The different cannabis programs that the Canadian government should be working towards offering

Published Aug 8, 2019 01:21 p.m. ET
iStock / daoleduc

Canada has held the spotlight, with much of the world watching closely this past year as legal marijuana was officially introduced at the federal level. Enthusiasts rejoiced, while many maintained a stance of hesitance, as they experienced a societal shift that will go down in history. What was once viewed as a criminal activity and a dangerous drug, is now being sold out of cannabis dispensaries, which can be found in nearly every city across the country, as both medicinal, and a recreational element.

Is marijuana a drug or is it a medicine?

When the prohibition of alcohol was lifted, there was very little change to occur, besides the products being allowed back onto store shelves. But with legal marijuana, the situation is entirely different. Cannabis plants have long been known for their psychoactive characteristics, that are often sought by recreational consumers. However, we now know too much about the medicinal benefits that can be gained through the effects of marijuana to ignore this alternative therapy any longer.

This has led to masses of confused citizens who don’t know how to approach this brand-new industry. Is it a drug, or is it a medicine? The truth is that the answer is too complex for there to be anyone size fits all response. For some, it’s an excellent way to kick back and relax on the weekends, but for others. Legal marijuana can offer a higher quality of life than the majority of over-prescribed and more traditional pharmaceuticals.

It is now more critical than ever before that we find solutions to at least some of the issues that are being experienced by consumers right across the country. Introducing cannabis dispensary licensing and eliminating penalties was a great start, but there is much more to be done, and many Canadians are waiting for the government to step in with the answers. Though there is no way to know for sure where they will begin, these are ten of the most needed programs and organizations that are not yet in existence in this country.

1. Low-income programs

If you have taken the time out to visit your local cannabis dispensary, then you probably have a good idea of the price discrepancies between illegal and legal marijuana. The federal government has implemented a tax, along with a specific set of pricing guidelines that are an average of 30% higher than the black market, and this has left low-income individuals with limited access to cannabis products.

Marijuana use can be beneficial to many of the issues that are faced by low-income individuals such as stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, and more. Unfortunately, right now, the cost of legal marijuana keeps most low-income individuals from being able to access legal cannabis, which is regulated and tested for safety. If the Canadian government were to remove only their self-imposed tax for those who are living in poverty, it would give them the ability to visit their local cannabis dispensary for both recreation and therapy.

2. Disability covered prescriptions and tools

Despite medical cannabis being available in Canada for decades, before it was legal for everyone else, there was still no way for medical patients to get their life-saving prescriptions covered. The few who can cover the price of a prescription, are forced to either smoke it or experiment with a limited wealth of knowledge in an attempt to make healthier alternatives. Some provinces do offer limited coverage of vaporizer devices if they are prescribed and or recommended by a doctor, however, this is not a countrywide program; It is not advertised and is rarely accessible for most Canadians.

Introducing a program or form of insurance that can cover both legal marijuana and a device for healthier consumption would dramatically improve the quality of life of thousands of disability recipients. Many of whom are barely making it by with a limited income. It would also save the healthcare system millions of dollars in the long run, as fewer Canadians would be smoking. Which is the cheapest, most common and the most dangerous method of cannabis ingestion long term.

3. Educational seminars on dosing

One of the most common fears surrounding legal marijuana is the introduction and mass production of cannabis concentrates. It’s been all over the news and sensationalized in the media. One headline from The London Free Press read “Man has Heart Attack After Eating an Edible.” This seemed to imply that the effects of marijuana caused the man to succumb to a heart attack. Fear inducing stories like these have been detrimental to the overall understanding that the average person has of cannabis.

The truth is, this particular older gentleman had a weak heart and the increase in blood pressure, which could be brought on by a variety of things, including light exercise, which was merely a trigger to a more substantial pre-existing issue. For years consumers have dappled in unlabelled and improperly measured doses, with little to no understanding of cannabinoids beyond knowing which one gets you high. The introduction of highly concentrated goods like edibles and oil can be a shock to even the most experienced consumers. For this reason, guidelines must be taught surrounding who should be using cannabis, and how to go about trying these kinds of products safely.

4. Informational booklets and sessions for parents

Most Canadians that are parents right now went through years of cannabis education that was filled with little more than propaganda. Now that legal marijuana has hit the shelves, many of them are having difficulty navigating topics related to cannabis consumption with their underage children. This can be challenging for anyone, as we would usually pass on these kinds of lessons from our parents, but none of us received real or remotely useful knowledge on the matter.

As of now, there is absolutely no required education on the effects of marijuana, or anything else remotely related in the public school system, which is often where parents turn for advice and direction. The introduction of an unbiased program, seminar or reading materials that can help parents to provide age-specific discussions will go a long way in shifting the perception of our future generations. This will also provide pertinent safety information related to accidental consumption, the effects of marijuana and other concerns.

