These days everyone is talking cannabis education. But what does education really mean?
For generations education put out by government funded and sponsored agencies has been, for the most part, biased towards the spread of prohibition propaganda. This has lead to conversations in community based organizations, schools and individual households that echoed the same scare-tactics-based conversations. To the credit of these influencers that shape societal perceptions, they were just trying to uphold the law, and of course keep themselves at a safe distance from the threat of being sued.
So what does education look like post legalization here in Canada? After perusing the websites of Health Canada, the Ontario Government, the AGCO, CAMH and CMHA it seems like not much has changed. But why is quality cannabis education so crucial? The information being published and thrust into the eyes and ears of the general public is still, by and large, skewed towards the warnings of the dark sides of cannabis highlighting dependency and addiction statistics; even as old and biased as they may be. It's undeniable that some people will abuse cannabis every bit as much as they abuse everything else from food to gambling to the internet.
What's misleading and insulting is the lack of comparative data that these institutions and organizations leave out of their attempts to "educate" the public. They're highly skilled at spreading the stats they want you to have memorized and leaving out critically important comparative information. For example when looking at how cannabis rates as an effective treatment for chronic pain, the information seems to leave out important points like liver damage and dependency rates that opioids have and instead highlights the 9% dependance rate of cannabis users. Similarly when looking at the rate of people who have suicidal thoughts, attempts or successful acts of suicide when on prescription drugs for mental health illnesses, you don't see Health Canada putting the stats in juxtaposition to cannabis. In fact, you will see them flat out warn against using cannabis when treating a mental health matter.
Yes, its true, cannabis consumption can yield dangerous short term effects when too much is consumed too fast and there are those who are susceptible to psychotic breaks with unnecessary and unmonitored continued use of high THC potency products. But, to leave out critical parts of the picture when launching cannabis education programs and campaigns is disrespectful and irresponsible. It's time for the general public to take back control of what they learn, how they learn it and what attitudes they have towards plant medicines like cannabis.
Quality education should improve cannabis literacy by providing a balanced presentation of the research, it should destigmatize the plant and help society get out of the clutches of prescription mania. It should also support conscious consumption that fosters minimum effective dosing and decreases the chances of overconsumption and addictions. Put aside old stigmatized beliefs and reclaim your power by choosing what you believe to be "education" wisely and have a critically analytic and reflective mind when you read about, discuss or share opinions on cannabis.