Harper : “Marijuana Infinitely Worse Than Tobacco, Should Be Discouraged”


So it is election season. Though the American election is getting the most coverage world wide, things are starting to heat up on this side of the boarder as well.

Election day for us Canadians is October 19th, about 2 weeks from now. All the candidates will be stepping up their game in the hopes of getting you in the voting both, and ticking their name off on the ballot. Which means that I can expect to see a whole lot of junk mail in the coming days.

And in keeping to this profile of scaring the electorate by smearing the opposition, Stephan Harper has taken on marijuana at a recent (and the last) leaders debate. In a move made to throw a blow at his biggest opposition, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, he has attacked him on one of his most popular stances, marijuana legalisation. Stating (as noted in the title of this piece) that the substance is infinitely more harmful than tobacco, and should be discouraged.

I have some stuff to say about this rhetoric. But lets save my opinion for later. First, I will check into the claim. That marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco.

Oh REALLY? Let us explore this hypothesis.

Here we have one study, from Mark Pletcher of the University Of California (at San Francisco, or UCSF).

A large-scale national study suggests low to moderate use of marijuana is less harmful to users’ lungs than exposure to tobacco, even though the two substances contain many of the same components.

This comprehensive study, led by UCSF and University of Alabama at Birmingham, collected data from more than 5,000 U.S. adults for more than 20 years.

Smoking cigarettes can cause significant lung damage, including respiratory symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. It accounts for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one in every five deaths, each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data for the long-term effects of marijuana use on the pulmonary system has been scarce until now.

“We found exactly what we thought we would find in relation to tobacco exposure: a consistent loss of lung function with increasing exposure,” said the paper’s lead author, Mark Pletcher, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at UCSF. “We were, however, surprised that we found such a different pattern of association with marijuana exposure.” 


But there is a bit of a caviot that must be taken into consideration. That being, most of the marijuana smokers were recreational users, as opposed to the regular usage of the tobacco smokers.

“An important factor that helps explain the difference in effects from these two substances is the amount of each that is typically smoked,” Pletcher said. “Tobacco users typically smoke ten to 20 cigarettes/day, and some smoke much more than that. Marijuana users, on average, smoke only two to three times a month, so the typical exposure to marijuana is much lower than for tobacco.”

“And marijuana is one where a lot of people dabble with it in their late teens and 20s, and some people continue with relatively low levels for a long period of time,” Kertesz added.

That is extremely recreational usage, I would have thought. Or, maybe not. If the average recreational user lights up once a week, with 4 weeks in a month, 3 times would be a foreseeable average.

As for effects of heavy usage on the body, those results were inconclusive due to the rarity of such users in the test population.

Researchers believe the results can supplement the growing body of knowledge about beneficial aspects of low to moderate marijuana use in controlling pain, stimulating appetite, elevating mood and managing other chronic symptoms.

“Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana for these or other purposes may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function,” Pletcher said. “On the other hand, our findings do suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavier use – either very frequent use or frequent use over many years – and a resulting need for caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”

Otherwise known as, a combination of everything the pro-marijuana side has ever said, combined with a dash of common sense. Even water can be dangerous if you consume it in large quantities. In fact, water can be DEADLY when consumed in to great an amount.

Water intoxication provokes disturbances in electrolyte balance, resulting in a rapid decrease in serum sodium concentration and eventual death.The development of acute dilutional hyponatraemia causes neurological symptoms because of the movement of water into the brain cells, in response to the fall in extracellular osmolality. Symptoms can become apparent when the serum sodium falls below 120 mmol/litre, but are usually associated with concentrations below 110 mmol/litre. Severe symptoms occur with very low sodium concentrations of 90–105 mmol/litre. As the sodium concentration falls, the symptoms progress from confusion to drowsiness and eventually coma. 


Water . . . infinitely more dangerous than marijuana! You heard it here first!

But to be fair, this is not the only study that has been done on marijuana use recently. There was another that made headlines not long ago. Lets see if we can dig that puppy up for study.

