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by Isabel Mosseler
With cannabis now legal and many people still grappling with the implications of this, the November 29 public forum hosted by the Alliance Centre, titled “All Things Cannabis”, had the Sturgeon Falls library auditorium filled with people hungry for information. The Alliance Centre, which operates out of the West Nipissing General Hospital, is a service agency focused on addictions and mental health issues in West Nipissing. The 2.5-hour session was attended by 36 people from the public, including many from the political and health services sectors.
West Nipissing has until January 22, 2019 to decide whether or not to allow a cannabis dispensary in the municipality or to ban such an operation. The municipality can maintain a ban as long as they want, but once they opt in they cannot opt out.
Michael Taylor, an adult addictions counsellor with the Alliance Centre, opened discussions by pointing out that legalizing cannabis won’t stop addiction, while at the same time noting that cannabis was targeted for vilification by various industries in the 1930s for purely economic purposes, thus stigmatizing a plant which had been in use for millennia. While he noted that cannabis users aren’t the ones robbing liquor stores, “using any drug comes with inherent risks, and the risk goes up with how much you use,” he warned.
The goal of the government in legalizing, according to Taylor, is to undermine the black market and exercise control over the cultivation, distribution and retail of cannabis, with the objective of generating profits for provincial coffers and reducing risk to consumers. He noted that CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, played a large role in decriminalizing cannabis use. “It was tying up the court system, and historically Canada is on the leading edge of cannabis legalization… It’s going to change Canada as we know it,” he stated. A CAMH video indicated that Canada has one of the highest user populations in the world, with 10% of the population using in the last year, and prohibition accomplishes little, while legalization with regulation provides options for controls, limits, education and prevention measures funded by the revenue from sales.
Taylor projected that Canada will become the world’s largest distributor of cannabis.