I spoke with Amanda Siebert, the Canadian author of “The Little Book of Cannabis” as well as a cannabis advocate, about the legalization of cannabis in Canada and how we can help end the cannabis prohibition worldwide. Siebert’s book is incredibly insightful and truly provides an up-to-date snapshot of the state of the cannabis prohibition, how to use cannabis effectively and appropriately - not just recreationally - and how it can improve your life and lessen pain. To purchase her book on Amazon, click here.

CN: As an expert on cannabis/hemp and an advocate, what in your opinion is the biggest loss to us due to the prohibition of cannabis?

AS: While the prohibition of cannabis in Canada lasted about 95 years, it was long enough to completely skew our understanding of the plant and the way it's been used by humans over time. Over the last near-century, the narrative has changed and a plant that was once a much more prominent part of our existence has been completely vilified. That we've had the wool pulled over our eyes by prohibitionists and politicians for so long truly is a loss. Prohibition has also had an incredibly detrimental effect on marginalized communities in Canada and around the world, as they are criminalized at much higher rates. I hope that as Canada moves into a new era, and police departments take this into account and reconsider the way they operate.

CN: As you know, what is known about cannabis and hemp has drastically changed since the 1970s, and more and more research is surfacing to provide clinical, legitimate information about its use both on its own and in conjunction with the current standard medical practices. Could the way cannabis is being largely presented by advocates - the way it is still “branded” - be part of the reason the stigma remains?

Advocacy has been crucial to the fight against cannabis prohibition. I think sometimes the passion of these advocates is misunderstood by those who haven't had a first (or even second-person) experience with cannabis as "angry" or "too impassioned", but as cannabis becomes a more prominent part of our society and we see it used more openly, I hope that people begin to understand what legalization means, especially in the context of stigma.

I think the representation that people often see of cannabis in the media is that of recreational use, but that's not the whole story: humans have used cannabis medicinally and spiritually for thousands of years. I think that as more Canadian cannabis consumers feel less afraid to discuss their use, we'll begin to have more open discussions about not just how we use, but why. The perception that cannabis is simply a "recreational party drug" is misinformed, especially with non-intoxicating products like CBD becoming more and more popular.

CN: How can cannabis be better represented publicly at this point to more accurately reflect its current identity? Do you think this would or could help educate others and incite awareness more effectively? If not, what do you think can?

AS: I think as a society we need to take a more holistic view of cannabis. We've looked at it from this "protect the children" point of view, and considered it a "dangerous" substance for a very long time, but we very rarely spend time to discuss the way cannabis use can positively affect the life of an individual dealing with a chronic pain condition, epilepsy, glaucoma, or any number of other conditions. Canada has had a medical cannabis program since 2001, but the benefits of this program have rarely (if at all) been discussed by the government.

CN: You mentioned and explained in your book that cannabis actually could easily be coined an “exit drug”, that is, a help for withdrawal from opioids or other pharmaceuticals, a direct foil to its more recent identity as a “gateway drug”. I’m finding there is a lot about cannabis being revealed clinically and factually now that goes very much against what has been anticipated. Do we as advocates similarly need to radically change the way we present ourselves?

AS: I think that collectively we have the power to reframe the way cannabis is viewed. While we know most Canadians were supportive of legalization, the next step is removing the stigma, and while it obviously won't happen overnight, I do believe we'll get there.