Weed, herb, grass, mary jane, blunt, dope, pot, joint, hoot, bowl, four twenty, and my all time favorite, “spliff”, are some of the two hundred slang terms for you know what: Marijuana, the common name for a drug made from the dried leaves and flowering tops of the Indian hemp plant Cannabis sativa. You can smoke it like a cigarette with rolling papers or blunts, light it up in a pipe or bong , boil it down for the oil, or bake it into cakes and cookies. Almost everyone I know has smoked at least once, I’m sure once you go down your list of acquaintances you can say the same.
Pot culture is at an all time high for visibility and medical use for marijuana is gaining more and more acceptance. It could also be in the near future that possession of personal amounts is decriminalized. All of this is good news for a lot of people, but is it right?
The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also know as THC. How THC works is it suppresses the neurons in the information-processing system of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivation. In other words, you get stoned. THC is just one of the 400 chemicals found in marijuana, but the is the most effective. It sticks around in the body’s fatty tissue’s for up to 45 days (this is evident in the commercial boom of products geared for passing “piss tests”- the one that made me laugh the most : “the Whizzinator”, I swear it does exist!). The higher the THC level found, the better grade of dope. Apparently, the strength of today’s weed is ten times greater than thirty years ago. The Woodstock generation quit at the right or wrong time, depending on who you ask.
According to all the latest health research these are some of the common short-term effects of THC use: sleepiness, impaired short-term memory, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, some loss of coordination and poor sense of balance, and slower reaction times, along with intoxication and we can’t forget about Old Dutch’s favorite, the munchies. Long term effects include impaired memory, lethargy, lack of concentration and obesity due to high consumption of Cheetos. According to http://www.theonion.com, marijuana is also linked to sitting around and getting high.
Although still an illegal drug, weed may be the most accepted yet misunderstood illicit drug in western culture today. Many civilized countries are now adopting medicinal use of marijuana as a legal form of medicating and some countries have embraced decriminalization of pot (the Liberal government is trying to pass this now- whether the new leader be Paul Martin or Shelia Copps, I predict a landslide victory for the Liberals next election). All of this aside, what do people really think of marijuana?
Marijuana is a gateway drug — Marijuana users don’t usually abuse any other drugs. This debate is often presented as a black or white issue, with both sides presenting statistics to support their claim. I think it’s a half a dozen on one — six on the other, type of issue. Maybe it’s predominantly marijuana users who abuse heroin and crack or maybe it’s mostly heroin and crack users who abuse marijuana. There is most likely a higher correlation between caffeine use leading to nicotine use, or alcohol use leading to solvent abuse, but we don’t see as many stats about that.
A popular argument in the medical community is the therapeutic value of pot. To me and many others this is a moot point. If a person is terminally or chronically ill, shouldn’t the best means of treatment be used for the individual patient? Persons in the latter stages of AIDS often smoke up to regain their appetite, people receiving chemotherapy smoke to alleviate nausea, and MS patients smoke to alleviate pain. Whatever the reason or illness, obviously the numbers are there to show that marijuana is an effective means of treatment. At least the Canadian Government thinks so.
Right now the laws in Canada governing marijuana possession are harsh (not by American standards though). A possession charge gives you a criminal record. The controlled Drugs and Substances Act was passed in 1986 by the Liberal government (the same party that is trying to reform these laws).
Here are some of the basics on this Act:
Greater powers of search: Essentially this means a search warrant for a property includes all people in that property. If you’re at a club, the police can do a mass search and arrest.
Widened Seizure and Forfeiture: This means that anything remotely related to the illegal substance can be seized (ie.cars, homes).
Minimum Sentencing: Possession of over 30 grams of Marijuana – Indictment is five years less a day (no trial by jury), summary conviction for a first offence is six months and/or a $1000 fine, a second offence is one year and/or a $2000 fine. Possession of under 30 grams – Summary conviction is 6 months and/or a $1000 fine, second offence one year and/or a $2000 fine. A summary conviction is still on a criminal record. Those are the current laws in Canada. Once marijuana possession is decriminalized, a fine will be imposed and the one fined will not have a criminal record.
Every once in a while the newspapers and television will report another person arrested or protesting for medicinal marijuana or the decriminalization of pot. One of these persons is Calgaryian Grant Krieger. Despite the fact that MS sufferer Krieger was granted the right to grow, cultivate and possess his own marijuana for medicinal use in December, 2000 by Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, he is still continually arrested and charged by Calgary police for possession of the drug he uses to assuage Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. These many arrest and court dates have cost the terminally ill man thousands of dollars. Why? So that he could be made an example of. Is this effective policing procedure by the Calgary City Police, or just a witch hunt?
So the million dollar question is: is the decriminalization and the medicinal use of marijuana right for Canada? In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press on October 3, Prime Minister Jean Chretien defended his new marijauana bill, that would replace criminal sentencing with fines. He said, “It is still illegal, but do you think Canadians want their kids, 18 years old or 17, who smoke marijuana once and get caught by police, to have a criminal record for the rest of their life? What has happened is so illogical that they are not prosecuted anymore. So let’s make the law adjust to the realities. It is still illegal, but they will pay a fine. It is in synch with the times.” Our insightful PM perhaps summed it up for all pot users far and wide with this quote, “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand”.
Calgary Sun, June 09, 2002 , “Leave Grant Krieger Alone”, by Licia Corbella, Calgary Sun Editor http://www.cannabisnews.com