treatments, epilepsy, arthritis, glaucoma, and many more. Providing access for health reasons was a big step forward, but what about recreational users?
With the new legislation to take effect this fall, the legalization will allow for recreational use. This means smoking or using marijuana without having to worry about the legal implications. It will not necessarily protect people from landlords who may challenge their housing for use. Public spaces reserved for smoking will also be debated as to whether pot smoking or vaping should be permitted. Homeowners can be impacted. Who can grow plants and where? A lot of details will need to be ironed out.
Personally, I'm in agreement with legalization. I know many people who use for either medicinal and/or recreational purposes. Since the '90s when I tried my first joint, a lot has changed, not only with smoking pot but in general. Having a nose ring and bleached hair was considered edgy back then, not to mention adding a joint to the look. I was a "rebel" and called as such. Nowadays, tattoos, piercings, and a wide range of fashions are embraced like never before. Pot use, too, has become less of a stigma and more a part of our culture. Dispensaries, head shops, and cafés have grown immensely and popularity continues to keep them in business. Raids across Canada as recently as this year have not stopped their success.
Protests, activism, awareness, and a general movement towards acceptance has helped pave the way to legalization. Many who are not in favour of marijuana use and would advise against it would still rather not see it criminalized. One charge of simple possession can impair a lot for a person, from travel restrictions to career prospects, depending on which direction you take in life. Some people have been barred for life from certain countries as a result. This is why removing the criminalization aspect is most important.
A lot of celebrities and public figures have popularized cannabis in the media, film, and TV as a cultural phenomenon. Over time, people began to relate more to them and dismantled the stereotype associated with its use. Instead of labeling users as "lazy" or "unproductive," they became seen as successful, popular, and artistic. It has now, to some extent, become mainstream and acceptable.
Remember "pot leads to harder drug use"? I recall hearing this as a kid. I also had no idea what marijuana was, and had not seen any pictures of it. My upbringing was sheltered, and until I tried my first joint in my teens, I had no idea how it was even "used" and the different ways it could be. It was a plant and certainly not like any drug I had seen or heard of. I think having had little to no proper knowledge made me even more curious, yet nervous. Back then, smoking pot was something you did in secret, as if you were a spy, followed by finding the nearest convenience store for munchies while pretending to not be high and giggling all the way home. Those were the days...
Having a more open conversation about marijuana use with actual facts and experience is important, especially with kids. I feel this way with many topics: the more open, honest, and straightforward, the better. It will eliminate a lot of mystery and ignorance as well.
Over the next few months, we will see and read a lot of developments in this new law. It is a historic moment for Canada and a step in the right direction.