Canadians have every right to know the truth: marijuana is bad. Despite this unquestionable fact, Liberals and other non-Conservatives would like us to believe that marijuana is part of a healthy lifestyle, especially for schoolchildren, the elderly, and probably pregnant women as well. It isn’t. Thankfully, Health Canada took an important step towards informing the Canadian public about the dangers of marijuana use. It recently launched an ad laced with so much factual information it will make your head spin.
The ad is clear, concise, and terrifying for anyone who has ever held a joint or seen a nugget of the dank. “Smoking a joint…it can seem harmless,” a serious female voice says, as eerie music—reminiscent of a horror movie soundtrack—plays in the background. She continues, “but did you know that marijuana is on average 300-400% stronger than it was 30 years ago?” Was that enough for you? If so, too bad. There’s more to this ad. “Smoking marijuana can seriously harm a teen’s developing brain,” the voice says, as threats like “learning problems” and “decreased IQ” flash across the screen. The voice then offers a sombre conclusion, “Smoking marijuana- it can damage a teen for life.” The voice urges parents to “get the facts” and “talk to their kids” about marijuana. At this point, we learn the most shocking news of all: this was “a message from the Government of Canada.” Now that’s scary.
I get it. 30 is the new 20 and pot is the new heroine, but shouldn’t Health Canada spend its time informing the public about real risks like cell phones and contact sports, rather than rephrasing the same old scare tactics? Here’s how those commercials might sound:
“Using a cell phone…it can seem harmless, but did you know that cell phones are 300-400% smaller than they were 30 years ago? 83% of Canadian households have an active cell phone, and that puts them at risk of distracted driving, texting while crossing the street, and antisocial behaviour in group situations. Get the facts, talk to your kids about cell phone use.”
“Hockey…it can seem harmless, but did you know that hockey players are 300-400% wealthier than they were 30 years ago? Almost every kid in Canada dreams of playing in the NHL, but barely any make it that far. Concussion rates are increasing for all sports, and concussions are the most common injury among female university hockey players. This puts them at risk of poor academic performance and brain damage. Since few athletes who suffer a concussion are aware of their condition, many are at elevated risk of second-impact syndrome, which can cause death. Get the facts and talk to your kids about sports.”
Health Canada could also educate the public about skin cancer or excessive consumption of sugar. Those efforts would be worthwhile because many Canadians do not properly understand the risks, causes, and consequences of certain behaviours. Unfortunately, none of these topics are hot-button political issues right now. It’s no wonder Health Canada isn’t covering them.
I’ll come clean—I have never smoked marijuana (pretty uncool these days, especially if I ever want a career in politics), but I own a cell phone and I play contact sports. Does that mean I’m safe? No, but at least I am aware of the risks associated with my behaviours. Health Canada is a government agency, not a partisan agency, so its job is to promote public health. This could mean making Canadians aware of real risks associated with particularly dangerous behaviours. Health Canada should not be used as a vehicle to offer official support to a political party’s agenda, whether anti-pot or otherwise, unless that agenda happens to conform to an evidence-based assessment of public health risks. In this case, it doesn’t. Of course marijuana can be harmful, but it is not Canada’s greatest public health concern…I’d be surprised if it cracked the top 50. So, if you’re really worried about rotting your brain, the best advice might be to stop watching these ads.