Canadian Cannabis Researcher Warns That Legalization Doesn't Make Marijuana Harmless

People are confusing legality with safety when it comes to marijuana, according to James MacKillop, Director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University in Ontario.

"Generally, I think the tone of the discourse on the internet tends to be much more favorable to cannabis than balanced in terms of risks associated," MacKillop told The Hamilton Spectator. "That's where a lot of my concerns lie in terms of the impending legalization."

Legalization of cannabis will improve consumer safety through regulations including product testing and labelling. But those regs won't eliminate all the potential risks associated with marijuana use, warns MacKillop. He says just because something is legal does not mean it's safe.

"The reality is there are certainly risks and, although hopefully there will be benefits from legalization, they'll largely be because of the increased capacity to regulate a legal product over an illegal product, not because the drug itself will change by virtue of the law changing."

Beyond this, MacKillop hopes people are paying attention to the research happening on medical marijuana. While medicinal cannabis is being used in Canada and 31 American states to treat a whole host of conditions, most of those treatments are based on anecdotal evidence instead of hard science because there is insufficient research on the health benefits and risks of marijuana. 

MacKillop also took aim at the often touted differences between indica and sativa cannabis strains.

"The reality is there's very little scientific basis for any of these differences in the perceived psychoactive effect."

Science is our friend in the ongoing legalization of cannabis, as more and more researchers are finding support for medicinal as well as recreational use. But we can't expect all the findings to be positive.


Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) isn't the most vocal cannabis advocate on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, but you shouldn't take that as a lack of support for marijuana legalization. Unlike many of the top contenders for the upcoming Democratic primaries, Ryan hasn't filed any of his own cannabis legalization bills.

Can we see some ID please?

You must be 19 years of age or older to enter.