Pro-marijuana flags as seen at the Global Marijuana March 2013 in Vancouver, B.C. Legalizing pot doesn't make it a wise consumer choice or a safe one, writes editorial. Photo courtesy of Cannabis Culture via Flickr []

Editorial: Legalization of marijuana is a dopey decision

  • April 20, 2017

The legalization of recreational marijuana elicits the usual snickers about pot and the people who use it. But it’s no laughing matter.

Legalizing pot doesn’t make it a wise consumer choice or a safe one. It means pot joins products like tobacco and alcohol that will put millions of dollars into government coffers despite the harm it poses to public health and family life.

The implicit message is that pot is now a legitimate consumer product that, although regulated, has won a government stamp of approval. This comes, no less, from a prime minister who takes pride in how he connects with young Canadians. That message is dangerous.

While the scientific evidence is unclear regarding the overall health impacts of long-term casual pot use, the verdict is conclusive on what pot does to youth. One in seven teens who try pot become pot abusers. For people under age 25, smoking pot can impair brain function, affecting memory, attention and emotional stability.  That’s not to mention what may happen when a pot user starts up a car.

From these perspectives alone, the rush to legalize marijuana seems misguided. It becomes more puzzling when placed beside expensive government initiatives to mitigate the damage to society caused by tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse, or society’s battles against other addictions, including pornography and gambling, that arise from legal, taxable activities.

Canada is currently gripped by a deadly crisis of opioids abuse.  Its roots go back two decades to when doctors began prescribing these powerful drugs to treat chronic pain. Eventually and inevitably these drugs made it to the street. There’s no reason to suspect marijuana will be any different. Product churned out by regulated facilities and sold through licensed retailers — not to mention the soon-to-be-legal home-grown weed — will surely find black markets and young customers.

Even if it doesn’t, school kids will now be growing up in a culture in which pot is legal, advertised and a socially acceptable lifestyle choice awaiting them as early as age 18. Quite literally, it is mind blowing.

If this folly is be be pursued, governments have a moral obligation to enact detailed measures to reduce the harm surely to befall some consumers and their families.

The tax windfall from pot should go into education programs that target youth and to fund clinical research into the health and social effects of even casual drug use. Adequate financial support must also go to organizations that will deal with the human fallout at family counselling centres and at abuse and addiction rehabilitation facilities.

As the government makes marijuana a legitimate consumer choice, it must inform the public — particularly youth — that dope is a bad choice.

Failing to take comprehensive countermeasures to reduce the harm would make a bad policy even worse.

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