The Cannabis Divide: Differing Perspectives in Canada and the United States

There is no doubt about it, the cannabis climate in Canada and the United States is vastly different and the divide became greater on October 17, 2018 when Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use.

As a medical cannabis user I have had access to legal cannabis for quite some time and have realized that I take this privilege for granted. I use medical cannabis on a daily basis and am grateful for the role it plays in my overall health and well-being. I am no longer addicted to opioid medications and am able to manage my anxiety and depression with regular cannabis use, however this ability diminishes when I cross the border.

As a citizen of both the United States and Canada I am frustrated by the differences in laws, policies and cannabis education between the two countries.

All Packed Up

I have taken several recent trips to the United States, one to Disney World and two trips to my family home in New York for holiday celebrations. Each time I pack my suitcase it hits me that I will no longer have access to my daily cannabis medication. As I no longer take pharmaceuticals to manage pain and acute anxiety, this causes significant symptoms while I am away. I struggle to keep my anxiety under control, my pain levels are higher, I am always on edge and I don’t sleep.

I have also developed a fear for the border. I am a medical cannabis user and I work within the cannabis industry. Each time my car pulls up to the booth I am afraid that I will be denied entry to my home country and be unable to see my family due to my involvement with a harmless plant. I should point out that I have yet to be asked about my cannabis use or involvement in the industry, however I feel that one day I will be asked and required to answer truthfully.

Forced Back Into the Grey Market

On my first two trips to the United States I decided to take tolerance breaks from cannabis. I am of the opinion that tolerance breaks can be beneficial and allow you to experience the full effects of cannabis at all times, but these breaks do have a downside.

While at Disney World I was forced into a cramped line, in extreme heat, and experienced a full-blown panic attack. If I had been in Canada I would’ve consumed a small amount of cannabis and been fine, but I was in the United States. I did not have access to my medication and was forced to work through the panic attack with other tools, feeling embarrassed as people looked on. I managed to regain control but suffered physical symptoms for the next four hours. Needless to say that was not the most fun day of vacation for me.

Over the Christmas holidays we travelled to New York to be with my family. I had decided that during this trip I would purchase a small amount of cannabis to manage my symptoms should they arise. As with most family gatherings stress and drama was usually inevitable.

I texted a childhood friend and we met up to complete our illegal transaction. It felt weird to be in a criminal situation again. I ended up paying $90 USD for a quarter of OG Kush (more than twice what I pay in Canada), but it was worth it to have access to my medication. My symptoms remained under good control, I enjoyed my holidays and I returned to Canada feeling “normal”.

Propaganda War

There is a significant propaganda war raging against cannabis in the United States. Although medical cannabis use is now permitted in many states, recreational consumption remains an illegal activity. As I experienced in New York, my medical status does not translate across the border and I re-entered the illegal market in order to have access to my medication.

Cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug and falls under the same classification as heroin and cocaine. The US Government continues to maintain that cannabis has no medical benefits and is raging a war against the plant. Government sponsored education sites, such as the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) focus on all of the negative aspects of cannabis and do not include studies that have shown beneficial effects. Americans are being fed a constant stream of skewed information.

Emily Poster, B.Sc. is CannaWrite’s Director of Canadian Content. Contact Emily at emily@cannawrite.net