Smoking is considered a pariah activity. Smokers, driven by “Clean Air” laws, zealous public health advocates and self righteous non smokers do their thing on the edge of activity. Back doors, 9 metres away from doors, unsheltered, cowering, hiding, heads down, grimaced.
This is how health messaging becomes moral shaming. I’m not a smoker, find the habit gross and stay away from smoke, but the overly evangelical approach of the public health advocates to shame into submission the few smokers of the world really bother me.
It is this biopolitical stance, the idea that you internalize the messages of the state related to your body or health in general, that informs other aspects of health messaging and health politics in general. So it is no surprise that when the Supreme Court of Canada agreed (unanimously) that it is unconstitutional for our medical marijuana laws to render illegal all forms of marijuana except in its dried form–marijuana you normally smoke (ie: brownies, marijuana tea, etc still illegal) some people got pissed off.
You see, smoked marijuana is the most reviled form. It’s kind of gross, and every picture you see on the media of people smoking pot have some unshaven pursed lips sucking from a filthy crumpled spliff. It’s right up there with those gross pictures on cigarette packets: a repellent disincentive to smoke.
The Supreme Court seems to be immune to the aesthetic sensibilities embedded in public health messaging. Indeed, the justices to a person decided that this “dried only” provision unnecessarily hindered the reasonable access to a useful drug.
To be clear, the ruling was about the clause that makes only dried marijuana permissible for medical marijuana, but the main way to consume dried marijuana is by smoking.
And smoking itself, along with its aesthetics, is perpetually connected to the idea of carcinogens or other toxic elements in the product being smoked. So it is an easy leap from something being smoked to believing with little evidence that that item causes cancer.
The Tories are not happy. Health Minister Rona Ambrose is “outraged.” Of course she is. Their mission with respect to drugs has been to return marijuana to its illegal status, so a ruling that makes it more accessible is outrageous in their eyes. Don’t be swayed by her arguments that her outrage comes from perspective that only Health Canada can decide if something is acceptable as a medicine. The court is not changing the medicine; only the mode of ingestion. Indeed, it’s about access.
Smoking is gross, and possibly the thing that keeps a lot of people from taking pot. I’d never smoke it, but once in Amsterdam I did have these less than delicious but oddly satisfying cakes. (Ultimately I wasn’t happy with the experience, but it made it literally palatable.)
But, I get it. The concern is that marijuana is a gateway drug, and that restricting medical marijuana to its smoked form makes it a narrow and rather unappealing gateway. Well, not to be concerned. The legalization of marijuana has shown that the gateway theory is bunk. So there’s no gate to make ugly.
Today is good news for those of us who think the drug laws are overly restrictive and not very useful. And the fact that it’s another decision that shows the Tories are out of step with the basic elements of our constitution is just icing on the space cake.