Team Member Spotlight / Carte Blanche July 28, 2017

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DOOMA WENDSCHUH - By now I think most of you have probably seen the research conducted by economists Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz and published in the Review of Economic Studies, and later republished in the Washington Post and elsewhere which followed more than 4,000 students in the Dutch city of Maastricht and clearly showed that college students who lost access to legal, recreational marijuana showed a substantial improvement in academic performance compared to their peers who maintained access to recreational legal marijuana. The study was unique because Maastricht changed its municipal cannabis rules so that only Dutch passport holders could purchase recreational marijuana – so it was possible to conduct a study comparing local students (who kept their access to recreational cannabis) with foreign students taking the same courses (who lost their access to recreational cannabis).

Studies like this showing the harmful impacts of cannabis come out from time to time – which is not surprising. There is no shortage of funding for research on the negative effects of marijuana (from NIDA, UNODC, and other similar governmental and nongovernmental organizations) and a comparative lack of funding for research into any benefits marijuana may confer. But every time a study like this captures the public’s attention – as this one has, it makes me think about our industry.

There are many in this industry who praise marijuana as a “wonder drug” which everyone should consume daily to enhance their ‘wellbeing’.

As an industry and as a company, we need to be very careful with this mindset. In my perspective, these folks are confusing the in some cases proven or in other cases widely accepted medical benefits of marijuana for treating certain conditions with the plant being “good for you” in the general sense of the word. There are many, many medicines which can treat an aliment but which would be terrible for you, or even deadly if taken all the time to enhance ‘wellbeing’.

To find an example of this look no further than the history of radium. Shortly after its discovery in the late 1800’s, people realized that radium could be used to treat cancer. Back then the concept of radioactivity was not understood. Radium was this miraculous new substance that glowed in the dark and healed those who heretofore were terminally ill. In the early part of the 20th century a massive industry grew up around radium, making all manner of health and wellness claims. Radium was used in watches, food, toothpaste, facial cream and food. “Radium Water” was considered a health tonic and became a popular beverage. “Radium health spas” emerged using radium treatments on their guests.

And then people’s teeth started falling out, their bones deteriorated, and they began to die. Many, many people died. Was radium an effective treatment for cancer? Yes, compared to other options available at the time it was an exceptional treatment. Did it contribute to wellbeing when used in your daily toothpaste or consumed as a beverage?

There’s a tendency in our industry to dismiss or overlook research which highlights the negative impacts of marijuana. Opponents often cite the fact that the research was funded by government agencies tasked with waging war on drugs. I think it’s important to weigh the findings of these studies and submit them to the peer review process.

At Province we don’t believe that cannabis is “good for you”. We don’t see it as a miracle wellness product. We believe in science. We look forward to and will always do all we can to support continued peer reviewed research on the long term effects of cannabis use both recreationally and for medical purposes – even if the results of this research is detrimental to our business model.

At Province, we don’t believe that cannabis is something you should consume in excess or in large quantities every day (except under medical supervision as part of a treatment for an ailment) anymore than we believe that it is a healthy practice to consume large quantities of alcohol, or any psychoactive every day. But we do believe that psychoactive substances have benefits for some individuals and society when used responsibly and in moderation. Most importantly, we believe in harm reduction and since it is unlikely that people will stop using psychoactives, we should help them use those which are least harmful to them as individuals and which exact the lowest cost on society. 

Some day we may discover some “hidden harm” of cannabis which somehow went undetected over all these years, but if we make a decision based only on the peer reviewed, scientific research available today, one thing is plainly clear: Cannabis is far less harmful to individuals and society than alcohol. Without making any kind of statement about whether marijuana is “good for you," it is patently clear that in nearly every metric where cannabis and alcohol can be compared, cannabis causes less harm to your health and it costs society less money and effort. This is why we do what we do. We seek to improve the world by offering a product which offers the same benefits as alcohol, but without so many of the drawbacks. That’s what harm reduction is all about.