I must admit, I’m more than a bit impressed by The Dope Experience and its attempts to shift attitudes on how to guide youth towards good decisions.
As noted by Emily Blake in our story about the week-long boot camp, kids are smart and want to understand why they should or should not do something. Most kids have a pretty good understanding that stealing is wrong and bullying is mean, so it stands to reason that if people are educated on what cannabis and other substances like alcohol do to them, they should be able to make an educated decision on whether to consume it or not.
It’s a far cry from the drug education available when I was growing up. We got Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue, a bizarre crossover where Michelangelo the “party dude” Ninja Turtle and Garfield the notoriously lazy, lasagne-munching cat join forces with the Muppet Babies and other popular franchises – though questionable icons like Shaggy from Scooby Doo were left out – to stop a male from smoking pot.
Mind you, the non-education we received growing up was miles ahead of the hysteria that previous generations got for drug education, probably best represented by the 1936 film called Reefer Madness – originally called Tell Your Children. If you haven’t seen it, it’s freely available to watch on YouTube, so I invite you to check it out and see how a group of clean-cut, top performing kids can quickly deteriorate into violence, debauchery and insanity.
Throughout the film other tropes are trotted out, linking cannabis to murders and other horrible crimes.
The idea that cannabis turned people into homicidal maniacs was popularized by a book called “The Black Candle” which largely framed marijuana as a tool by immigrants to corrupt people, even though cannabis has been used for recreational, medical and industrial purposes as far back as ancient Egypt.
Canada officially made cannabis illegal in 1923 as part of international drug control measures implemented by the League of Nations, although the first recorded seizure of the drug wasn’t until 1937.
Regardless, the efforts to demonize the plant were extremely effective. Working as a reporter in rural Alberta when Justin Trudeau’s Cannabis Act was about to become law, I recall a fellow journalist who was convinced it would lead to a complete breakdown of society. Best I can tell, the only thing that has actually changed is a dramatic drop in the number of young adults I see in court rooms pleading guilty to being caught with some pot in their backpack and getting a three-digit fine.
Giving youth the tools to make good decisions about waiting to be an adult, not consuming pot while driving or while pregnant will make life easier for everyone.