Decades of prohibition and misinformation have severely hampered and warped our understanding of cannabis, its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, its impact on mental and physical health, and resulted in bad legislation, misguided PSAs and slanted public discourse.

But we are (again) at a point where the public has — by a large majority — expressed a willingness to embrace the plant’s pharmacological properties, especially in light of alternatives like opioids.

Still, concerns remain, particularly public safety and underage consumption. We fear about the impacts on our roads and impaired driving. We equate legalizing cannabis as tacit approval for youth to use cannabis.

The truth is that prohibition didn’t stop impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel or teens from experimenting — it just pushed them into an unregulated, unsafe, and illegal black market.

The World Health Organization conducted studies that show more Canadian youth (15 to 24) use cannabis than any other developed nation in that same age group.

A 2013 United Nations study found 28% of 15-year-old Canadians had used cannabis at least once in the past year… that is higher use than legalized populations in the Netherlands and the United States.

We can do better. ‘Just Say Know’ must replace the failed ‘Just Say No’ to drugs campaign of the ’80s and ’90s.

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With legalization imminent, many Canadians, including youth and young adults, may become more open about their cannabis use. They will also be able to make more informed decisions as new research materializes and an expanding cannabis industry demands educated workers.

According to the Vancouver Sun, an official at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, which offers a cannabis program, said: “there are predictions of 50,000 to 150,000 positions being created by legalization.”

Currently, that program offers four courses including plant production, marketing, financing and plant science. David Purcell, director of emerging business, says the university aims to produce “very well-educated, highly-trained individuals” through its course.

The level of professionalism that will make Canada a global go to for best practice is in these developing curriculum. The huge boost to our economy is based largely on education.

Other post-secondary schools across Canada are developing similar curriculum.

Ontario’s Niagara College is launching a graduate certificate program next year that aims to prepare students to work in a flourishing, legal cannabis industry.

A French-language community college in Bathurst, New Brunswick, announced last year it would offer a course in horticulture that will equip students with the skills needed to work in the (soon to be) multi-billion-dollar industry.

Alberta’s newest licensed producer, Sundial Growers, based in Airdrie, has a second growing location just outside of Olds, Alberta, that has just broken ground. Olds College has plans to introduce curriculum around research and growing. A perfect pairing.

There is an Institute in Colorado, called The Trichome Institute. Students learn to identify mould, aging, nutrient lockout, and something called ‘interpening.’

Similar to a sommelier using their nose to determine grapes, ‘interpening’ identifies terpenes within the strain, to get away from the broad, yet less accurate, categorization of strains as sativa, indica or hybrid.

The trend is that while CBD and THC can determine a strain’s psychoactive potential, it doesn’t begin to describe the terpene effect which correlates to the sedating or stimulating effect of the individual plant. For this reason, plants with identical cannabinoid profiles can give you drastically different levels of energy. The terpenes, in large part, determine the effect.

It’s all fascinating, and there is so much to learn. With knowledge, we’ll be able to be increasingly precise about how to treat symptoms effectively.

Canada is poised to be a global leader in not only award-winning plants, but the intellectual knowledge around those plants….helping ourselves, and the world, improve safety and health.

— Written by Kait Shane, Natural Health Services. Follow Kait on Twitter @Medikait.

For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to check out The Cannabis Show (new episodes every Wednesday) and connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. The Cannabis Show is also available as an audio podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Overcast.

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