The research team studied 48 adult marijuana users and 62 gender- and age-matched non-users, accounting for potential biases such as gender, age and ethnicity. The authors also controlled for tobacco and alcohol use. On average, the marijuana users who participated in the study consumed the drug three times per day. Cognitive tests show that chronic marijuana users had lower IQ compared to age-and gender-matched controls but the differences do not seem to be related to the brain abnormalities as no direct correlation can be drawn between IQ deficits and OFC volume decrease.

“What’s unique about this work is that it combines three different MRI techniques to evaluate different brain characteristics,” said Dr. Sina Aslan, founder and president of Advance MRI, LLC and adjunct assistant professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. “The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for gray matter losses. Eventually, however, the structural connectivity or ‘wiring’ of the brain starts degrading with prolonged marijuana use.”

Tests reveal that earlier onset of regular marijuana use induces greater structural and functional connectivity. Greatest increases in connectivity appear as an individual begins using marijuana. Findings show severity of use is directly correlated to greater connectivity.

Although increased structural wiring declines after six to eight years of continued chronic use, marijuana users continue to display more intense connectivity than healthy non-users, which may explain why chronic, long-term users “seem to be doing just fine” despite smaller OFC brain volumes, Filbey explained.

“To date, existing studies on the long-term effects of marijuana on brain structures have been largely inconclusive due to limitations in methodologies,” said Dr. Filbey. “While our study does not conclusively address whether any or all of the brain changes are a direct consequence of marijuana use, these effects do suggest that these changes are related to age of onset and duration of use.”


I remember this study because I recall calling bullshit on it at the time on Facebook (and possibly in an entry here). I called bullshit, because the focus was only on the very heaviest of users (up to 3 times daily, for years at a time).

But now that we have seen both studies and now that I the layman can put them up side by side, I can make a judgement. A judgement that seemed obvious already, but a judgement that the data now seems to back. That judgement being, marijuana is a relatively benign and harmless drug.

Both the studies I utilized were missing some crucial data, but both also filled in for the others voids.
Recreational and prolonged usage of weed is not likely to cause harm. However, heavy and prolonged usage can have detrimental effects. In context, as does heavy and prolonged usage of ANY other drug, legal or illegal.

But one of the most glaring (and my favorite) stats . . . water (by way of overconsumption) has more deaths attributed to it than marijuana.

Otherwise known as, Stephan Harper is infinitely full of shit. SUCH a surprise.

I suspect that he knows this. But he also knows who his demographic is. It is plainly obvious in the city I live in. The CPC could likely run a monkey and still get a victory in the Brandon–Souris riding. Though to be fair, the current candidate is a LOT less comparable to a monkey than his precursor Also, I do not think of Nixon’s quote (“I am not a crook!”) every time I see his picture somewhere.

But at the same time, I can not call out Harper and the Conservatives for pandering to their base (which has a large percentage that are anti-marijuana, likely due to ignorance of the substance) without calling out the Liberals for doing the same thing. Using the marijuana legalization issue, Justin Trudeau is doing exactly the same thing.
Since the younger demographic tends to lean towards the left and are quite progressive (and often not politicly active), this makes him a great candidate for many people.

Don’t get me wrong, its great to have candidates that inspire people to participate in the electoral system (even Donald Trump has managed to do this). But I also hesitate if these people are voting on largely one issue alone (marijuana) without seeing what else comes with the package.

And therein lies some issues I have to overcome before I cast my ballot in approximately 2 weeks time.

First of all, it is great to have a choice in candidates (as contrasted to the R and D of the US choices). But it presents some challenges in choice, if your a person like me (has no inherent political allegiances).

It goes without saying that Steven Harper and his conservatives are NOT getting my vote. Though his candidate (Larry Maguire) seems like a fairly likable guy in his own right, his allegiances are misaligned. Not only is there all the various scandals of the CPC in the last few years, but also the financial irresponsibility demonstrated on the local level with our local CPC candidates.
We had to have a by-election around 2 years ago because of conservative candidates that decided to cut short political careers to chase their own ambitions.
Merv Tweed (then our representative) accepted a position in the private sector, thus leaving a vacancy in the Brandon–Souris riding. And on top of that, Larry Maguire (then MLA of the Arthur–Virden riding) decided to vacate his seat there and run in the Brandon–Souris campaign. Decisions that not just left the taxpayers with a bill for the by-election itself, but also a bill for 2 different severance buy outs (though Maguire says that he donated his to charity).

