When I was growing up in the 60’s, drug use, especially pot, was very common place. Everybody knew someone they could get some weed from if they wanted. Our high school was pretty clearly split between the ‘burnouts’ (pot smokers) and the “boozers” (underage drinkers). I never had much interest in the burnouts because they were so incredibly boring. They sat around in someones’s basement listening to Pink Floyd while getting baked. Every once in a while someone would say “Whoa… dude that David Gilmore is amazing”. That would be pretty much the most exciting moment of the night. The boozers on the other hand started out getting drunk in someones’s basement and then went out and did dangerous and stupid things. It was all fun and games until someone died a violent and gruesome death. Which actually did happen… but that is a blog for another day. If the boozers were losers, the burnouts were even bigger losers. Their grades were poor, they didn’t do sports, and they lacked motivation of any sort.

Before Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister, his party stated that they thought it would be an awesome idea to legalize marijuana. On the campaign trail Trudeau repeated the promise even (especially) when speaking to high school students. One of their stated reasons was to ‘protect young people’. But if you read the policy statement, the intention is not to stop them from smoking pot, but from getting a criminal record when they do. “Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.”  So we should not be surprised that the government’s new legislation for legalizing pot, Bill C45, provides a provision for children ages 12-17 to possess up to 5 grams of dried marijuana (Section 8(1)(c)). For reference, this would be enough for 10 average sized joints and to ensure that Little Johnny could remain stoned for the entire school day and have enough left over for some buzzed video gaming in the evening. Yes, I know that it will be illegal to sell marijuana to a minor, but if they are permitted to possess it, they will have no trouble procuring it.

I am tired of hearing the refrain that pot is a harmless recreation drug, and that it is safer than alcohol. Wow, what a ringing endorsement! The deleterious effects of pot on youth is no longer in question. It has been widely studied and the conclusions are always the same. Teens that smoke pot regularly suffer from brain defects and demonstrate cognitive impairment on a multitude of levels.  Here are some of the stats.

  • 60% less likely to finish High School than peers.
  • 18 times greater chance of becoming cannabis dependent.
  • 8 times more likely to use other illicit drugs in adulthood
  • 7 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 6 % lower IQ scores

The intellectual deficits are minor compared to the emotional ones.

Speaking to the Saskatchewan Leader Post, Rand Teed a Canadian drug and alcohol educator and certified addictions counselor, explains the problem. He says marijuana use has permanent negative effects on youth brain development, particularly for emotional and social development. It causes young people to have problems learning how to manage their emotions, which makes them depend on drug use to help. “The perception is that we feel better, but the actuality is that we feel less,” Teed said.  He continued by stating that marijuana can affect how youth learn to handle life. By starting to smoke weed at the age of 12 or 13, it can make kids lose out on learning conflict management skills.“By the time you’re 17 or 18, you’re still stuck with the emotional tool kit of a 13 or 14-year-old and so everything seems to be more complicated, more stressful, more difficult.”  If this is what the science is telling us, it poses the big question: What good reason could there be to have an emerging generation jacked up on legally supplied government pot?

I can not help but think of Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World.

When Huxley wrote BNW in 1934 he feared a future in which we would be controlled by those who let us have whatever we want. By contrast, fifteen years later George Orwell wrote 1984, in it he feared a dystopian future where the world would be controlled by those who would deprive us of pleasure and inflict pain on the population. There are certainly places in the world where an omnipotent leader rules with an iron fist, tightly regulating what his citizens can and cannot do.  Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea come to mind. And interestingly, Orwell’s 1984 shot up on Amazon’s bestseller list immediately after the last US election. Not sure what that was about? Orwell feared that what we dread will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. But the West today looks far more like Huxley’s version of the future than Orwell’s.

In 1949 after the release of Orwell’s 1984, Huxley sent him a letter thanking him for sending him a copy of the book. You see Huxley was Orwell’s former French teacher from years earlier at Eton College. After genuine congratulations on a well written novel, he continued that he really didn’t think all that “flogging and kicking them into obedience” was necessary to subdue a population. He believed his own book offered a more plausible version of the future, as all that was needed was to lead people into “loving their servitude”. The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens, but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want —  the proverbial sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll thus lulling them into a perpetual state of complacency. The World State (government) in BNW always made sure there was an abundant supply of a drug called Soma. It was a feel good drug that had “all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.” The author argues that it was the best tool the government had for controlling its population. It sedates, calms, and most importantly distracts a person from realizing that there’s actually something very, very wrong—namely, that the citizens of the World State are enslaved.

Bill C45 makes one wonder if anyone at the top has ever read BNW. Or worse yet, that they have! Although Justin Trudeau may come across to some as the dopey metrosexual, he claims he is a voracious reader; “I am a massive reader, have been all my life, I read anything, and everything, in huge quantities. These days most of what I read are scholarly policy works and briefing papers, so listing my favourite fiction is really tough.” Are we being fooled by the smiling gladhander who is out and about putting to good use the considerable skill set that he gained as a former snowboard instructor and part time drama teacher? Just for the record, I do not think so! I am sure he feels they are genuinely trying to build a freer Canada where people can do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else – which is the cornerstone belief of the secular humanistic worldview that both he, and his father before him, embrace.

Nevertheless I cannot think of a more misguided idea than to legalize pot in a time when people have already become profoundly complacent about the true freedoms that people before us fought so hard to secure. I loathe to think that we are heading towards a future where a doped up population will just bump through life indifferent to the fact that everyday they are becoming greater slaves to recreational drugs and, by consequence, an increasingly more powerful state.

Oh Canada?  Oh Cannabis, Oh my!