Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reefer Mania

"Actually, the initial plan was to have this documentary aired before the [Canadian] election, to give people an understanding of what might be ahead. But because of network programming, it was pushed back to after. That turned out to be a good thing, because now it's even more relevant."
"I think it really does come down to a health problem. It seems simple enough. But what we do is take money away from prevention and treatment. It just doesn't make sense."
"I saw it as a black-and-white issue, because you want to get rid of the black market and you want to make tax revenue. It seemed like a win-win situation. But then I felt like a Ping-Pong ball. Someone would say something and I would go: 'Of course, legalize it'. Then someone else would say something and I would go: 'Oh, maybe we had better look at this more closely again'."
"...Somewhere between prohibition and full outright alcohol-type commercialization [might work in the legalization of marijuana]."
"But I hope it will take awhile, because I believe this is complex. I hope Trudeau [Canada's prime minister-elect] will listen to law enforcement officers, health officials and public-policy people. And pro-pot advocates as well as industry people from the States, who do not want to harm people or increase youth consumption -- they just want to open it up to the adult market."
"Fact is, I don't think there are a lot of people up here [in Canada] who have been studying this."
Cynthia Banks, Toronto film documentarian

Cynthia Banks interview CIUT 89.5 FM culturalmining 1
Daniel Garber at the Movies

In the United States, the states of Washington and Colorado have brought in legalized marijuana. In Canada, the incoming Liberal government headed by Justin Trudeau has stated, discreetly, that it is interested in legalizing marijuana. Film documentarian Cynthia Banks felt compelled to do some investigating on her own, to speak with and document opinion makers' concerns. She is herself somewhat conflicted over whether the legalization of this commonly used social drug should proceed or whether more caution is required to formulate public-interest policies to protect vulnerable portions of the population.

In Canada, marijuana is legally and openly for sale, for medicinal purposes, prescribed by physicians for patients whose health condition and/or pain suffered is mitigated with the use of marijuana. The issue is whether or not Parliament should pass a law making it legal to grow, buy and sell marijuana for commercial purposes as a legally-acquired herb with certain properties that have up until now placed it out of reach as a social ill; a mind-altering drug.

RR Vancouver 420 Legalize Banner

The filmmaker travelled first to Colorado where legalization has created a binge of celebratory marijuana use. Specialty shops have appeared everywhere in Colorado, specializing in the sale of a vast array of edible pot products. In some places like restaurants a policy of open BYOC exists, in the spirit of 'bring your own wine/beer/alcohol/cannabis'. Pot entrepreneurs have taken marijuana and married it as a flavour to mints, caviar, lamb chops; anything that appeals.

Pot users can make their selection among various choices of vaping, drinking, or smoking cannabis. Pot users have arrived at the pot version of the veritable candy shop. Pot dealers no longer represent shady, money-hungry thugs; they now are university graduates with degrees; no less money-hungry as they dispense the product that has created an atmosphere that some liken to an updated gold rush. In its first year of business, over $700 million was created in profit, and the State of Colorado was favoured with the resulting taxes heaping its coffers high.

Washington State? Same thing. A former narcotics officer with 40 years behind policing for drug possession remarked that before legalization, demand and supply of pot was never much hampered by the fact that it was an illegal drug. With the introduction of its new legal status, nothing much has changed. And then the documentary maker went to Ontario, visiting Smiths Falls where one of the largest marijuana facilities in the country has been established in an old abandoned Hershey's factory, in Smiths Falls.
Master grower Ryan Douglas inspects plants at the Tweed marijuana facility in Smiths Falls in 2014. The business has been a boon to the Ontario town. JULIE OLIVER / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

The Tweed facility has given new life to the town, and certainly new employment opportunities. The establishment represents in fact, one of the largest growers and suppliers of medical marijuana in North America. Along with the Tweed plant over two dozen producers of legal pot are situated in Canada. And with the introduction of legalized pot for social consumption, not only medical use, those grow operations are set to expand exponentially.

The film maker also interviewed researchers who point out among other issues that marijuana has been developed by growers to become a far more potent product. There are a number of concerns, all of them revolving around health outcomes from the consumption of the powerful new cultivars having their effect on people, both physically and psychologically. the psychotropic element in pot is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), but the plant also has over 400 other chemicals in its makeup. Research has demonstrated, as well, that adolescents and young adults can be susceptible to brain damage with the constant use of pot.

RR Vancouver 420 Big Joint

Add that to the fact that marijuana is likely to become an agent of addiction for young people. And others worry that it also becomes a portal for experimentation, with more powerful and even more potentially harmful, let alone addictive drugs. The documentary that Cynthia Banks has produced is called Reefer Riches, premiering on the new CBC series Firsthand today. The film serves as a thoughtful introspective look at a drug many consider harmless and which gives many others concern over its long-term effect on the vulnerable.

It seems inevitable that marijuana will become a legal drug in Canada, just as tobacco and spirits are. The government will take its cut of commercialization through taxes, and the proportion of the population, young and old, who use it will feel themselves well served. Only time will tell whether legalization has, in fact, been a positive social choice to advance lifestyle choices.

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