In 2018, seventeen years after granting legal access to medical cannabis, Canada legalized its recreational use. Many people thought that this would be the end of the story. But it was only the end of the second chapter. The rest of the book on Canada’s cannabis legalization is still being written.
Regardless of cannabis being legal the stigma of 100 years of prohibition and propaganda is still very present.
The irony is that while millions of Canadians consume cannabis in one form or another, many still do it in secret. Even medicinal users are apprehensive to share their story with family and friends. If you consume cannabis, do you feel comfortable sharing that information with colleagues at work or on social media? Probably not.
What about alcohol? Most people would much rather share photos of themselves with a beer or a glass of wine than smoking a joint. Why? Because it's socially acceptable.
In Fact, 65% of people still feel that way because the stigma runs very deep.
Our documentary Demystifying Cannabis tackles some of the myths and taboos that characterize this complex plant, and the stigma faced by its consumers.
Two of the main goals of legalization in Canada were to eliminate the black market and to protect children. In order to achieve those goals, we need to erase the stigma and re-educate society. An ideal place to reach and educate people is through social media. It's very difficult because many social media platforms block or suspend cannabis-related content.
The reason is that these platforms are American owned where cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 prohibited substance which makes it illegal at the federal level in the USA. In short, they are afraid of being sued.
Cannabis is a remarkable plant. It is not perfect, but it is not a demon either. To maximize its benefits and minimize its costs, judgment needs to be pushed out of the equation. This poses its own challenge because many lawmakers at the federal, provincial and municipal levels in Canada are still firm believers in the propaganda they have heard for decades.
Without the support of these elected officials, we can't move forward with licensing retailers who can challenge the black market. The more legal opportunities to purchase cannabis in our communities the less lucrative it will be for the black market. Many municipalities across Canada are still without legal cannabis dispensaries such as Surrey and Langley, British Columbia. The more opportunities we allow for the black market to exist the more opportunity there will be for youth to access drugs.
The longer we allow the misinformation of cannabis prohibition to continue the more challenges we face for medical research and clinical studies. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence for the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions. But without real science we are unable to support health practitioners in their efforts for harm reduction and fully realize all the therapeutic virtues of this complex plant.
Cannabis legalization is not a destination, it's the beginning of a journey. We will see many more chapters in this story as more countries around the world join the conversation. Since completing our documentary, we have created a YouTube channel, called The Cannalily, in order to counteract the stigma. The story of cannabis is not over.
Greg Nosaty is the Director and Co-writer of “Demystifying Cannabis”
Sylvie Peltier is the Producer and Co-writer of “Demystifying Cannabis”