Cloud of smoke obscures cannabis debate: Fiorito
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Jan 31, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Cloud of smoke obscures cannabis debate: Fiorito

The needs of recreational cannabis users, and those who use it for medical purposes, are both legitimate and quite different

OurWindsor.Ca

I have some chocolates. They have certain properties. A while ago I was hit with a sudden, inexplicable, profoundly crushing sadness. Oh, well, sadness is normal, even welcome at times.

But not like this.

I didn’t want to call her; nothing she could do. I didn’t want to walk over to the hospital; I’ve seen Cuckoo’s Nest. But then I thought about depression and the uses of cannabis.

Half an hour and a sliver of chocolate later and I was flooded with wellness, the sort you get in spring, in the early afternoon, when the sun is warm and soft on your cheek.

A quick note; I was not high.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have been high pleasantly in my time. But here, all I wanted was relief, and not euphoria.

And this, in a nutshell, is the issue at the heart of the current discussion about cannabis: there are two legitimate uses for the stuff; one is recreational, and the other is medical, or therapeutic.

Hold that thought.

The leaders of the medical marijuana movement have been, and continue to be women. I went to a panel discussion some months back, the subject of which was the experience of women as leaders in the move toward legalization.

The panellists were from all over the country; some work for commercial growers; others were social workers and activists, and some were involved in the first compassion clubs.

They all had stories to tell. And while anecdotal evidence is not scientific, at some point the weight of the narrative is such that it cannot be ignored.

Hilary Black, a panellist, founded the first medical cannabis dispensary in Canada, nearly 20 years ago, in Vancouver. She recalled an incident from the early days:

“A woman kept phoning; she was in her sixties; arthritic, bedridden, she hadn’t been out of bed for three months. I went to see her. She had a joint, and she started stretching, and then she went into the kitchen and made tea, and she was crying because she hadn’t been able to.” Yes, and at that time both she and Hilary would have been breaking the law.

Here’s a question: where should that woman get her cannabis today? At the liquor store, with the lotus-eaters? Or at a dispensary, with a prescription?

Another panellist, a woman who had been an addictions counsellor, now works as a breeder for a commercial grower. She said, “I develop strains for every ailment.”

I remind you there is not just cannabis, there is sativa and indica, and there are hybrid strains within each; their effects are different, as they can be bred for strength or other properties.

Here’s a question: if we distribute marijuana through the liquor stores, will clerks be trained in medical use the same way they are trained to know which white wine works best with roast pork?

And then there was Mandy McKnight.

Her youngest child, at one time, was enduring as many as 70 grand mal seizures a day. “He couldn’t walk, talk, eat; he was comatose, seizing all day.” No medication helped until cannabis. The effects were apparent within 24 hours. “He’s now walking, talking, playing, swimming — it’s unbelievable; it’s been two years.” Mandy said, “It’s a treatment he has a right to try. He still has seizures, but they’re shorter; he recuperates faster.”

And all of this is personal, sometimes in unforeseen ways. Mandy’s other child is in grade school; kids tease about pot use at home.

Back to Hilary, who was in the forefront of the movement and is zealous to this day. She piped up and said, based on a lifetime of impassioned advocacy, “I’ve been told I’m difficult to date.”

People laughed; she did not.

And so I circle back to the point: in anticipation of legalization, big business is gearing up; small growers and individual licences are at risk; dispensaries are being hassled by the cops; and the question of distribution remains thorny.

The use of liquor control boards might make sense on the surface, but are booze and cannabis really a good mix? Should a medical user really have to go to the liquor store?

Should medical users be subject to the same taxes as recreational users? If all marijuana is sold at liquor stores, will sales staff be trained in the medical efficacy of the products? Where might edibles such as my chocolate be sold? And when will we be able to calculate the strength of the product, the way we do with alcohol?

Finally — at least for the moment — here’s one of those odd little side issues: if we treat cannabis the same way we treat alcohol, shouldn’t I have the right to grow some pot at home, the same way I am allowed to brew wine and beer?

It’s tricky. It is supposed to be tricky. Oh, well, we are clever. We have some experience. Me? I’d take my advice from the pioneers. However, if we don’t get it right, then I’ll really be depressed.

Toronto Star

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