Let’s Find Some Better Words For Weed

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Pot shops opening all over Toronto

Pot. Dope. Weed. 420. Bud. Doobie. Toke.

Even 15 years after marijuana was approved for legal medical use in Canada, the language describing it obscures, conceals and hides. We don’t often hear it referred to by its botanical name — cannabis — or hear it in the context of descriptors like medicinal, beneficial, relief, useful.

As Canada stands at the crossroads, preparing to legalize cannabis for recreational use, it’s time to take a closer look at how we talk about cannabis, and why. First, a bit of background.

When Health Canada established the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2014, which was then replaced in 2016 with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, it reinforced the world’s most rigourous medical cannabis guidelines, acknowledging that strict regulations were needed to ensure that patients had safe access to safe, “pharmaceutical grade” product.

Although cannabis has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years, the use and therapeutic benefit of medical cannabis was and is new to many physicians and patients, and to the Canadian public. When MMPR was introduced, there was little to no public understanding of how the medical cannabis would be accessed, who the newly approved licensed producers are, and what products or strains they would offer. Stakeholders were curious, cautious and especially craving accessible, dependable information.

It’s worth remembering that the current audience of legal users is relatively small: fewer than 30,000 Canadians are licensed to obtain medical cannabis. They can purchase their cannabis in the only legally way possible in this country once they get authorization from their physician, which is then sent to any one of 35 licensed providers across the country that they decide to buy from.

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