Despite our government moving closer and closer towards legalization and regulation of cannabis products for recreational purposes, and the medical community becoming more aware of the benefits of marijuana, there is still so much demonization of the substance, and the worst part is that it is mostly based on misinformation and anti-drug propaganda.
On Mar. 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that marijuana legislation would be ready by the summer of this year, to the dismay of all those Canadians that stand by anti-cannabis sentiments.
When you do a quick Google search of just the word “marijuana,” it yields some interesting results. The top results are all either websites about drug addiction, or they’re bordering on being just straight up propaganda. I could not find a single non-biased source about marijuana until I started really digging.
While some of these places actually had a bit of good information sprinkled in there, reading through all of these websites about the “dangers” of marijuana use — some of which come with absolutely no evidence at all — actually reminded me of my grade school education about illicit drugs. I then realized that this misinformation is what is most widely available to people, and educational institutions then get brainwashed into believing that marijuana is as good as the devil.
This brings me to the marijuana portion of the University of Saskatchewan’s Student Health Services website. The webpage spews a few absolutely outrageous ideas about marijuana that are not backed up by any evidence.
Some of these cute little tidbits include, “Marijuana smoke contains 50 per cent to 70 per cent more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke” and “Regular smoking of three to four joints per day is reported to produce as many symptoms as an average of 22 cigarettes per day.”
These notions are beyond ridiculous and most importantly, untrue. As reported in Scientific American, marijuana has no link in causing lung cancer, let alone a single death, while according to the Health Canada website, more than 230,000 Canadians are killed by cigarettes per year, with one of the leading causes of death being cancer due to the smoking.
Furthermore, cannabis simply does not have 50 to 70 per cent more carcinogens than tobacco, and none of the sources cited in the U of S Student Health Services article point in this direction. In fact, a lot of the sources cited are either bordering on propaganda, or website links that don’t exist anymore so I am unable to check the validity of them.
What I did find — in an article written by Robert Melamede in 2005 for the Harm Reduction Journal — is that marijuana is not as harmful as most people tend to think.
“While both tobacco and cannabis smoke have similar properties chemically, their pharmacological activities differ greatly,” Melamede writes. “Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some.”
You got that right, marijuana smoke can actually help to decrease cancer cells and prevent new ones from forming. Not only that, but it has been found to help with a wider array of symptoms such as pain, nausea, inflammation and seizures, just to name a few. No wonder more and more cancer patients are beginning to use it in conjunction with their treatment.
We need to hold our institutions accountable for producing reliable and accurate information about the substances we chose to put in our bodies. Promoting solely abstinence from substances such as marijuana is as effective and productive as promoting solely abstinence from sexual activities.
It doesn’t make students or the greater population safer, it just makes them ill-informed, which can be dangerous when it comes to drugs. Reducing harm and providing solid, evidence-based information for students is the most responsible thing that any educational institution can do — and anything else is doing us a disservice.
Remember, we are still locking up scores of people every year for a non-violent, victimless crime. It is time that we remove this blemish from history and move in the direction of allowing consenting adult Canadians to participate in legal and informed marijuana use.
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor