Quelling reefer madness 

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One toke over the line sweet Jesus,One toke over the line.

I am loathe to blame the media for anything, that being the domain of the self-declared aggrieved looking for a scapegoat to hide behind. Of course, at this point in the downward arc of civilization, I'm not sure I even know what exactly the media is, the term having been debased by so-called social media and its devil spawn, fake news.

But the hair-on-fire coverage—I hesitate to call it news—over the past few months of the kind of zombie apocalypse we should expect on Oct. 17 when recreational use of cannabis becomes legal in the Peoples' Republic of Canuckistan is, by any standard, blameworthy, yellow journalism. Canada's self-proclaimed national newspaper has seemingly created a genre of cannabis "news" more akin to the propagandistic 1936 film Reefer Madness than grounded in anything like reality.

I'm not sure the Globe and Mail should shoulder the entire blame though. Politicians from coast to coast to coast have been exclaiming the horrors of their impossible task of cobbling together a Rubik's Cube of regulations and laws covering the sale of pot, who can grow it and how much they can grow, how many tokes is one too many if one were to get behind the wheel, what employers can and can't do after discovering their employees have enjoyed a three-doobie lunch, etc.

So, as a public service, I'm here to say: chill out, folks. Other than not being able to sic the policing power of the state on tokers, build more jails and ruin more lives, things are likely to be much as they were and have been now for decades.

Just as I'm pretty certain there is no one planning their future lives as junkies whenever heroin is legal, I'm also certain there are few, if any, folks thinking once pot is legal they'll show up at work insensate. That's not to say stoners haven't been showing up at work insensate already, just that there's unlikely to be a tsunami of them drooling all over their desks and machines thinking, "Hey, it's legal. There's nothing the man can do about it."

In Reefer Madness, cannabis is referred to as the killer weed and there is, in fact, a scene where the first tokes off a joint lead to insanity and murder. It's laughable...but then, it's not.

Reading some of the recent stories and commentary, there still appears to be a contingent of people who believe that's the way weed works. This is not dissimilar to the commonly held belief that one taste of heroin, or other opioids, leads inexorably to addiction, which, if true, would mean anyone who received a butt full of, say, morphine after surgery would be busting into your house to steal your TV to feed the monkey on his/her back. Ooh... scary.

There is a very high—no pun intended—probability that all of us have walked among and been served by people performing every kind of task you can imagine, from flying your plane to removing your appendix to building your house, who have measurable amounts of THC, the psychotropic element in cannabis, in their system.

A reasonably healthy person's liver can process about one drink per hour. Down a beer and you're homing in on immeasurable in an hour. A single exposure to THC, on the other hand, will still show up in your blood 72 hours later. Hence, the testing and acceptable amounts dilemma.

This problem is exacerbated by what may be described as the lingering effects of cannabis. For the most part, there aren't any. People can smoke themselves unconscious in the evening and wake up the next morning no worse for wear other than feeling as though they'd slept with a dirty sweat sock in their mouth all night. There is no cannabis hangover. But that same person will test off the charts for THC.

Like alcohol, people can casually enjoy the manifold effects of consuming cannabis. If you're unfamiliar—and concerned—about those around you using cannabis willy-nilly, think of exposure falling along a continuum...not unlike alcohol.

At one end you have a toke, a puff on a pipe, for example. The alcohol equivalent may be a beer or cocktail or glass of sacramental wine. No harm; no foul. Go on your merry way, operate heavy machinery if that's your thing.

The other end of the continuum is, on the one hand, severe alcohol poisoning. Drink enough, you die. Smoke—or consume—to the point of losing consciousness and in all probability you'll either fall asleep or make yourself sick eating chips and Smarties.

Of course, you may also suffer a psychotic episode but that immeasurably small occurrence falls squarely in the Exception Proves the Rule file.

But as sure as gesundheit follows achoo, the presence of cannabis, following legalization, will be cited and most likely blamed for any number of grievous incidents. Whether a proximate cause or not, any deadly vehicular crash where one or more participants had THC in their bloodstream will note the presence of the drug. Any workplace accident will do the same. And people will shake their heads and say, "See, I told you so."

They'll forget all the incidents that take place without the presence of anything, the ones humans seem destined to commit frequently due to carelessness or lack of attention. All the planes that have gone down due to pilot error, the limbs taken off by fast-moving machines, the half of traffic accidents in which alcohol wasn't present. We tend to excoriate the people involved in those incidents in which alcohol or drugs were present while shrugging our shoulders about what the heck people were doing when they were were stone-cold sober.

But those for whom the recreational use of cannabis—or alcohol—constitutes moral turpitude will continue to crusade against it. They'll continue to hitch their wagon to prohibition, ignore the high financial and social costs of illegality and press for stricter controls, random drug testing and other methods of suppression.

Even our own government, the one that's legalizing cannabis, has said, "That's it! Don't be looking for an easing on other drugs."

There's a good possibility I'll be delving into that topic next week. In the meantime, smoke 'em if ya got 'em...just remember, it's still illegal.

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