A pro-cannabis activist group on campus erected an information board in the student centre last week in response to a campaign orchestrated by another student-run group, Change Your Mind.
Change Your Mind works to promote mental health and decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness. The group put up signs around campus to draw attention to the dangers of caffeine, alcohol, and marijuana. The posters were part of a campaign called Reduce the Abuse, which aims to educate students on the dangers of “excessive use” of any substance, while recognizing that “there is nothing wrong with moderate use.”
The Change Your Mind billboards addressed popular “misconceptions” surrounding the effects of cannabis consumption with points such as, “Marijuana cures cancer—FALSE” and “Marijuana is less harmful than tobacco—FALSE.”
Rene Schuller, an executive member of the Hempology group, said that while he believes the Reduce the Abuse campaign was well-intentioned, the presentation of marijuana was misleading. He suggested that their campaign made “blanket statements” rather than providing a balanced presentation of the evidence.
In response to the Change Your Mind campaign, Hempology created a billboard of their own, which they put up in the basement of the student centre. Their poster went through the same claims made by the Reduce the Abuse campaign, providing references from a variety of sources. They are hoping to put up similar posters in other locations across campus.
“I wanted to put out the same information to students, but actually based on research,” Schuller said. “It seems irresponsible to put up stuff without any references or anything,” he added.
Lindsay Sherwood, Mount Allison University’s Mental Health Intern and a Change Your Mind coordinator, said that their campaign was also backed by substantial research, and motivated by a desire to highlight the dangers of abuse of any substance, particularly in terms of mental health.
Both Sherwood and Schuller said that much of the research surrounding the effects of marijuana is still up for debate. “The points on our poster were all well-researched and factual, and I’m sure the same can be said of their poster,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood said she did not object to the content of the Hempology poster, per se, but felt it was inappropriate to present the information as a “rebuttal” to Change Your Mind’s campaign. “I think that with the research being so vast on that topic, a rebuttal doesn’t even fully make sense.”
Sherwood said she was disappointed that nobody from Hempology had contacted Change Your Mind. “We could’ve potentially done some collaborative campaigns that would’ve provided a more detailed overall picture of the marijuana debates that occur in our culture.”
First-year student Sarah Camus said that she supports cannabis legalization and felt the Reduce the Abuse information was presented fairly, noting that it’s important for people to be aware of why they use a given substance, as it may not be helpful in all circumstances.
“I feel like […] there’s a little bit of fact to all of them,” said first-year student Nick Matuchet in reference to the points on the Change Your Mind poster, but added, “a lot of it is just misleading.”
The goals of the groups do not seem to be entirely at odds with each other. Both Sherwood and Schuller said they did not want to push students in one direction or the other, but empower them to make informed decisions.
As of press time, the Hempology poster could be found lying flat on a table outside the Wellness Centre. After finding it on the table, Sherwood had taken it into her office last Friday to look at the information presented, and returned it where she found it on Monday. She said she believed that the custodial staff had moved it, as the billboard had previously been set up on the floor. Sherwood said there “are certainly no restrictions on our part” as to where they put the sign, but figured Hempology would have to find a table for it.