During his election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to legalize marijuana if we chose him as our leader. That day is near, and marijuana might be legalized on Canada Day 2018. Such a decision should not be taken lightly. Our country is not ready for this change.
To clarify, I don’t want to come across as cynical. I know that medical marijuana has its place in treating patients with chronic or terminal illness. I also don’t agree with throwing people in jail for carrying small amounts for personal use. I see this as a waste of time, money and resources. At the same time, however, I don’t think that the legalization of marijuana is what our country needs. And I certainly don’t think it will make our country healthier, happier or safer. The decision to legalize marijuana has implications for health, society and our youth.
Due to a lack of evidence, we don’t know about marijuana’s long-term health effects. The legal age of consumption is yet to be determined, and there is a risk for impaired brain development with early use. Most notably, there is an increased risk for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Smoking, in general, is simply not healthy, and the human lungs are not made to tolerate such abuse. Only time will tell about the long-term effects of marijuana use.
In addition, impaired driving is already a major burden on our country. Marijuana use will certainly add to this. Our people have suffered enough with drinking and driving, and every year thousands of Canadians are killed in impairment-related accidents. What will happen now when marijuana comes into play? We don’t know how much is safe to consume before getting behind the wheel, or even how severe marijuana impairs our ability to drive.
Lastly, the legalization of marijuana teaches our children that recreational drug abuse is OK. Many Canadian schools use the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, in which marijuana is discussed as a “gateway drug.” The fear is that youth will get adventurous with more dangerous drugs. What will they say to the children now? To stay away from cocaine and crystal meth, but that it’s OK to smoke marijuana?
Yes, I agree that the government control of marijuana will allow for safer and more regulated products. This will also compete with the underground drug market that currently distributes marijuana and other drugs. By decriminalizing marijuana, police enforcement could shift focus to more important issues. However, this does not mean marijuana is safe. We should not let underground drug lords pressure us into legalizing something that could be quite harmful for our health.
An argument to support legalization is that by legalizing marijuana, children and youth will have more difficulty accessing it. The idea is that drug dealers would be run out of business, so children wouldn’t have access to the underground drug market anymore. However, when marijuana becomes more frequently used by adults and parents, children will be able to easily access it in their cupboards at home.
Another argument is that taxing marijuana sales could be a means of generating revenue for our economy. This is true, but we could consider taxing other items, such as junk food or sugary beverages. We don’t need to depend on marijuana as a source of income.
We are not ready for the legalization of marijuana. The fact that something is legal does not mean it is safe. Health and potential risks should be our priority when making important decisions like this. If we’re not ready, we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.