With the wave of backlash again Health Canada’s anti-marijuana campaign, the rise of unrest among Canadians who are sick of the government’s unwavering anti-cannabis stance is certainly reaching a tipping point. Even more recently, their ads liken cannabis users to “zombies”, sealed with a young, innocent girl in pink sunglasses.
I am certainly tired of the media treating young people like they’re too incapable to really understand a realistic representation of drug use— the underlining fear that exposing young people to honest drug education would lead to more drug use. I hate being the target of fear mongering cannabis advertisements, paid with tax dollars, filled with inaccuracies, where attempts to impose a narrow view about drugs, especially cannabis, have failed. Now more than ever, these advertisements have made me even more interested in the cultural and moral frameworks that surround drug policy in Canada. Young people have a right to honest, open education about all drug use and effects. Information and realistic drug education is how youth protect themselves and engage knowledgeable decision making which includes a thought to harm reduction strategies, such as the availability of drug testing kits.
For example, I know that current scientific evidence shows that cannabis use will not lead to psychosis, but that there is an increased risk for those who are predisposed to mental illness. In fact, cannabis has shown promising potential as an effective anti-psychotic medication for some. I also know that the war on drugs rhetoric often relies on this “myth” to make people believe that anyone is susceptible to schizophrenia once they smoke cannabis – it just takes that one time and your life will fall to the equivalent of an egg smashed to bits by a large iron pan.
Toronto Crime Stoppers put out a PSA recently raising awareness of adulterants in Molly. While the PSA was pretty funny, it didn’t provided accurate information on adulterants found in MDMA or any harm reduction information on how to screen for potentially dangerous drugs. Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) advocated for factual drug education, so we’ve dubbed this video with some of the many new psychoactive substances discovered in Canadian MDMA through EcstacyData.org. The UNODC has tracked 348 new psychoactive substances between 2009-2013, thus reinforcing the need for drug checking services to screen out potential adulterants. Finally, we’ve edited the video credits to encourage young people to test their MDMA and created a list of Harm Reduction Resources. There have been a number of deaths across Canada related to adulterants, so it’s time to take action! Share this video, remix it yourself, download CSSDP’s Drug Checking Brief and be sure to buy a testing kit at www.dancesafe.org!
The recent drug-related death of a young woman in Australia, combined with news of increasing MDMA purity levels in the UK highlight the need for pill and drug testing to be more widespread at festivals and club venues to reduce the harms associated with drug use.
In a recent article for The Conversation, Professor Alison Ritter, a drug policy specialist at UNSW Australia, outlined six reasons why Australia should pursue a harm minimization strategy of testing pills and other party drugs in order to ensure people know what they are taking is safe. Among the arguments put forward are that such initiatives have been shown to impact on the black market — ensuring that dangerous substances are taken off following warnings to users — and had a positive effect on users’ consumption habits in some cases. Furthermore, it increases our understanding about exactly what substances are on the drug scene.