This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
If you've been watching Corner Gas, hockey, or The National lately, you've probably seen the Canadian government's new anti-weed ad. The commercial, which is obviously targeted toward boomers who lovingly recall their free-love/get-high days, has a stern message: If your teenager smokes weed, his or her brain will melt.
The ad, which a Reddit user noted has been " disliked into oblivion on YouTube," is a bizarre piece of work for a couple of reasons. For one, it's funded by "Healthy Canadians," a group that boasts a stunning 259 YouTube subscribers as of press time.
The channel also advises Canadians on the importance of not strapping a gigantic fan suit to your body in times of extreme heat, what a talking zucchini can teach you about packing healthy lunches for your children, and how gigantic furniture can crush your child if you're not careful.
But Healthy Canadians is, in part, a branch of Health Canada, a government agency that has spent the better part of this year building a corporate medical marijuana system while simultaneously preventing medical marijuana users from growing their own weed. This medical system, known currently as the MMPR, is counting on those same baby boomers they're pumping evil-weed propaganda at to become patrons of the legal weed revolution. And yet, even though the MMPR is in place, it's clearly not being supported politically by the conservative government.
With an already stringent set of restrictions on how Canadians can get access to the MMPR, and given the very recent history of Health Canada forcing medical patients to dispose of their homegrown weed by mixing it with kitty litter (lest they be turned over to the RCMP), it's no stretch to say that this government is only half-interested in capitalizing off the upcoming "green rush" of marijuana industries.
With a federal election coming up, Trudeau will be running a platform with marijuana legalization front and center. Some conservative media outlets say he's the guy to beat, so is it any wonder that this current government is stuffing anti-weed propaganda down our throats while we're checking out the latest hot sauce company to make $50,000 on Dragon's Den?
Then there's Health Canada's claim in their ad that marijuana is "300-400x stronger" now than it was when our parents were high on hash and listening to The Doors. This seems like a dubious claim, and that's because it is. No source is provided, and a recent report that looked into it found the only source for this information is the government itself.
This underlines another big problem: There's very little research available to support the largely anecdotal claims that cannabis can help with a variety of issues; including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, migraines, and even cancer. This scarcity of research is a problem not lost on medical marijuana patients, who are facing a system where doctors are the gatekeepers to get them access to cannabis.
Health Canada has repeatedly told me they have no plans to fund any new research into how cannabis can actually help people, and yet they can find the money to pay a crappy CGI house to animate a brain so they can run this ad all over Canadian TV in an effort to scare boomers away from condoning their teenagers' weed use?
Cool plan, guys.
At the end of the day, no one in their right mind would advise a teenager that it's healthy for them to be smoking blunts on the regular, but no television ad is going to curtail a Canadian teenager's chronic, well, chronic habit. It's just not going to happen.
So how about we stop spending tax dollars on awful television ads and start working on building a responsible medical marijuana program, which puts research and helping sick people ahead of petty politics and painfully Canadian advertising campaigns.
Follow Patrick McGuire on Twitter.