“Smoking marijuana creates the same toxins and cancer-causing chemicals as smoking cigarettes,” reads a poster in New Brunswick, Canada that attempts to “educate” youth about the dangers of smoking marijuana.
This couldn’t be more wrong.
Cannabis when inhaled is known to be an anti-inflammatory with anti-tumour and there has been no scientifically-proven correlation between smoking cannabis and lung cancer.
What’s Wrong Here?
Cannabis is becoming a victim of misinformation as legalization sweeps across states and countries. The aforementioned posters are part of a Canadian campaign called “It’s Your Choice”, sponsored by the site the New Brunswick Medical Society on the site LegalNotSafe.ca.
The purpose behind the project is noble and can’t be discounted, as it seeks to “highlight the health risks that come with smoking marijuana”.
What does raise eyebrows is this campaign’s spread of misinformation, and biased approach that will undoubtedly fail society like all other drug education programs have so far. To start off, they believe legalization is an effort to gain tax money, and while this is true, legalization is about a lot more.
The campaign has come under tough criticism for its spreading of half-truths by health professionals across the nation, citing errors in the way the effects of THC on mental health, pre-natal/embryonic health are communicated with the campaign’s correlations or cannabis to cancer being erroneous and biased.
What Needs to Change in Cannabis Education?
With my educational background, I’ve been scouring over the media and news surrounding cannabis, being sure to be astute to comments, criticisms and the information people claim to know about cannabis education.
The gap in knowledge and attitudes towards cannabis are shocking.
Here are a few ways that as a cannabis educator, I propose a change in the way society is educated. Here’s just a few ways we can start:
1) Spread the crucial fact that not all cannabis products are intended to get the user high or “stoned”.
A friend of mine told me that she never uses cannabis because it makes her paranoid. Fair enough, cannabis isn’t for everyone. What my friend didn’t know is that you can use cannabis, and get a whole host of medical benefits, without getting high.
Cannabis has for too long been associated with being high. Sure, cannabis is fantastic for those who desire psycho-active effects, but in order to experience that, you need a THC-dominant strain.
So, there’s cannabis that doesn’t get you high? Yes. Tons of it. This is where education on cannabinoids and their practical uses becomes extremely important. If you are unaware of what cannabinoids are and why you’d ever use cannabis that doesn’t get you high, I’d encourage you to educate yourself on cannabinoids, and in particular, cannabidiols (CBDs).
2) Provide the rationale for why legalization is happening
Crime reduction, medical research, quality control, taxation benefits, protecting children and youth, and protecting public health and safety are among the reasons states and countries are taking up legalization of marijuana.
· Reducing (disproportionate) arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana reduces overcrowding of prisons and exposing adults to the criminal justice systems.
· Medical research advances the knowledge and evidence-based practices of the medicinal and therapeutic value of cannabis and cannabinoids.
· Quality control ensures that cannabis consumed by the public is free from contaminants and harmful substances while responsibly creating different strains for different applications.
· Taxation of controlled substances creates revenue for municipalities to dedicate to community improvement, health, and education strategies.
· Restricting the sale of marijuana to minors allows adequate time for cannabis education programs to inform users about the benefits and risks of marijuana as a controlled substance.
· Public safety is protected when compliance measures are put into place to ensure that cannabis sales are happening safely and cannabis is getting into the right hands.
The list goes on. Legalization is not just an effort to allow people to get high without consequence. The social benefit of marijuana legalization far outweighs the concerns.
3) Learn from past mistakes
There was once a time when alcohol was prohibited, causing people to make moonshine in their back yard and bootleg barrels of alcohol a’la the days of Al Capone. Then alcohol became regulated again and enforcement made it restricted to the sale of minors and you can enjoy libations in almost every country of the world.
Also, in almost every country of the world, you can see some devastating statistics on alcohol. In the U.S.A. it’s the fourth-highest cause of preventable deaths. More than 10% of children in the U.S.A. have a parent with an alcohol dependency. Within Canada, alcohol is the most abused drug . 5 million Canadians in 2015 were negatively harmed by alcohol through impaired driving or alcohol-induced medical conditions. In 2011, alcohol-related disorders were the top cause of hospitalizations across the country. In the United States, 100,000 people die each year as a result of alcohol-related incidents ranging from drunk driving to alcohol-induced suicide and even homicide.
Where did alcohol education fail society?
How can we learn from the regulation of alcohol as cannabis is legalized?
Moving Forward with Cannabis Education
These are just 3 reasons why cannabis education needs to take a responsible and ethical approach as legalization spreads and is implemented across the world.
CannaWrite is developing a series of educational programs that will seek to responsibly, ethically and unbiasedly educate various groups about cannabis and what legalization means for countries, states and municipalities.
Stay tuned as more information becomes available about these programs, or connect with CannaWrite directly to discuss a consult at firstname.lastname@example.org.