Tag Archives: brain

Opportunity or Catastrophe? Weighing in on the Upcoming Legalization of Pot in Canada

Legalizing recreational marijuana was part of Justin Trudeau’s election campaign platform, but it wasn’t something many people took seriously. What with the common mistrust of politicians and the opposition of the very powerful Hell’s Angels gang, who stand to lose a lot of revenue if pot becomes legal, it was hard to take Trudeau’s proposition seriously.

That’s why I was surprised to hear that the Federal Health Minister had announced plans to legalize marijuana by 2017. CBC’s recent episode of Cross Country Checkup gave Canadians an opportunity to respond with a few of their thoughts on the new legislation. Many of the callers brought some great points to my attention, some of which I’ve touched on below. However, it was apparent that some callers were still buying into weed propaganda, from exaggerated health benefits to exaggerated threats. For this post I decided to pull together a few of the best arguments I’ve heard from both camps and try to find at least a little research to support their claims.

Pros of Legalization

1. Legalization could reduce an unnecessary drain on police resources

Cannabis related offences are the most common type of drug offence in Canada, especially here in British Columbia.

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Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Aggregate Uniform Crime Reporting Survey.

According to Stats Canada, “in 2012, 43% of Canadians reported that they had used marijuana at some time in their lives, and 12% reported using it in the past year”. That means half of all Canadians could have been charged with possession at one time or another. Although in some places police will turn a blind eye to mere pot possession, there are still a significant number of cases reported by police. CBC explains that 

there were 57,314 marijuana possession-related “incidents” reported by police nationwide, according to Statistics Canada. More than 24,540 people were charged as a result. The year before that, 25,819 Canadians faced charges.

What’s disconcerting about this grey area of crime is that police can often use their discretion when it comes to actually prosecuting an offence. According to a recent CBC News analysis, where you live can affect if you will be charged. They report that “you’re almost 23 times more likely to face a possession charge in Kelowna, B.C., than in St. John’s.”

Marijuana use is so widespread that it is taking a massive amount of police resources to even pursue pot users. According to a report last year, “police report a pot possession incident every 9 minutes in Canada”. Inevitably, chasing down the almost endless amount of pot users and dealers takes police away from pursuing other criminal activity. Continue reading

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The One with Ghomeshi, Trauma, and the Truth

As of this morning, Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted of all charges.

The judge (Horkins) in this ruling told the witnesses that navigating this proceeding is “really quite simple”.

All he asks is that they “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The truth.

What happens when the truth isn’t that simple?

 When trauma is involved, the truth— the reality of an experience, the story—is not clean cut. With trauma, the truth is never so simple.


A little psychoeducation, if you’ll bear with me:

Trauma memories do not have clear beginnings, middles, and ends.

This is not widely understood, and it needs to be.

When we experience trauma, our bodies and brains undergo an involuntary instinctual response that interrupts normal neuropsychological functioning.

Put simply, our brains often can’t physiologically encode traumatic memories in a linear or coherent fashion.

Our memories of trauma end up being without narrative organization and may be stored in a nonverbal realm of the brain.

Which makes it inherently problematic in cases like this where the outcome relies on the witnesses’ ability to recount the assault or trauma.

The judge is asking for something that our brains cannot physiologically accomplish under the weight of trauma.  Continue reading

3 Life Lessons I Learned in Church (Or, the Hilariously-Sad Realization that I Grew Up in a Cult)

“Here’s an easy way to figure out if you’re in a cult: If you’re wondering whether you’re in a cult, the answer is yes.” ― Stephen Colbert, I Am America

They say hindsight is 20/20. Never has this cultural idiom been so true to me as the moment that  I realized I grew up in a cult. After conducting some personal and academic research about the characteristics of a cult, the scales fell from my eyes and, hallelujah, I could see.

It wasn’t as earth-shattering as I would have expected, in some ways, it was like I always knew. I just had to step out of the cult closet and see for myself.

A few characteristics of a cult include financial mismanagement, abusive behaviour, and attempts to control members through manipulation. During my time in my childhood church I experienced and/or witnessed each of these concerning behaviours. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t the kind of horror movie cult that was sacrificing babies, or drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. Generally, it wasn’t even all that bad. But on the spectrum of church to cult, we had more in common with a cult than the typical church.

