Marijuana legalisation: Why Canada changed its views on cannabis

By @chelean on
A worker tends to medical cannabis plants at a plantation near the northern Israeli city of Safed, in this June 11, 2012 file picture. Reuters/Baz Ratner

The recent global meeting on drugs served as a platform for Canada to steer clear of the status quo on drugs, as Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced Canada’s decision to legalise marijuana in the spring of 2017. The announcement was made before global leaders in the United Nations General Assembly special session on drugs in New York last April 20.

"I am proud to stand up for our drug policy that is informed by solid scientific evidence and uses a lens of public health to maximise education and minimise harm," Philpott said in her speech during the assembly.

"As a doctor, who has worked both in Canada and sub-Saharan Africa, I have seen too many people suffer the devastating consequences of drugs, drug-related crime, and ill-conceived drug policy. Fortunately, solutions are within our grasp,” she added.

Factors that led to Canada’s decision

Canada’s decision to legalise marijuana is brought about by several medical patients, whose lives are cut short by the inability to access this illicit drug. Moreover, Canada’s move to level the playing field with regard to accessing the drug remains to be among the top priorities that led to legalising marijuana. The Mirror wrote that legalisation is the smartest way to cut crime and direct sales revenues away from corrupt institutions to the government for use of research funding.

The Huffington Post also discussed the several considerations — ranging from health risks and benefits, legal implications and experience — which led to the Canadian government’s push for marijuana legalisation. The November 2015 ministerial briefing presentation "Legalising & Regulating Marijuana" offered insights on several considerations that government looks into.

One of the major concerns prior the probe to legalise marijuana use is the increased usage among its younger population. According to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), almost 44 percent of Canadians have used marijuana within their lifetime. One-quarter of the 33,200 students, or about 26.5 percent of students in Ontario, ranging from grades 7-12, admitted to using marijuana in the past year. By the time these students reached Grade 12, nearly 46 percent or almost half of Ontario students have used marijuana.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been keen on legalising marijuana, so as to help keep the drug out of the hands of children. Historically, Canada is part of a global legal framework on psychotropic drugs that does not allow for legalisation but allows amendments on sanctions to be imposed.

Another factor considered in its marijuana legalisation probe is the regimen for medical marijuana. A 2013 Marijuana for Medical Purposes regulation attempted to direct the medical marijuana industry away from home growers, and instead favour licensed producers. However, a court ruling in February 2016 affirmed homeowner's right to grow the plant for medical purposes.

Furthermore, data has pointed out the health benefits of medical marijuana. There are scientific reports about the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for managing symptoms of chemotherapy, treatment of epilepsy in children and even pain relief.

Numbers from Medical Marijuana, a team of patients, growers and doctors committed to pushing for the legalisation of medical marijuana, claims that marijuana possesses anticonvulsant benefits among children suffering from frequent seizures caused by Dravet syndrome, a severe type of epilepsy.

Aside from its anticonvulsant benefits, marijuana also possesses the ability to relieve pain among several patients suffering from chronic pain. Web MD explained that new studies lead to medical marijuana as a pain relief. Additionally, people who used marijuana did not have any serious side effect compared to patients who did not use marijuana.

These medical findings and reports are still quite limited due to the illegal status of the plant in many places around the world, thus, lessening the amount and choices for supply and decreasing the opportunity for research. Still, the growing call for medical cannabis does not mean there is no risk for marijuana outside the medical purpose. The Health Ministry also warned about the medical risks of the recreational use of marijuana. Matthew Mills, COO of Med-X, confirmed this claim during his interview with Cenk Uygur when he mentioned about the various effects of marijuana.

“[T]here is a type of marijuana that gives you couch lock that makes you go to sleep and there's a type of marijuana that has a super pain relief side that gives you energy,” Mills said.

Med-X, which is a Los Angeles-based medical company, innovates all natural products for the proper cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes. Med-X is also the first medical marijuana company which runs on Regulation A+ crowdfunding initiative.

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