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As the projected date for cannabis legalization looms in my home country of Canada, various businesses are hyping the plant up in preparation. There is a lot of focus on pot in terms of its potential and proven medical benefits as well as touting it as a relatively harmless recreational substance often compared favorably to alcohol as a less harmful drug.
The latter argument encouraging recreational use is especially interesting to look at now as people prepare to get their slice of the market share of widely available pot products. As we will see, perception is everything. It is not about what a substance fundamentally is or is not; it is all about how business sell it to their customers.
For many people that have been chronically treated with harsh opioids and other drugs cannabis can indeed be, at the very least, a lesser of evils in terms of pain management without dangerous side effects.
For chronic recreational users the legalization issue may be almost a moot point for those who already have a reliable source of their drug of choice.
It is for the mass median of people who have traditionally been sold a more "Reefer Madness" type message that these new pro-pot campaigns look to influence.
If I am a person who grew up believing that doctors and pharmacists are the authorities on what drugs are okay to use it can take a lot of perceptual manipulation to then convince me that marijuana is now one of the "good drugs."
There seems to be a fervent attempt among many budding pot companies to try to saturate our consciousness with the idea that pot is basically harmless and indeed even helpful in treating everything from cancer to depression.
The strategy now is to expand the scope of pot consumers and encourage new uses for the substance as well. It seems like the goal is to create a societal perception whereby having a joint at home after work is comparably to having a glass of wine with dinner.
Pro-pot companies have to work extra hard to recondition many people, particularly those who have had more conservative attitudes towards substances and have toed the line in terms of obeying the law.
The two angles of medical and recreational pot are working in tandem to break through and reprogram Canada's consciousness as it relates to cannabis. The more medical benefits that can be proven, the more likely people are to open up to the plant and perhaps be willing to purchase it themselves.
The danger is of course that eager companies swing too far in the other direction. The "Cannabis Cures Everything!" crowd may be a relative minority but they certainly can be a vocal (and convincing) group of voices for those who do not do their own research.
I don't deny that medical pot can have fantastic results for many people in treating many different ailments. The trouble is not in actual, tangible, measurable results of individuals. The issues arise when companies begin making overreaching claims with only their bottom line in mind.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to normalizing pot use among young people. As a counselor and social worker I have worked with many youth who have run into a lot of psychological and social problems due largely to excessive marijuana consumption.
The bottom line for myself is we need to find a sane middle ground with this and every other societal issue. Just as Big Pharma will hype up whatever miracle pill they are currently selling, Big Cannabis will look for any avenue to make their product seem like something we can't live without.
The key is individual discernment and being able to think for ourselves and arrive at our own conclusions. Our perceptions are being targeted on a daily basis; we have to remain strong in our own truth and power.