I learned a lot from my recent revelation, and I wanted to share what I learned with you. Below, I’ve included three life lessons I learned in church, or, as I like to say, the hilariously-sad realization I grew up in a cult.

Life Lesson #1: Your Time is Valuable

“If God is up at five in the morning for prayer… (dramatic pause)… Then you should be, too!”

Time is arguably our most valuable commodity, and it’s your time that a cult will take the most of. For most cults, controlling your time is almost as good as controlling your money. Since I was quite young I didn’t donate a lot of money, but let me give you a breakdown of how I spent my time:

There are 168 hours in a week. We sleep about 56 hours, and work about 40 hours each of the five workdays. That leaves about 72 hours left to do what we like. In our cult, we were told that our time was spiritual money in our spiritual bank account. If we had free time we weren’t doing enough for the Lord.

In a given week we would spend 19 hours in prayer (both communal and private), 6 hours in service, 4 hours doing street ministry (aka knocking on people’s doors and handing out pamphlets), 10.5 hours of driving ministry (picking up families for church programs), 3 hours youth ministry, 4 hours outreach ministry, and 5 hours in worker meetings or music practice. That left 19.5 hours of free time for 7 days, or approximately 2.7 hours of free time per day. To put it another way: if our free time had been money we would have barely made enough to support a child in a third world country.

When I finally committed to not go to church (cult) anymore, I suddenly had time to do what I wanted. It was as if I had discovered my belly button for the first time as an adult, which would be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Life Lesson #2: Question Everything

“When you come in here, turn off your brain.”

Ignorance is bliss, but cult ignorance? That shit is magical.

The first thing a cult takes away is your ability to question. You are not allowed to question leadership, the lack of faith healings, or the way money is being managed. You are discouraged from receiving a secular education and told to “turn off your brain” so the spirit could lead. Asking certain questions could get you ex-communicated. This meant that the Leaders would restrict any communication/contact between the ex-communicated person and the rest of the church congregation. This delicate practice was meant to somehow force the individual into repentance and to return once again to their (dysfunctional) church family.

In order to demonstrate your “true faith” you were required to leave your logic at the door and take everything on faith, no matter how absurd some of the services would get (running around the building and shouting at the top of your lungs was a frequently occurring event). While this kind ignorance was truly blissful, it quickly got out of hand.

Growing up in a cult was a lot like growing up in a tiny magical bubbleMy tiny bubble consisted of a small intimate group of people that saw each other every day. Like most charismatic churches we believed in faith healing, prosperity, and gifts of the spirit (speaking in tongues).

However, we also believed we could:

  • change the weather
  • drive cars without gas
  • teleport
  • pray back a woman’s hymen so she could re-lose her virginity on her wedding night (honest truth)
  • pray away the gay
  • chase demons out of the church (this actually involved physically running around)
  • pray over adult video stores to close them down (it actually did close down two weeks later, BTW)
  • repel bullets through prayer (when the persecution came)
  • pray people out of the grave.

It was a strange, wonderful, magical bubble, to say the least. But it was also a bubble that needed to burst.

For me, the pin that burst the bubble came the day we were asked to pray for a specific group of people to die.

We prayed, and they died, further justifying our beliefs in our magical powers.

It was scary, scary to be in a group of people you love and have grown to know over decades, then, one day, to see them all pray in mindless fervour for someone to die.

This is when the magic ended, I no longer viewed the world through the foggy haze of my magic bubble. I suddenly realized this was all crazy and I had no choice but to leave.

Life Lesson #3: Know When to Walk Away, And Know When to Run

“I don’t trust people with an education, they think too much with their head.”

As cliche as it sounds, things aren’t always meant to last forever. Leaving the safety and security of the community was hard. It was like a divorce; a divorce where you had to separate yourself from every single member of your family one by one. Although I came out relatively unscathed, there were people who I cared about who lost everything: family, money, and community.

The loss of community was the most heartbreaking. It left many bewildered and asking themselves a multitude of questions: What had been the point of all that hard work and time? Why did we pray so much? Why did I give away so much money? And why did I needlessly hate myself for natural body functions? Masturbation jokes aside, after leaving, or rather running, from the cult that I grew up in I learned that I don’t need their edification in my life to have purpose. I could live and make my own choices, without fear that God or church will disapprove. In my cult-free life I have found joy and purpose. Plus, there’s no one trying to steal my money anymore.


The writer of this post has chosen to remain ANONYMOUS.