Not that I care much about how I am perceived by others, but that is why I do not like the Conservative candidates, local or federal.image

If in opposition to many people politicly (or otherwise differing to whatever ideological box they place themselves into), many will default to “Well, your obviously Liberal/NDP supporter!”, using the stance as a pejorative. And to be fair, they may be right in many cases. Woefully lacking in self awareness, but none the less correct.

I am not against the conservatives, just because they are of opposing views to me. I am against conservatives, because their party leader is a shady individual that mirrors a GOP republican more and more with each passing year, and their local candidate has proven himself irresponsible of the taxpayer dime if it gets in the way of forwarding his ambitions.

This leaves us with 3 other parties, them being the Liberals, New Democrats and the Greens.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are going to be the major contender to the Harpers Conservatives. His scrappy nature and seemingly progressive platform (or at least young voter friendly platform) is going to be a a major selling point. And he will also have the many scandals of the Conservative party working in his favor.

But at the same time, one does not want to count out the other 2 (The NDP and the Greens) due to the gains they made last time around. Though Tom Mulcair is certainly not on the level of his precursor, I acknowledge that as an unfair comparison. One should not be judged on how they compare to another’s legacy, but more on what they do for the party moving forward.
Back in 2012, the NDP did very good. And being the world seems to be riding a wave of progressive liberalism as of late (they took Alberta!), the future may be bright for the NDP.

Another party that could ride the wave of popularity, is the Green Party. Last election, the Greens also made big gains. And locally, the candidate is familiar because he is an old high school teacher.

So I will have to spend some time studying the candidates, figuring out where to best put my X.

When it comes to having many parties to choose from, it can get difficult if your side of the spectrum becomes fragmented. The right figured that out 20 years ago when they disbanded the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) to form the current Conservative Party of Canada.

One choice of the left is the Liberal Party. Some equate it as the Canadian version of the Democrats. To these peoples credit, both parties currently have a dynasty parallel. But whatever issues one may find, they are still the most likely to boot the Conservatives of all the available choices (some would even call a vote for the NDP or green party wasted).

But one has to be careful with that logic. Had everyone listened to that last election, the NDP would not have made official opposition, and the Green Party would not have earned their first seat EVER. The status quo parties would still reign. And not be either brushed aside, or win with but a minority status.

Its sure to be an interesting 2 weeks. I can not wait to see what exciting stuff will show up in the mail (and in the media!) in these last days of Canadian Election 2015.

Justin Trudeau – Canada’s Elizabeth Warren?

The Canadian political scene have gotten more interesting recently.

The first notable change is it is apparently possible that the NDP may be able to break the decades long conservative hold on the province of Alberta. Im thinking that the world wide slide in oil prices (and the shit kicking that has caused on that provinces biggest industry) has a lot to do with that.
Frankly, good. Such a situation affects many, but that is what happens when you throw all your economic eggs into one volatile basket. Either way, we will see by tonight how that turns out.

But the most recent news to make the Canadian political landscape a whole lot more interesting, came from the Liberal party today. Justin Trudeau has openly declared that he is running on a platform of cutting taxes on the middle and lower classes, and raising taxes on the highest earners in the nation, Canada’s 1%. In truth, apparently they number to a little less then 1%, but the result is the same.

The current tax rate of 22-per-cent for those with taxable annual income totaling between $44,701 and $89,401, would be cut to 20.5 per cent. A new tax bracket of 33 per cent would apply to those with taxable incomes over $200,000 a year. The current top bracket of 29 per cent would continue to apply to those earning between $138,586 and $200,000.

Along with this, there will be restructuring of the current system of child tax benefits. All families with children under the age of 18 with an annual income of below $150,000 (or 90 per cent of Canadian families) would receive more then they currently receive. This is in direct contrast to the current Harper scheme of parental income splitting, which many say only benefits maybe 15% (likely less) of families in Canada. And most of those fall into the higher taxation brackets.

