Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jul 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Judith Timson
Page: E9


People need skills for coping, not more cannabis boutiques

I see the provincial premiers are demanding "clarity" - possibly a
delay - in the federal plan to legalize marijuana by next July.

A communique from their Edmonton conference said they still have
concerns about, among other things, traffic safety and public
education campaigns.

I'm with them. I still don't have "clarity" about legal pot or in fact
the use and abuse of recreational drugs in general.

Here is what we all bring to any debate about recreational drugs: our
own history, our generational lens, our hypocrisy too.

I smoked some weed in university but didn't love it because it slowed
me down and I liked moving fast.

I also dabbled in a few hallucinogens, one time at a student newspaper
convention, after which, returning home to my parents, I thought
loftily, "Oh you dear sweet people, you have no idea how mind-blowing
my life really is."

In my twenties, cocaine use was not uncommon among affluent young
professionals. I was working in Vancouver and you could hear the
constant sniffing in the bathroom stalls of posh clubs. Even lawyers I
knew snorted coke. It was considered glamorous.

Like Barack Obama, I gave it a go.

I probably would have done more of it than I actually did. But my work
was demanding, and in journalism, alcohol was still the drug of
choice. Why take legal chances?

By the time I was 30, I had left everything but alcohol behind.
Despite a family history of serious problem drinking (my father, his
father, his grandfather) alcohol never became an abuse issue for me.
Marrying a man with moderation in his blood sealed the deal.

Yet I still believe, with different timing and circumstances, I might
have ended up with a substance abuse problem. I know in my heart I was
one of the vulnerable ones.

As a parent, I hypocritically hoped my teenage kids did no drugs - and
often said so, omitting some of my own dabbling.

But I was realistic. Drugs were not a moral dilemma, but a legal and
safety issue. My children were smart and precious and I wanted them to
have all their wits and opportunities as they embarked on life.

Now in their early thirties, I have never asked them for a list of
anything they might have ingested while young.

We were all lucky, I guess.

My own history and generational lens have made me favour the
legalization of cannabis. We need to stop giving kids a record for the
use of it. We need to take the opportunity away from criminals.

But as we get closer, I am having doubts (and you can always find a
study to back this up) on what cannabis does to young minds. We know
most kids start smoking pot much younger than 18.

And no, weed is not better than alcohol - just different. All drugs
can rewire your brain - including martinis if you drink enough.

The opioid crisis - rampant in North America, and a mirror addiction
to crack use by the mainly Black community in the '80s - has startled
me into a more rigid approach to drug use in general.

You can't read Margaret Talbot's article in the New Yorker magazine,
in which she describes two parents overdosing at a kids' softball game
in West Virginia, and not shudder at how vulnerable so many are to
addiction: "Two of the parents were lying on the ground, unconscious,
several yards apart … the couple's thirteen-year-old daughter was
sitting … with her teammates, who were hugging her and comforting her.
The couple's younger children, aged ten and seven, were running back
and forth between their parents, screaming, "Wake up! Wake up!"

Those parents were revived by paramedics, their kids removed from
their care.

How does this all connect up? Am I saying legalize pot and we're all
going to be overdosing on fentanyl on a softball field?

Of course not. But it's coping skills most people need - from
childhood to grave - not cannabis boutiques along my main street. I am
surprised by how much I hate the sight of them.

It's honesty we need when the toxicology report comes back on beloved
star Carrie Fisher who died suddenly last December at 60 (actual cause
still unknown) and reveals she had cocaine, methadone, ethanol and
opiates in her system.

While fans tweeted that Princess Leia gave the world so much that we
shouldn't punitively focus on what drugs she abused, her own daughter
Billie Lourd issued a strong statement: "Seek help, fight for
government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social
stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a
cure. Love you Momby."

We are all at risk.

Here is what I have come to loathe: jokey media headlines like "Buzz
kill" on news articles pointing out concerns with the legal cannabis
rollout; ads run by the LCBO glamorizing alcohol use. (We are not very
good at glamorizing moderation let alone sobriety.) Doctors who
prescribe too many painkillers, and rapacious Big Pharma the ultimate

By all means, let's try something different with cannabis. As long as
we educate people about its risks, punish them for driving stoned and
give provincial governments time to safely implement their programs.

Just don't expect legalization to change the fact that more than a few
kids simply trying to grow up to be good adults are hurt by cannabis

You can't legislate luck.
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MAP posted-by: Matt