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Should Cannabis Consumers be Allowed to Smoke in Public?
A Requiem for Mary-Jane
Written by MWR writer Awa Hanane Diagne
October 17th: This formerly regular date will become a unique and historical one. Indeed, this day marks the official legalization of marijuana by the Canadian government. This change will revolutionize industries and individuals that have already come in contact with this euphoric substance in the past; regular users, healthcare professionals, as well as drug dealers.
However, has anyone stopped to ask how this change will affect those who don’t consume or work around marijuana? The answer is yes. A plurality of passionate debates have taken place throughout the last year concerning the consumption of cannabis in public areas.
While there are many reasons delineating why one should or should not have the right to smoke pot in public, only one truly matters: why legalize the drug’s usage, if one can only use it in restricted areas?
Part of the idea behind this legislative choice is to reduce stigmas. It’s so easy to label consumers as “potheads”, but the scientific data has proved time and time again that this drug has numerous psychological and physical benefits.
So, if scientists and physicians understand the advantages of marijuana, including its recreational benefits, why can’t society? The main reason people don’t want pot to be smoked in public is due to the cultural association it has with debauchery, youth, and irresponsibility. However, doesn’t pot’s legalization prove that marijuana is most certainly not a danger to the public?
Let’s look at this issue differently. Would it have been logical to permit people to smoke pot in public when it is was illegal to buy or sell it? Similarly, it is not optimal to make the purchase of this formerly illicit substance acceptable while simultaneously reprimanding those who wish take advantage of this new right.
Despite the revolutionary connotation that October 17th, 2018 will shortly have, this day also marks the beggining of a long journey towards the de-stigmatization of marijuana users. Conversations about these misleading perceptions should be prioritized since this change will affect teenagers, young adults, citizens affected by brain related diseases, and many others.
In other words, these changes will impact a huge portion of society.
So, get involved because a watched pot never boils. Or, in this case — smokes.
Edited by Meir Edery
Written by MWR writer Edgar Wang
The numbers 10/17 don’t have quite the same ring to them as 4/20, but they sure are pleasing enough for the potheads out there who have been eagerly waiting for October 17 to publicly engage in their hobby. Consumption of cannabis, the smelly elephant in the city-sized room that is Montreal, is finally legal. That is about as much news as McDonald’s declaring their food doesn’t actually taste good to the citizens who have had to put up with the stench of Cannabis sativa and its cousins in metros, parks, and downtown streets, be it in the early morning rush hour, at the dead of night, or really, any time at all.
Whether cannabis consumption should be legal or punished is not the question here; society has more or less agreed that people can choose to voluntarily get high on plants. The issue at hand that MWR chooses to wrestle with is whether people who don’t choose to voluntarily inhale plant smoke should be involuntarily exposed to it. When phrased that way, the answer should be a definitive no. For reasons pertaining to hygiene and to health, smoking weed in public should not be accepted.
Before moving on to the actual discussion, it is apt to give a primer on Montreal-based laws on cannabis consumption. Quebec has some of the toughest laws concerning cannabis consumption in Canada. You can smoke in parks, nine meters away from doors to public places where smoking is prohibited, and at home, depending on condo rules. You can’t smoke in bar or restaurant patios, sport fields, splash pads, wading pools, skate parks and most indoor places (e.g. schools, CEGEP, universities, public transit, hospitals, daycares, concert halls, restaurants, etc.). Mayor Valerie Plante has given the following reason for permitting outdoor consumption: many Montrealers are tenants and wouldn’t want marijuana to affect their neighbours.
A few Montreal boroughs have more prohibitive rules: St-Laurent, Pierrefonds-Roxboro, St-Léonard, Montreal North, Rivière-des-Prairies Pointe-aux-Trembles, Pointe-Claire, Westmount, TMR, and Hampstead have completely outlawed cannabis smoking in public.
The reasons for the ban of it all echo the same themes. Many citizens have expressed concern over the smell of weed. Hampstead city hall has passed their bylaw outlawing public weed smoking and has done so without consulting its residents, yet their mayor claims that it’s their “most popular policy to date,” citing the skunk-like foul smell to be a major factor for its high approval. Colorado and Washington, trailblazers (pun intended) in North American weed laws, have both outlawed public smoking, which locals say have limited the smell to levels similar to what it was prior to legalization. Although it would be quite pathetic if legalization doesn’t change anything, the prohibition of smoking in public would at the very least keep down the levels of annoyance and put up a solid facade of decency for municipalities. The liberal attitude towards weed will surely bolster those who are planning to take their drug out for a walk, much to the dismay of those who don’t need leaves to feel good about themselves.
On the other hand, weed is a health hazard. The many arguments pitched around the defense of weed during the legislative process have placed weed above cigarettes in terms of health benefits. It should however be noted that smoking marijuana, much like smoking tobacco, produces smoke that could be inhaled by bystanders. Society’s standards for the former should therefore match those for the latter. Furthermore, if a “think of the children” mentality is permitted, the rise of second-hand marijuana smoke that will surely accompany legalization could have noxious effects on the development of children’s cognitive abilities and memory. In fact, Harvard Medical School has issued a warning to parents to distance their kids from weed as much as possible. Research may still be ongoing, but whether it is safe for children to inhale smoke should not be so abstract a matter as to be determined by research.
Even prior to legalization, smoking weed has been mostly accepted by Montreal and Canada and it has left its foul-smelling mark. However, its legality should limit its impacts to those who choose to consume and not meddle with the reluctant passersby, respecting those who staunchly opposed its legalization. Out of concern for others, please pass it around at home only.
Edited by Rui Du
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