It is certainly an ambitious plan. But considering that economic inequality is in worse shape in Canada then even in the US, this is also a good counter measure.
In fact, the Democratic Party should take a note from this play book. Do not alienate your progressive heavy weights like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. SHOWCASE THEM!

We will see what interesting things come along for this upcoming election cycle. If the Liberals under the leadership of Justin Trudeau keep taking very ballsy stances on topics of importance to most Canadians (such as their economic well being and the legalization of marijuana) they will become a force to be reckoned with.

Even with the soon to start bombardment of anti-liberal tax payer funded propaganda from the Conservative party. My recycling bin awaits.

Justin Trudeau To Remove Liberal Party Sentaors From Party Caucus

Justin Trudeau To Remove Liberal Party Sentaors From Party Caucus

In a move that came out of seemingly nowhere, Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau has pledged to remove all of his parties senators from the party caucus, and force them to sit as independents. Trudeau’s explanation for the bold proposal, being that the senate is broken, and this is as far as his party can go (its its current position) to attempt to fix the problem.

“These proposals, while bold and concrete, are not the final word. They represent our judgment of how far we can go without guidance from the Supreme Court,” he said.

“If the Supreme Court says more can be done, we are open to doing more.”

This move came as a surprise to all the parties, including his own party members, as he made the media  announcement before he even told his own party. He gave further explanation during a news conference just after breaking the news to his party and senators:

“The Senate is broken and needs to be fixed,” he said.

“The Senate was once referred to as a place of sober, second thought. A place that allows for reflective deliberation on legislation, in-depth studies into issues of import to the country, and, to a certain extent, provide a check and balance on the politically-driven House of Commons.

“It has become obvious that the party structure within the Senate interferes with these responsibilities.”

Trudeau made a proposition that the senate become more non-partisan , in order to better serve the interests of Canadians. He sees the prime ministers ability to appoint senators, as a big part of the problem.

“Instead of being separate from political, or electoral concerns, Senators now must consider not just what’s best for their country, or their regions, but what’s best for their party,” Trudeau said.

“At best, this renders the Senate redundant. At worst — and under Mr Harper we have seen it at its worst — it amplifies the prime minister’s power.” 

“We are all poorly served by the way in which senators are appointed. Canadians especially, yes, but also members of the House of Commons, even senators themselves are discredited by the antiquated convention that sees senators appointed by one person, and one person only,” he said.

Trudeau also suggested that Prime Minister Harper has abused the system, by appointing 59 different senators during his tenure in the prime ministers office.

“All of these people share one characteristic,” he said. “The prime minister, and the prime minister alone, judged them to be useful to himself, and to his party. Mike Duffy, Pam Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Irving Gerstein are particularly egregious examples of where that leads.” 

Scandals surrounding the senate have been making news since early last year, when the investigation started getting public attention. While the investigation into the affected senators (Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau and Gerstein) begun back between November 21st and December 6th 2012, it only “blew up” in November 2013 after senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau were suspended. The affair got much media attention, after being (seemingly) traced all the way up to the prime ministers office, despite its previous claims of ignorance to the affair.

The scandal even crosses the aisle, involving Liberal Senator Mike Harb. He was ordered by the senate investigation committee to repay $230,000 in ineligible expenses, and retired shortly after.
Some speculate the move to distance the Liberal Party from the senate might be a way of distancing the party from future scandals involving its caucus members. However, Trudeau denies such an agenda.

While the motivation for this bold move remains unclear, its certainly  a good way to bring attention to senate reform. And it is sure to make the Liberals a good contender for the up and coming 2015 federal election.        

The above is written in bold and italic (to easier separate the quotes) , in order to keep it separate from this part of the piece. Some have suggested that journalism might be an optimal career path for me, so I decided to take a stab at writing an article, from as unbiased a viewpoint as possible.
The above (whether good, bad, or somewhere in the middle), is the result of my very first “article”.

My sources for the article are both the link attached to this piece and the senate scandal Wikipedia page.




I understand that some will raise an eyebrow on the sourcing of a Wikipedia article on this topic. I understand your criticism.
However, I had learned a great amount about the senate scandal from a legitamite national TV news source (the 11pm CTV national news) late last year, when the whole affair was making many headlines. Since one can not source a television broadcast from the past, I had to find one online.

