FOULDS: More Reefer Madness emerges

One substance kills about 100 people per day, every year, in the nation, according to Health Canada.

Another substance kills thousands annually, led to more hospitalizations in Canada last year than heart attacks, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and costs the health-care system billions each year.

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The third substance is being used more and more in a medicinal role, including in replacing deadly opioids in pain relief, while still being best known as a relatively benign way to get high.

Guess which of the three has been banned, and which of the three remain in use, at Thompson Rivers University? Obviously, the question would not have to be asked if the powers-that-be at TRU didn’t come down with a head-scratching decision.

Yes, marijuana use on campus will be banned once cannabis is legalized next Wednesday, with exceptions in place for those with prescriptions.

The university cited wellness of students in its decision, which would be defensible only if it had added alcohol and tobacco to the marijuana prohibition.

(Perhaps the policy will change when a revenue-generating cannabis Den opens on campus.)

To be clear, marijuana is not an entirely harmless substance.

Lighting anything on fire and sucking the smoke into one’s lungs is not a healthy endeavour, while precautions must be taken when consuming other forms of cannabis. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction notes chronic use can negatively affect mental and physical health, memory, attention and thinking.

The marijuana of today is far more potent than the marijuana of my youth and it can indeed adversely affect teenage brains. Teenagers should not use marijuana.

For the adults who attend TRU, however, it remains puzzling that university brass has decided to prohibit the least harmful of the three vices to which we tend to gravitate.

The decision to ban marijuana use, but allow far more dangerous substances to be used on campus, is ridiculous, but not surprising. On the eve of cannabis legalization, we remain in a weird Reefer Madness state, with various agencies panicking over something that has been de facto legal for many, many years.

We have hands being wrung over how police will test drivers for marijuana, yet millions of Canadians have for years smoked dope without marijuana-made mayhem on the roads.
(Meanwhile, the legal substance, alcohol, continues to create carnage on highways.)

We have cities like Kamloops gouging owners of cannabis stores with excessive business-licence fees ($5,000 annually) while purveyors of alcohol outlets pay a fraction of that amount ($200 annually) for selling a product that costs society more in money and lives in one year than marijuana will in a lifetime.

We have restrictive rules on packaging marijuana and advertising its sale, with the government cannabis store set to open in Kamloops next week likely to resemble a Soviet-era bread store in decor. Yet cross the parking lot and one will find a liquor store spilling over with colours, brands, logos, and sale prices. Open the newspaper, turn on the TV and listen to the radio and tell me how long it is until you read, see or hear someone urging you to buy that 24-pack of Bud for an amazing low price.

When weed is legalized next Wednesday, Kamloops will be home to a media circus, which is understandable as the city will be home to the only legal marijuana store in the province for the time being.

It is newsworthy.

But these stores, illegal as they are, exist now in Kamloops and beyond.

Very little, if anything, will change — aside from the novelty of buying a gram without risking arrest. Whether the Reefer Madness mindset is smoked out of society remains to be seen.
Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

© Kamloops This Week


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