This summer, Canada will become the ﬁrst advanced industrialized nation to legalize and regulate cannabis from production to consumption. As the federal government creates history this year, many are hoping that the safe transition to legal cannabis will lead to a new normal: the subtle mainstreaming of cannabis consumption.
Because ending prohibition is only one part of the equation. We’re not just on the path to legalization, we’re on the path to normalization. A societal shift of generational signiﬁcance needs to occur—one where people who consume cannabis don’t suffer stigmatization and aren’t forced to hide it or be discreet about it for fear of being shamed.
Once cultural accommodation occurs with nonusers, cannabis will lose its taboo and the stoner jokes will fade away. Cannabis will take its place among more common commodities in our culture, and society will fully understand that, for some people, cannabis is medicine. And for others, it’s a lifestyle choice: their “glass of wine.”
And we are all playing a role in this transition. We need to continue to have open conversations with our policy makers and law makers about how we can best regulate the industry, keep cannabis out of the hands of our youth and protect employers and employees in our workplaces.
The industry is taking steps to shift its image and convince the country that it is made of responsible entrepreneurs who are prioritizing health and safety. Licensed producers are giving tours of their heavily regulated, multimillion-dollar production facilities, and retail dispensaries are looking less like fringe players and more like high-end retailers. These changes are leading to a shift in culture and public opinion.
It’s important to note that normalization does not mean an increase in usage, or tolerance toward its use by segments of society such as our youth. In fact, ending prohibition in Colorado has led to a decrease in cannabis consumption among teens. Normalization is about ending stereotypes and gaining acceptance among non-users.
But we are still living in this pioneering time between prohibition and normalization, so there’s much more work to do. And, there’s more at stake than just ending the stigma associated with cannabis consumption. Groundbreaking research, advancements in post-secondary education, medical breakthroughs and patient options all serve to beneﬁt from the cultural acceptance of cannabis.
Once the mainstream opinion changes, so will the attitudes of professionals and industries that can help improve the product and health outcomes, ultimately transforming the cannabis sector even further. Only then will we truly see the long-lasting cultural implications of legalization.