You may have noticed something different in the air on Thursday as cannabis lovers across North America celebrated 4/20, also known as Weed Day.
This year’s turnout at the annual City Hall rally waned as the federal government is set to legalize marijuana in July 2018.
“I’ve been coming to the rallies for three or four years now. It’s become a tradition I guess,” Kelsey Muir said.
“Last year’s rally was a lot bigger than this,” she added.
Nonetheless, 70 people still gathered in civic square to peacefully enjoy a joint or simply show their support towards the cause.
“It’s just a really great thing to support, there’s a lot of great people here and it’s a great atmosphere,” Trudy Swan said.
Canada will be the second country in the world to legalize pot, Uruguay was the first. States like Colorado have also blazed the pot trail. But for these cannabis consumers, legalization can’t come soon enough.
“It’s very exciting, it’s a long time coming,” Swan added.
But not everyone is on board.
University of Saskatchewan public health associate professor Michael Szafron is worried about long term mental health effects. Research has shown that those who’re most vulnerable for being problematic users are between ages of 15 and 24, the prime age for cognitive development.
“Research has shown that when someone is cognitively developing that they will be mostly susceptible to negative side effects of marijuana use. The age group that we have that’s most likely to be problematic is the groups that’s still cognitively developing,” Szafron explained.
“It’s really worrisome to me that depending on how the legislation unfolds we will be putting our young people at extreme risk for long term health effects.”
Szafron says 60 per cent of people have a gene that can be activated by THC and lead to psychosis and other mental health issues.
“We could be opening up a Pandora’s Box for our healthcare system in 20 years.”
The associate professor recognizes that there are some therapeutic benefits to medical marijuana, but would prefer to analyze the long term effects of those currently using it before opening up marijuana to the wider public.