5. Mandatory courses for doctors on the effects of marijuana

One of the most significant motivators for many advocates of legal marijuana is the poorly implemented system that is currently in place for patients. Right now, to obtain a prescription for cannabis products, Canadians must go through their family doctor or a marijuana clinic, which can be a long and expensive process that not everyone can afford. Between the lack of knowledge that most doctors in the country have on the effects of marijuana, and the bias that still remains by those who are opposed to legalization, the stigma remains alive and well.

It can be embarrassing, and often fruitless to approach your family doctor for recommendations or prescriptions, which leaves thousands of Canadians without access to the appropriate products. Even if they can obtain a prescription, the doctor is unlikely to know where to begin in dosing, which strains to use or how to get the necessary documents and/or tools. Once all doctors are required to have at least minimal education on the subject, it will be not only easier to get a prescription, but also a more reliable therapy as proper recommendations are key to a successful treatment of symptoms.

6. Pardon for all Canadian citizens who have a criminal record due to possession or sale of cannabis

Legalization took away the criminal element to marijuana use and possession, but there are still thousands of Canadians who are either in jail or struggling to obtain employment and other opportunities due to a prior cannabis-related criminal record. Though the Canadian government has promised redemption for these crimes, the process is long, arduous and challenging to navigate and qualify for.

Instead of a slow, inefficient system that requires applicants to blindly apply in hopes for a better future, what we need is an organization or program that streamlines this process, while also taking into consideration all non-violent crimes, rather than a select few. This would lessen the burden on our courts and prison systems while helping thousands of Canadians to obtain a fresh new start at life.

7. Reconditioning sit-ins that clarify the difference between truth and propaganda

Though it would be wonderful to convince everyone to take such knowledge, there are a select few who are in positions of authority, that should be required to take some type of sensitivity training. Similar to that, which is already implemented, in regard to human rights and equality in the workplace. Only more specific to the effects of marijuana, and why so many people might need or want to use it on a regular basis.

Now that cannabis is legal, it is time for doctors, teachers, police officers and everyone else who spent years of their lives advocating against this element, to be involved in the shift. All of whom could benefit significantly from the addition of this type of fact or fiction clarification, which would slowly trickle down to all Canadian citizens who entrust these individuals to make critical decisions surrounding how ourselves and our children are treated as cannabis consumers.

8. Learn to grow legal marijuana

There is plenty of talk surrounding the changes that are needed for Canadian insurance companies to start covering legal marijuana products, but the most significant concern for many citizens is, what it might cost to taxpayers. Though basic healthcare coverage in Canada is decided in part by the individual provinces and funded by Canadian taxpayers, there is a much more cost-effective solution that remains ignored.

What Canada needs is a program that provides the necessities, including start-up basics and lesson on how to grow cannabis. This would allow medical patients to supply their own medications at a fraction of its current cost, with minimal subsidy required. These types of programs can often pay for themselves, by opening spots to recreational consumers who could also greatly benefit from such a wealth of knowledge. The best part of this solution is, it will also help future generations, as the experience and know-how are passed down over the years.

9. Pain clinics

The effects of marijuana have proven to be up to 30% more effective than aspirin, and even more powerful when used as a tool to combat specific symptoms of many day to day ailments. Though many people understand that medical cannabis is an option for pain relief in difficult situations. Most don’t realize that it can help to relieve even the smallest problems that we would typically treat with a Tylenol or Advil. Whether you are suffering from headaches, migraines, sprains, strains, breaks, sinus pressure, nausea or any other reported symptoms that are often felt after contracting the common cold or flu, chances are, you could garner at least some relief without taking a single prescribed or over the counter medication.

Unfortunately, right now, the only option for prescribed cannabis products is available to long term patients who have spent years working through various other treatments without success. What we need instead, is a real physician-staffed walk-in clinic, that has a staff equipped to deal with more minor issues in people who wish to seek this alternative treatment. This would likely lead to less abuse of often toxic medications like narcotics and a faster and more natural relief of symptoms that can appear in an instant, with no prior history.

10. Helpline for cannabis consumption

Cannabis consumption is still an incredibly taboo topic, despite its legal status, which keeps thousands of new and inexperienced users with questions, and nowhere that is trustworthy to turn to for answers. We currently offer similar help in cases that involve both legal and illicit drugs, and the effects of marijuana are dramatically different in every way. The effects of marijuana are strong, but the plant materials are entirely non-toxic. Unfortunately, ingesting too much can still lead to a wide range of adverse and uncomfortable effects; particularly in new consumers.

The treatment in situations like over-consumption is much different, and there is no such thing as a completely risk-free amount of most other elements like there are with cannabis. What we need for Canadians to move forward with the best chances of avoiding adverse reactions, is a safe and accessible way for them to ask relevant questions like how much to take, or how to handle a bad trip.

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