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A cannabis user, who wishes to remain anonymous, displays his smoking utensils. Backward posters were setup to hide surroundings of the room at the request of the source. Photo by Jared Gottselig.

Canada is on the brink of legalizing cannabis, and many users feel the stigma against it will fade over time; however, the proposed legislation has been met with some resistance.

“I don’t appreciate how mainstream it is becoming for someone to use cannabis,” said Jane Doe, a source who wishes to stay anonymous, and who doesn’t think cannabis for recreational use needs to be legalized. “There are some very successful, intelligent people that use cannabis…(but) I have yet to come across someone that smokes marijuana (and) blows me away with their motivation and work ethic.”

On the other hand, Erik Zawislak, a recreational cannabis user for approximately nine years, argued these stigmas aren’t as prevalent as cannabis detractors believe. “The biggest support for the stigma is lack of education due to either a lack of resources, religion, upbringing or ignorance,” said Zawislak. “The spotlight needs to turn away from the ‘dirty hippie’ stereotype and focus more on the other side of the spectrum. (There is also) the business man or woman with a house and a family who go out for a smoke after the kids are in bed and are about to watch a movie.”

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According to Zawislak, there are several benefits to the legalization of recreational cannabis beyond legally getting high. “It would add a huge increase to the GDP. Creating jobs, helping medical patients…and I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my future over something so trivial,” he said. “It would have to be regulated and taxed of course, but at least that way the government still reaps the benefits.”

Lisa Levos, a license holder for medical marijuana, also praises the medical properties as one of the most important benefits she has found in cannabis. “I was diagnosed with scoliosis and PTSD; therefore I have a prescription to smoke marijuana for two grams a day,” said Levos. “I do smoke (cannabis) with THC (the psychoactive agent in cannabis), but I also order it online with just the CBD for days that I have to work to consume the medicinal benefits without getting high.”

However, Doe argues it’s not as great of a treatment as some think. “I don’t like how cannabis seems to be the ‘all natural’ cure for everything and everyone these days, because it’s not,” she said.

Aside from the dispute of medicinal properties, users are largely in agreement that the most prominent feature of cannabis culture is a sense of community among users. “The social aspect is definitely huge for sure. For instance, if you don’t have any (cannabis) at the time, someone is more than happy to front some to you for a little bit,” said Levos. “There’s this saying ‘buds for buds’ (my friends and I) have, and sharing is never a big deal. It’s a communal thing where we want to share that time with each other and have that moment where you guys get together.”

Zawislak shares a similar mindset as Levos on the topic of community. “It brings people together on a different level. It allows creativity to flow more easily, which helps you learn a lot about people,” Zawislak said. “I cannot think of a time when I sat down with a group of friends or random (people), lit a joint or a bowl, and didn’t leave with new friends or a positive encounter.”

Although cannabis use is frowned upon by some, Levos thinks people should respect user’s choices. “I’m just tired of having to defend it,” she said. “I believe everyone should have a right to their own opinion.”