Students weigh in on Trudeau’s marijuana task force

By in News

The Liberal government has implemented a task force centred on drafting legislation that concerns the legalization and regulation of marijuana in Canada. University of Saskatchewan faculty and students are not lacking in input on the initiative and the impacts legalization may have on Canadians.

The task force is comprised of appointed Canadian professionals and experts of varying backgrounds, like law and medicine. Input from these professionals and experts will assist in the establishment of concrete legislation by the spring of 2017.

Due to the medical, political and economic complexities of marijuana legalization, the task force seeks to study and research the effects of legalization and the possible difficulties that currently exist or may emerge in the process.

Professor Barbara von Tigerstrom of the department of law at the U of S is one of the many professionals to weigh in on the commission. Von Tigerstrom has a background in alcohol and tobaccomarijuanataskforce regulation and the health-related implications of these policies.

Aside from the appointed members of the commission, U of S students are some of the many Canadians who have assessed the repercussions and challenges of marijuana legalization, as well as the benefits that it could reap in the near future.

David D’Eon, third-year political studies student, notes that while there may be no shortage of research and findings developed by the task force, the difficulty arises in the implementation of the plans themselves.

“It’s a matter of evaluating these plans or maybe adapting them to a more modern perspective,” D’Eon said. “Whether or not it can be approved by the Senate and passed into law and effectively implemented is where the bigger challenge lies.”

D’Eon argues that the legalization of marijuana will be a difficult task when accounting for levels of federal, provincial and municipal governments and the current legal reinforcements embedded within these structures.

“Dismantling all of the legislation against marijuana and replacing it with effective legislation that does the exact opposite of what we’ve been doing for so long is a very complicated thing to do,” D’Eon said.

In addition to the commentary surrounding marijuana legalization within political studies and policy analysis, students within fields of science and research have studied the effects of legalization and its potential impact on current and prospective users.

Third-year medicine student Krishia McLaren noted that despite gaps that currently exist in research on marijuana, the government should move forward with legalization.

“The suggestion that marijuana should be kept illegal because of its negative health effects has no backing — there’s been a bunch of studies done and they all come out with differing conclusions, which is why we aren’t really sure,” McLaren said. “I don’t think we will be until we try it.”

McLaren argues that, despite complications that may arise from legalizing marijuana, such an action would reap benefits for the medical field overall.

“For the medical system in general, I think, the biggest thing that would be good with legalization is harm reduction. If marijuana is legalized, regulated and controlled by the government, we know that it won’t be laced,” McLaren said.

In addition to the principle of harm reduction, McLaren notes that legalization would lead to destigmatization, allowing for patients to confide with practitioners or seek help for addictions in a safe, accessible and judgement-free environment.

“Even in the medical community now, there’s still a lot of doctors that silently judge a patient if they say they smoke marijuana,” McLaren said. “[Smoking] doesn’t devalue anything else the patient is saying … If drugs are decriminalized, people are a lot more open to seek help if they think they have an addiction problem.”

Consultation will eventually be open to the public before the task force submits its findings and legislation will be put forward on behalf of the Liberal Party. Scrutiny or alternative recommendations by the public will allow the task force to make changes where it may be deemed necessary.

Jessica Quan

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor