Reefer madness or herbal medicine?

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Reefer Madness is a 1936 American propaganda film revolving around the melodramatic events that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try marijuana – from a hit and run accident, to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations, and descension into madness due to marijuana addiction.

The film was “rediscovered” in the early 1970s and gained new life as an unintentional satire among advocates of cannabis policy reform. I watched the movie on YouTube and must say, it is an utterly ridiculous portrayal of the behaviors of the effects of marijuana.

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, marked the day that Canada legalized recreational reefer use.


Kelly Spencer – Happy Healthy YOU

(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)


Many folks are not happy about this, while others are thrilled and others are simply confused on how to feel. I decided to look back in history and investigate how this went down during alcohol prohibition.

Temperance activists and their allies also believed that alcohol, especially hard liquor, was an obstacle to economic success, social cohesion and to moral and religious purity. The alcohol laws of prohibition were their solution to the nation’s poverty, crime, violence, and other downfalls.

To combat their perceived social evil, North American crusades ensued and by 1840s “total abstinence” temperance societies were the norm, and all alcoholic beverages were considered dangerous. Between 1878 and 1928 about 75% of Canadian breweries had closed.

Crime increased and became “organized,” the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point, and corruption of public officials was rampant. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. In 1920, British Columbia voted to make alcohol available through the government. Manitoba and Saskatchewan follow a year later. The remaining provinces vote against prohibition by 1930, apart from P.E.I., which stayed dry until 1948.

So, what does this have to do with marijuana? A whole lot.

Interestingly, marijuana was banned in Canada around the same time prohibition was ending. Pot was prohibited in 1923 until regulated medical cannabis became legal in 2001. Legalized recreational pot, as of Oct. 17, 2018, can be ordered online through our government’s regulation. The Ontario Cannabis Store website will be the only legal option for purchasing recreational cannabis or folks can grow their own plants within limits.

So, let’s ‘weed’ out the obvious concerns. Growing up, we were told that pot was a gateway drug: one-minute smoking a joint, the next heroine and addiction. This simply isn’t the case. I am sure it is for some folks, but alcohol could be that gateway as well. There is concern for our youth and understandably. Studies show there are adverse affects on the brain of youth and teens that smoke pot regularly.

As well, much like alcohol, abuse can lead to damaging effects in one’s life. When you can’t function without, you are waking up and partaking, or you don’t like to do anything without the buzz, you might have an addiction or at the very least inability to cope with life. I have heard the argument that it is different, but I must ask “how?” If you are doing a shot of whiskey or two every time you wake up, go to work, meet with friends and to cope with life, how is this not a relevant concern? Like alcoholism, marijuana dependency can bring adverse affects for the individual as well as their families. The Canadian Federal Task Force recommends allocating a portion of the tax revenue to support prevention and treatment for cannabis dependency and extending this revenue to support the health concerns arising with the opiate epidemic.

Time and place for everything must be observed. Abstaining while caring for children, in public or when driving seems like common sense. But like drinking, people will do this regardless of the new road safety laws where it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana but will have to pay the price.

A 2014 study in the journal Addiction lays out what the vast research on marijuana has revealed over the last 20 years, highlighting the drug’s adverse effects, both acute and chronic. Acute effects mainly include anxiety, paranoia, dysphoria, cognitive impairment, and psychotic symptoms (especially if family history). These side effects seem to have risen over the last 20 years, which may be since the THC content in marijuana has also risen over that time. It is linked to lower drive and focus and decreased memory and has also shown effects on the brain causing lower IQ in chronic users.

The study also showed that no one has ever died from a natural marijuana overdose. This is not true for synthetic marijuana, which can be very dangerous. Driving while high on marijuana does seem to double the risk of a car crash.

So, what is good about legalizing this herb?

Much violence has happened between drug dealers and for decades, the black market was the place to find marijuana. Sure, your friend’s brother may have some on hand, but where did he get it from? The small-time dealer has ties to the big-time drug dealer. Sometimes involved in organized crime and some of those drug dealers and mafioso even have ties to terrorist organizations in other countries. It is hoped and believed that legalization will reduce this.

Did you know that not smoking pot will still benefit you?

The state of Colorado pulled in nearly $200 million in tax revenue last year thanks to its $1.3 billion in marijuana revenue. They legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. According to CBC News, the senior economist at CIBC World Markets projects provincial and federal governments could rake in $5 billion per year in tax revenue. And while Colorado’s profits go towards education, public health, construction, mental health, addiction programs, and so on, it is not completely clear where the Canadian profits will land yet.

What excites me most about all of this, is the amount of research that has been done over the last decade on the benefits of marijuana and its medicinal use. This herb has power therapeutic healing properties that are being discovered more and more in this part of the world. Although, this is not a new discovery to many other parts of the world. Traditional Chinese herbal therapy, which accounts for most treatments in traditional Chinese medicine, has 50 ‘fundamental’ herbs. Cannabis sativa, aka marijuana is among them.

Medical marijuana has been ‘proven’ to treat a wide array of conditions, some deemed ‘untreatable’ including: Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, problems due to chemotherapy, chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, insomnia, loss of appetite or nausea, seizures, nervous system degeneration, high blood sugar, psoriasis, bone growth, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and glaucoma.

I like to advocate getting to the root cause of issues whether physical, mental or spiritual disturbances. Like alcohol, over-consumption, abuse and addiction can be life-altering resulting adversities. I know many people that can’t function in life without smoking pot. I know people that have suffered from mental health issues that say that pot assists them to feel less angry, depressed and anxious. I also have witnessed people that got to the root cause of their mental health issues and no longer were dependent on smoking pot to keep them aligned.

Ultimately, this is not a black or white question of madness or medicine. Like all things, there is darkness and light within this discussion and the intention of its use will be the world of difference.

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