I knew the information. I just needed a place to back it up.

Brandon/Souris By-Election

Its the 14th of November, meaning that the bi-election to replace my areas acting MP is but a little over 2 weeks away, on the 25th (exactly a month before Christmas! Great timing). In filling the position, we will have the same 4 main options as we usually have, along with possibly more lesser known options (such as Christian heritage).




Green party logo

These elections almost always sneak up on me, but I am happy to admit that I have not missed one yet since turning the voting age of 18. But ever since then, my political affiliations have changed a bit, from as far back as I can remember, to now.

I grew up with a parent that was a fairly strict NDP supporter (as was his father), so as with most people, I took the political stances of my parents (at least initially in my participation in the political process). I know that the first vote that I ever cast, was for the NDP (big surprise 🙂 ). But my 2ed and 3ed votes consecutively,  went to the green party. The first time, I will admit, was mostly because I know the candidate (but I also agree with his platform). The 2ed time, was because I felt that despite what people say about the 2 underdog parties, they will ALWAYS remain that way if people vote with that assumption (especially the Green Party).

To my surprise, many must have also come to the same conclusion, as  both the NDP and the Green party made historical gains. The NDP became the official opposition party, and the Greens got one seat in parliament. And on top of that, the Brandon municipal election ended up booting the previously longstanding  mayor out, and voting in a city first (first Women AND Jewish mayor of the city).

When it comes to my personal politics, it seems to me that I have 3 possible choices this time around(yet another personal metamorphosis).

One thing that has not changed about me, is my dislike for the Conservative Party. I admit that I always had these feelings (being somewhat of a mirror to my parent), but recent events and policies have given me a reason of my own, to not like nor trust them.

Not the least of  which is the environmental and energy policies being mandated by the party. Canada could be a leader in the path to cleaner energy sources, we don’t have to be the Arabia of the North. Ripping up, fracking and otherwise polluting large swaths of land all over the place, in the search of short term profits (not to mention the disregard for the biggest  long term cost of the plan, rapidly erratic climate change for our kids to live with.

Then there are those “Canada’s Action Plan” advertisements that are everywhere I look. Like cigarette ads of the past, and the packaging for a certain “Canadian” cigarette brand, they have utilized clean, pretty, natural imagery to sell something that is dirty, disgusting and horribly UNNATURAL. The big selling point for Canadians being  jobs, jobs, jobs. Were helping Canadians get jobs.
Combined with the ads of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (were creating jobs, coast to coast!), its enough to make a person vomit.

A green-based economy, would create SO many more job opportunities. People point a finger at the flaws of green energy technology of today. Yeah, that is why we need more and more minds studying it then ever before. Technical advances are possible, but not if the best minds to possibly tweek them, are hard at work for an oil co with a self interest (profit above ALL).

And this distaste has a bit of a personal bias to it as well.

Over a year ago (I don’t remember absolutely when), I hand-wrote a letter to our then member of Parliament Merv Tweed. It was regarding a despicable experience that my father had with The Workman’s Compensation Board Of Manitoba.  A hard worker all his life, my dad ended up permanently injuring himself IN the process of being a hard worker, and found himself basically thrown out with the trash by his employer, his union and the board.
His employer basically refused to acknowledge the existence of the condition (even cleverly defying a doctors note), his union looked the other way (it was known that the local was much closer to the employer then the employees it was supposed to represent), and the WCB found a way to weasel their way out of paying the claim.

That is not to say that the story did not initially have a rosy beginning. My father HAD received a letter from the WCB, informing him that his claim was approved (and I guess pending). However, a representative from the WCB came to our home one night, and took the paper with him, telling my father that he needed a photo-copy but that he would get it back. We now know that he was a liar (oh, if hindsight were foresight!). And only when my father got the run around upon calling the guy back, did he realize what had just happened.

It may sound like I am telling a story of a man dropping by, but I still have the event in my memory. The nice guy with the combination locking brief case. A wolf in sheep’s clouting.

