Whether you puff on the devil’s weed or not, Canadian life has become a little smokier. It is not the summer forest fires.
On October 17, 2018, recreational marijuana became legal in Canada. Canadian pot smokers are slowly getting used to toking without having to skulk around like a criminal dodging the cops. New references to marijuana abound in the media and emblazoned on new “No Smoking!” signs. Leading up to October 17th, the news was abuzz with the sharp spike in marijuana stocks in Canada (Canada proudly grows some of the best bud globally) many backed by US equity funds. "The commencement of adult consumer use sales in Canada has been very successful for Aurora [Corporation], with strong performance across all product categories and brands," CEO Terry Booth boasted. After October 17th, while sauntering through the forest-lined University of Victoria campus on Vancouver Island, I spotted something unusual. As usual, a few visiting deer were grazing cautiously on campus fields.
Unusually, there were new “No Smoking” signs displayed throughout the campus. A large X now crossed through not only the image of a lit cigarette but also an X crossed through the image of a green marijuana leaf: smoking of tobacco and marijuana is prohibited on campus, except for a few designated areas. Some students now “light up” for a “toke” or “bong” of “weed” at one of two designated smoking benches on campus, and anywhere else that campus security won’t catch them. Soon thereafter, while on the highway drive on the outskirts of Victoria, I was struck by an unusual advert aired on the radio. The soothing voice gently warned:
It is illegal to smoke marijuana and drive a vehicle. If you want to smoke marijuana, please go to the 1001 things to do when you smoke marijuana website. Have fun getting high, but don’t drive high. This message is sponsored by UBER and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).”
You cannot hot box a joint (with closed windows) in your car without getting a steep fine for smoking and driving, and possibly losing your driver’s license. However, Adults can now possess and smoke grass right in front of police officers, so long as there are no “No Smoking” signs. This fulfills one of Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s campaign promises.
Canada is the only industrialized country where cannabis is fully legal for medical and recreational purposes. Six years ago, the states of Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Like Canada, South Africa (2018) and Uruguay (2013) also legalized medical use, recreational use, and the cultivation (growing) of marijuana. Many countries worldwide have legalized medicinal (medical) marijuana but not recreational marijuana. Holland is famous for its marijuana and hashish cafes but has not fully legalized the drug. Uruguay and Canada are trendsetters. Mexico just introduced a government bill to create a medicinal marijuana industry and to legalize recreational use, which will instantly reduce the crime rate. Thailand recently announced that it hopes to become the first Asian nation to legalize marijuana.
全球目前 (2018) 開放娛樂用大麻的國家共有四個，其中以加拿大開放最為全面。另外，美國則是有10個州及華盛頓特區開放。
Presently, ten US states have legalized recreational use, and thirteen states plus the US Virgin Islands, have decriminalized marijuana (penalties are reduced, a financial penalty is imposed, like an auto speeding ticket say, rather than criminal convictions and possible jail time). However, according to the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under US federal law for any purpose. At the state level, however, cannabis laws vary considerably, with the laws of many US states conflicting with US federal law. For example, a recent news story reported that LA’s airport (LAX) would allow travelers to legally transport no more than one ounce of marijuana. The same news report then warned that federal immigration officials at LAX could arrest anyone in possession of marijuana at the airport. One can conceive of an absurd situation in which a traveler possessing marijuana might witness a state LAX security official and a US immigration officer arguing over whether or not the traveler can be charged for smuggling marijuana.
One of the major reasons why marijuana is being permitted is that legalization will put criminal organizations substantially out of the marijuana business. The illegality of marijuana drives the industry underground and inspires all kinds of spin off criminality, including violence and money laundering. Canada is also mindful of how getting a criminal record for simply puffing on a pot pipe or getting caught with a joint undermines a person’s future. Moreover, governments can more closely regulate marijuana cultivation, distribution, and use in the same way it does alcohol.
It is also hard science: marijuana has medicinal properties that help with a range of health issues. It relieves nausea in cancer patients and stimulates appetite. It is a proven analgesic – it alleviates a great variety of pain where other painkillers often fail. It alleviates glaucoma symptoms. Marijuana may also alleviate asthma symptoms and improve breathing, when used modestly. The Canadian armed services provide marijuana to combat veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Many users report deeper sleeps and heightened capacity for creativity. Marijuana is often a sensual experience. Food tastes better, music sounds better, lovemaking and affection feels better, nature looks and smells better, laughing is easier, feelings become more insightful, and movies are more fun to watch – the list goes on!
In the 1930s, church groups bankrolled a propaganda film (Tell Your Children, later released as Reefer Madness), about high school students who are victims of marijuana pushers and descend into madness and murder after smoking weed. Most pot smokers will tell you that they don’t go mad, but get really mellow, easy-going, with senses aroused before feeling sleepy and getting the munchies (pot induced hunger) for snack food. Most smokers concede that they get temporarily stupid on marijuana, losing concentration and motivation. The negative effects of marijuana to brain and body health are inconclusive, however.
Research presented at the 2018 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience showed that marijuana use in teenagers affects the development of areas of the brain responsible for self-control and planning. However, the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed 69 scientific studies on young, frequent cannabis users, and found that the negative effects on cognitive (brain) functioning disappeared after 72 drug-free hours.
There is however strong evidence that marijuana use by teenagers increases the risk of developing psychosis, creating unusual thoughts and perceptions, such as the radio transmitting secret messages from the CIA. Years ago, a Swedish study followed nearly 50,000 young Swedish soldiers for 15 years. Soldiers who had smoked marijuana at least once were more than twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as soldiers who had never smoked pot. The heavy users (those who used marijuana more than 50 times) were six times as likely to develop schizophrenia as non-smokers. Smoking marijuana is dangerous for users with a family history of mental illness, such as schizophrenia. Harvard University researchers supported this conclusion in 2011.
Marijuana’s legalization has been an uphill battle because of international treaties that have bound countries to foreign rule for decades, prohibiting marijuana worldwide. If a country relaxed its marijuana laws, it could lose international standing, credibility, or precious trade benefits. American banks have been reluctant to do business with Uruguayan banks involved in the marijuana business, for example, and Uruguay is pleased to see Canadian banks break into the marijuana business as partners in what was once a crime. The U.S. thought it could crush marijuana with an iron fist. However, the only thing it achieved was to spread organized crime linked to marijuana across the entire continent. As the war on marijuana failed, Uruguay and Canada have begun to push the envelope on drug reform, which looks like a global movement.
Nevertheless, when in Rome, do as the Romans do – follow the law!
skulk around 躲躲藏藏
spin off 附帶的
hard science 經事實證明的科學
uphill battle 艱困的戰鬥
push the envelope 挑戰極限
文/ Arthur Lauk
本文收錄於英語島English Island 2018年12月號