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Weed

These Politicians Are Spreading New ‘Reefer Madness’ Myths

Quebec’s Public Health Minister thinks weed is laced with fentanyl and is scared her grandchildren will start eating cannabis plants.

Manisha Krishnan

Manisha Krishnan

Quebec's Public Health Minister has some weird ideas about weed. Photos via Facebook/Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, VICE published a piece calling out Quebec for unrolling the strictest proposed cannabis regulations in the country thus far.

To recap: Quebec is only opening 15 government-run dispensaries next year, is banning growing weed at home, and will implement a zero-tolerance policy for drivers who test positive for THC, despite the fact that reliable tests don’t exist yet.

A recent Télévision de Radio-Canada interview with Quebec’s Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, and Public Health Lucie Charlebois provides some clarity on what the province was thinking—and it’s not comforting.

As first reported by Lift News, Charlebois told Tout Le Monde En Parle that black market weed is contaminated with fentanyl, which is in part why the government opted to take privatization off the table.

“Those who sell on the illegal market care very little about the health of their consumers and about the quality of their product,” she said. “There are even people who told me that they (illegal sellers) had already started to incorporate fentanyl into cannabis. It's really disturbing. I think people want a crown corporation that does not rely on profit, which is why they asked us not to go private.”

There is no evidence anywhere that suggest weed is being laced with fentanyl. It’s an idea that former federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has strongly debunked.

“I don’t know why this persists,” said Rebecca Haines-Saah, a public health policy expert and professor at the University of Calgary told VICE. “I think it’s creating a public health crisis where there is not.”

Haines-Saah pointed to a recent CBC report on drug seizures in Canada for the past five years. The data showed there was no fentanyl present in any weed samples tested over that time period.

When asked why people can make their own wine but won’t be allowed to grow weed Charlebois said she was concerned about the possibility of children—specifically her own grandkids—being able to eat cannabis plants.

“I do not grow cannabis, but my neighbour grows it. If my grandchildren go to my neighbour's house and inadvertently get into the marijuana plants and eat them, that's not good,” she said. She also noted that four plants at home could keep two people “stoned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”

Where do we even start?

First off, politicians shouldn’t be making policies based on fears about their own family members. Secondly, this sounds like a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. Where are all the reports of kids eating dried marijuana? We’re not talking about brownies and gummies here, we’re talking about a plant. Poisonous berries are probably a bigger concern.

Even if, for some reason, a kid decided to eat “raw” cannabis, it’s not a drug that kills people. (It likely wouldn’t even get you high.)

“It’s kinda ridiculous to think parents are just going to have plants openly accessible to kids,” said Haines-Saah, adding a far bigger concern for teenagers is the access they may have to prescription opioids in their parents’ medicine chests.

Charlebois’ office told VICE the minister is not available for comment. But she isn’t the only Canadian politician perpetuating reefer madness.

Federal Liberal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor recently equated driving drunk with driving stoned.

In an interview with CBC, Taylor said, “Many kids sometimes will think that if they consume cannabis, they can drive and it’s not as bad as impaired driving, when we recognize that it’s certainly just as harmful.”

It’s not.

Research out of US has shown that drunk driving is far more dangerous than driving stoned.

(It also goes without saying that consuming cannabis while drinking will significantly increase impairment.)

Let’s finish this off with a shout out to Conservative Senator Denise Batters of Saskatchewan who tweeted a Regina Leader-Post article that said "concern is growing about a little-known provision wrapped into the bill that would allow kids as young as 12 to legally possess pot.” She added the hashtag #DoesntProtectKids.

Both the tweet and the article seem to conflate decriminalization and legalization. It will remain illegal for kids and teens to buy pot, and for anyone to sell it to them. But the government is saying being caught with up to five grams of weed will not result in criminal charges—an attempt to keep kids and teens out of the criminal justice system.

It’s too bad that being a square seems to be a prerequisite for going into government, because we could use leadership from people who know what they’re talking about.

Follow Manisha on Twitter.