I had written this letter to Mr.Tweed, mainly for the purposes of informing. I didn’t know if there was anything that he could even do about it, but one can never know if they don’t try. And the reason why I hand-wrote the letter, was for the purpose of authenticity. I could have just as easily typed up an email, but like this blog entry, its not as personal as the physically written word (and harder to disregard, when the delete button is not available).

I was not expecting much in return, when it came to a reply. Even just a form letter, to tell me that it was received, would have been good enough. But no answer at all, the reply that I got, was a bit disheartening and insulting. Its understandable if your powerless to do anything about it. But to not say anything at all, sent me an unspoken message that said, I don’t care.

If that was the message, it has been received loud and clear.

The fact that Mr.Tweed could not wait until 2015 to leave his post and go to the private sector (costing taxpayers more then would otherwise have been necessary), confirms my suspicion of his uncaring attitude towards the residents of his riding (and the province as a whole, since we all foot the bill).

Then there is the new conservative candidate Larry Maguire, leaving his previous post  as MLA for Arthur-Virden, to run in Brandon-Souris.

Both men are paid out hefty severances, even though both are basically quiting their jobs. Then there are the costs of the 2 by-elections, required to fill both the newly empty MLA positions.

Already, were getting a lesson from 2 conservatives in terms of  personal accountability, when it comes to public funds.

And then I got the first piece of mail, from the conservatives on behalf of the new candidate (Larry). A piece that was obviously tailored to the hardcore old conservatives of the city, being it focused more on smearing Justin Trudeau’s pro-marijuana stance (with one part that could be considered a bold faced lie), then on the Conservative party’s post election platform.

Though the conservative brand certainly did not represent honesty before, it most certainly does not now.

Though I used to think the same way of the Liberal party (again, mostly remnants of my parent coming out), Justin Trudeau is striking me as having some interesting, and likable, views.

However, it seems that the views of the party leaders  should be more of a priority  during a federal election then a municipal one. Knowing this, it seems that the conservatives are grasping at straws in their attempts to  downplay their liberal opposition.

This election may end up with Brandon-Souris keeping the blue stripes that it has always had (this is known to be one of the “safest” conservative ridings in the whole country). But the scandals of recent, may present a threat to this previously safe riding. And it seems that the party knows this, considering that almost every single web address I visit has an advertisement for conservative candidate Larry Maguire, and I have yet to see online ads from any other candidates (who is paying for all of those ad placements?).

At the moment, I am undecided. It would be nice to have the riding go orange, or even Green. But that seems like a wishful pipe dream. In which case, even having a liberal candidate, would be a change of pace (that vote, if I end up casting it, will certainly be a step out of my comfort zone).

We will see.

The Robo Calls Scandle – Why You Should Be Concerned

When it comes to political news, I like to be plugged in, in the know. But I am often focused internationally (mainly the US), so I admit that I don’t pay as much attention to Canadian politics as I should. Many a time, elections on a municipal, provincial AND federal level have snuck up on me.

But despite this, there is one story that has grabbed my attention. A story that has not been getting ENOUGH attention.

The Robo Calls scandal of the last election cycle (2011).

I remember that election cycle.

Stephan Harper was re-elected with a majority government. 2 of our “Underdog” parties, the NDP (New Democratic Party) and the Green Party, made history. The NDP for the first time EVER got to be the official opposition party, and the Greens got 1 seat (my vote was NOT wasted after all).

After the election was over and tallied, news came out that voters in some riding’s in the country received phone calls, falsely telling them that there polling place had changed. Which meant that they would show up at the wrong place, to cast there vote. The obvious goal being, an attempt to stifle there votes from being cast. Coincidentally, most of the voters affected were identified as non-conservative voters (no obvious fishiness here!).

Though the evidence at hand seems to send an obvious message as to who the guilty “party” is, proving that in reality (and in court), is another matter all together. We may not ever know definitively, who gave the go ahead for this to happen. And we may not be able to fully understand how much of a difference this discrepancy had on the election results.

But even if no one gets “officially” charged, or penalized, the story should not be forgotten. Unlike the 2 term maximum of US presidents, Canadian prime ministers do not have a limit on the amount of time they can be in command. The only limits, are set by us, the voters.

So come the next federal election, lets not forget this.