Marijuana users tired of being labelled as criminals

CAMH endorsement of legalizing cannibas welcomed by users

TORONTO OBSERVER /// SANA FATANI
TORONTO OBSERVER // SANA FATANI (Vapor Lounge)

He wears a plaid shirt and dark denim jeans with his hair combed back. When he’s not helping youths find housing or work, Naz Shaheed, 21, enjoys smoking marijuana regularly.

When the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released a statement on Thursday calling for the legalization of cannibas, Shaheed was in favour.

“I definitely encourage it,” Shaheed said. “It really irritates me that we have to ban something because some people cannot control their needs and their urges. ”

Shaheed disagrees with the assumption that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” Although, he does admit that users need to exercise proper management and self-control when consuming the drug.

“You have to make sure that it doesn’t take over your life,” Shaheed said. “When you’re in your youth you experiment, but your brain develops and you overcome that.”

The criminalization of marijuana irk users the most. Dave Unrau, 27, works at Vapor Lounge, an establishment that allows patrons to smoke marijuana freely at its downtown location. He feels cannabis laws wrongly label users.

“Now, if you have weed then you’re a criminal,” Unrau, 27, said. “I don’t think I’m a criminal.”

Unrau also holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Brock University in his hometown of St. Catharines.

Shaheed is pursuing an internship at a youth shelter and aspires to serve as a child youth worker. He keeps his marijuana use private and fears that it could jeopardize his career goals.

“I’m becoming a child youth worker so if I were to get arrested for this, my entire career would be over,” Shaheed said.

While the odour of marijuana smoke is common in some areas of Toronto, possession of marijuana remains illegal in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act. Medicinal marijuana is the only exception to the law.

Anyone caught with smaller quantities, however, can face lower level charges.

Unrau believes the announcement by CAMH will help make legalization a reality soon.

“When an organization like CAMH can come out in favor of legalization I think it’s good news, it’s exciting news, and it’s a sign that legalization is coming,” Unrau said.

Legalization of marijuana has been a big issue of debate in federal policy and marijuana users have reached a limit. They would take anything over the risk of being infringed out of society and deemed as criminals.

“ Anything that’s closer to being legal is better for me and if they have to regulate the hell out of it and tax the hell out of it, then so be it,” Unrau said.