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Marijuana Legalization and those Recovering from Alcohol Addiction

By: Colin MacDonald

Medical Marijuana buds, with Cannabis prescription bottles, pre-packed prescription joints and a vial of cannabis oil in the backgroundThe future is quickly approaching! Thinking back to the years of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the legalization of marijuana was still very much a taboo topic. With the exception of a few visionaries, most of the population at that time never thought they would see the day where both medicinal and recreational marijuana would be legalized. Slowly but surely however, that day is actually approaching. Depending on where you live in the world, that day may already be a reality. In 2012, the State of Colorado and Washington State in the USA were the first two places to legalize recreational cannabis in North America.

Medicinal cannabis is currently prescribed by a doctor. The prescription can be taken to a medical dispensary, where patients have a selection of cannabis to choose from. Traditionally, there are two main types: Sativa and Indica. There are 100+ different strains of sativas and indicas and they affect everyone differently. When you walk into a medical dispensary, they have their sativas and indicas separated and labeled with the strain name, its THC & CBD percentage, and the perceived effects of that particular strain. In the world of cannabis, it is typically agreed that sativas are better for daytime medicating and indicas are encouraged for night time. That is not the case for everyone, however. Some people benefit only from indica strains, and others benefit from only sativa strains. Both serve a medical purpose, but their effects differ from person to person. Indica strains are typically effective for pain and physically sedating, useful for those that suffer from insomnia or other similar sleep related issues, as well as those with chronic pain issues. Indica is typically preferred for people with high anxiety, as it is treated with its sedating effects. Sativas tend to provide more invigorating, uplifting cerebral effects. The medical benefits of the sativa strain are typically appetite stimulation, relieving mild depression, eliminating feelings of nausea, as well as migraine and chronic pain relief.

Man with excruciating back pain. Primary candidate for pain relief from medical marijuanaThe introduction of medical dispensaries has been important for people who have traded in their pill prescriptions and turned to the cannabis flower for its powerful medical benefits. With legalization happening on October 17th, 2018, those who want to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, under the current regulations, will be forced to purchase it from the same shop that recreational users will purchase from. In Nova Scotia, that shop is the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. The potentially damaging issue with it being sold in the NSLC, and not privatised dispensaries, is that it forces those in recovery from alcohol addiction to purchase their medicine in the same store that sells their “poison.” It can turn into a slippery slope of temptation and potential relapse. Alcoholics in recovery otherwise wouldn’t set foot in an NSLC, but if that is the only place to purchase their cannabis that has medical benefits for them, under the current laws and regulations, their only option is the NSLC.

At Searidge Foundation, many different therapy options are used for alcohol addiction treatment. In addition to medical therapies, alternative treatment methods like yoga, creative art therapy, mindfulness meditation and many other techniques are used as treatment options. In the same respects, those in recovery from alcohol addiction who choose to use medical marijuana as their alternative treatment routine would benefit more from purchasing their medical cannabis at dispensaries that solely focus their knowledge on cannabis and cannabis related products. Making their purchase from a liquor store that has just recently trained their employees in a short amount of time about the vast and complex world of medical and recreational cannabis is not the ideal scenario for those who want to smell-test and receive detailed info on the product they are buying.

Medical Cannabis plants growing indoor under lights. There is a budtender inspecting the plantsThe NSLC has also started a campaign to “normalize” Marijuana by sectioning off the different strains. CBC released an article in which Dr. Simon Sherry, a psychologist and professor at Dalhousie University, pointed out many flaws in the current system. He is first quoted in the article saying "There's a danger in all this. What our government and the NSLC are doing is that they are glamourising and normalizing cannabis use,". In the article, Sherry points to NSLC signage that promotes various cannabis strains as "soothing," "relaxing and calming" or offering "livelier experiences" that "invigorate the senses", and are not classifying between Indica and Sativa. In that same article, it is said that the NSLC is potentially violating federal regulations by the glamourization route that has been taken. Hopefully Nova Scotia takes these things into consideration and will allow and make room for privately owned dispensaries that can assist and help their clients in a much more efficient way. The medical benefits of Cannabis for those in recovery range from helping with insomnia, something many addicts in recovery suffer from, to helping manage pain. Strains that consist of high THC and high CBD percentages help with pain tremendously. Under the current model they have laid out, that information will not be as readily available at the NSLC, as it currently is in medical dispensaries. Time will tell what path Nova Scotia chooses to take after October 17th, 2018.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals