Pot luck: Canada gambles on legal cannabis

High: A cannabis plant replaces the maple leaf on this Canadian flag flying on Parliament Hill.

Will it be a success or disaster? Canada his become only the second country in the world to fully legalise marijuana. While some rejoice, others slam the move as a risk to public health.

“I’m living my dream,” declared Tom Clarke, after Canada officially legalised cannabis yesterday. He owns one of Canada’s first legal “pot shops”. As the law came into effect, hundreds of people gathered outside his shop, cheering as he made the first sale.

The same scene played out across the country. Under new regulations, adults can now legally buy cannabis oil, seeds, plants and dried cannabis from licensed shops — entirely for recreational use.

Supporters of legalisation say it will have three main benefits: cut off profits for criminal gangs; provide extra public money through taxation; and prevent children from easily accessing the drug.

Not everyone is convinced. Writing in the Montreal Gazette, Benjamin Anson declared the move a “national disaster… sure to cause untold suffering for countless families.”

The health impact of cannabis is still hotly disputed. While a fatal overdose has never been recorded, some scientists have made links between marijuana use and psychotic symptoms.

Will legalisation be a disaster or success?

Up in smoke

Disaster, some argue. Cannabis can cause terrible health problems — legalisation sends out the harmful message that smoking it is OK. If usage soars, the burden on public health could become unbearable. The UK, and other countries, should be wary of following Canada’s example.

It will be a success, others respond. A regulated market is better for everyone, keeping money from criminals and giving the government greater control over who uses the drug. Furthermore, it can only be better than prohibition, which has has lead to thousands of pointless arrests and shattered lives. This is a welcome change.

You Decide

  1. Should cannabis be legalised in the UK?

Activities

  1. As a class, list as many myths and rumours about cannabis as you can think of. Then go through them one by one and discuss which ideas you think are true, and which are false.

Some People Say...

“Drugs are a bet with your mind.”

Jim Morrison

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There are currently 500,000 Canadians with existing criminal records for possession of cannabis. Government officials say that many will be pardoned.
What do we not know?
We do not know if legalisation will cause an increase in marijuana use. In the American states which have legalised the drug there is no clear evidence that usage by those 17 years or younger has increased.

Word Watch

Recreational use
Medical marijuana has been legal in the country since 2001. Canadians are now allowed to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public.
Taxation
The government predicts it will raise $400 million a year in tax revenues on cannabis sales.
Scientists
According to research by Patricia Conrod of the Université de Montréal.

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