The federal government of Canada has pledged that recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada by the summer of 2018. However, the implications of legalizing a schedule II drug like recreational marijuana poses security, crime and health-related issues according to the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Although there are benefits to legalizing such a drug, both the short-term and long-term effects of marijuana can cause immense trouble for frequent users. Some of these can include anxiety, memory loss, drowsiness, blurred vision, loss of competence and clarity, as well as nausea. In fact, a study by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) confirmed that marijuana contains nearly 400 chemicals and “over 60 cannabinoids, of which delta-9 tetra-hydra cannabinol (THC) is the most often studied due to its psychoactive properties.” Although this can vary depending on the strain of cannabis used, as a rule of thumb, marijuana should be considered dangerous due to other factors involved in the growing and processing of the plant such as contamination and mold. Aside from the dangers that the cannabis plant itself poses, pesticides and other chemicals that are often used to treat these plants tend to be absorbed by the human body as well. External confounders factors like these chemicals limit research being done on the effects of marijuana since they often lead to a skewing of data.
In terms of long-term effects, marijuana is said to be a non-addictive drug. However, individuals can still become dependent on it, leading to the inability to successfully attend work and/or school, numerous health implications, and difficulty maintaining relationships. According to the CMA’s report on the health risks associated with marijuana, dependence is when three of the following occur in the same 12-month period:
- Increased tolerance
- Unsuccessful efforts to quit
- Lost time during recovery or using
- Reduced activity
- Continued use despite persistent physical or psychological problems caused or intensified by drugs and alcohol” (Canadian Medical Association, 2014)
Although marijuana is a medical necessity for relieving pain and reducing negative symptoms associated with ailments such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, and chronic pain, the recreational use of the drug can have negative outcomes, especially since it is not in regulation with doctors’ orders. Typically, medial marijuana users will ingest cannabinoids, such as THC, in the form of edibles, whereas many recreational users smoke the plant, which allows for toxins to penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream in a timely manner. Smoking, as opposed to ingestion, is a much more preferred method of marijuana intake, as the effects occur almost immediately, producing a feeling of euphoria. Furthermore, like with any drug, if one uses marijuana in large quantities, many side effects such as panic, paranoia, or psychosis might result.
A large debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana that has erupted in recent years focuses on public safety and whether or not marijuana will improve or worsen the current state of affairs. American statistics have shown that following the legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado, the number of cannabis-related arrests “decreased by 46% between 2012 and 2014” (Gaudreau, 2017). There was also decrease in court filings for cannabis-related offences. However, “cannabis-involved DUIs increased from 12% to 15% from 2014-2015.” (Gadreau) The point being made is that steering away from the “war on drugs” strategy has been shown to decrease crime rates for small possession charges, and allows taxpayer dollars to be rerouted to an incentive that shows results. However, this comes at a price. Public safety is a genuine issue, considering that more and more individuals are consuming marijuana and then driving under-the-influence, leading to more DUI charges.
In the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI), there has also been an interesting response to the legalization of marijuana. The PEI public health office believes that legalization will increase usage, and ultimately increase health risks. A report by Campbell states that: “P.E.I.’s Public Health Office says legalizing cannabis will likely lead to increased health risks from the drug, with usage among Islanders expected to increase from 40 to 60 percent within the first year.” (Campbell, 2017) A 20% increase in drug usage is not an effective model of cutting crime rates. Although some argue that making cannabis more accessible will allow youth to use it safely as opposed to purchasing it from the black market, making it as accessible as alcohol will allow young people to feed their temptation. The fact that possession of the drug was illegal deterred some individuals from its usage, however, this will no longer be the case. Overall, marijuana is a dangerous drug that affects the mental state of its users. By making it more accessible, we are immersing young people in a society that condones drug usage and the negative side effects that follow suit. These issues will only be intensified after the legalization of marijuana.
By Alanna Munjal
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.