October 17th will be a day that goes down in history as one of the greatest policy shifts of our generation.

It will be a day that fundamentally changes the face of cannabis culture in Canada.

But it won't fundamentally change the lives of Canadians.

They don't want it to, from what we've heard.

Over the last month, Chelsea Handler and I visited seven major Canadian cities for her latest tour: 'A Civilized Conversation with Chelsea Handler.' And that's exactly what Canadians want when it comes to cannabis. A civilized conversation. A chance to ask questions and trade views without the fear of stigmas or being branded with stoner stereotypes.

Derek Riedle Picture2

Canadians told us they want to know how cannabis can enhance their daily routines. They're interested in how a vape or an edible can help them sleep, help them cope with the stress of work, help them have a laugh with their friends to unwind at the end of the day.

Despite what legalization opponents like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions say about cannabis consumers, Canadians don't want to quit their jobs and do nothing but strum guitars, munch granola and smoke joints all day. They want to see if cannabis is the right tool to help them live their best lives.

That's why most questions from the audience during the tour focused on leading a balanced lifestyle as a cannabis consumer, not getting as high as humanly possible.

Nobody asked for tips on building the biggest bong imaginable, or for pro-tips on hotboxing their house. Nobody wanted to become a 'Cheech and Chong' rip-off. The thousands of Canadians that spoke to us were asking for advice on ways to optimize their lives with cannabis.

That's the same reason why countless people around the world use coffee and tea and cocktails and everything else that adults can enjoy responsibly. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to enjoy a glass of wine, and you don’t have to be a stoner to enjoy cannabis.

But stereotypes continue to persist.

And false as they are, there's no denying that they have a very real impact on people's lives. Almost two-thirds of all American and Canadian cannabis consumers continue to hide their use in some form, according to the 2018 edition of the Civilized Cannabis Culture Poll. And 40 per cent of those respondents said they keep their cannabis use a secret because they're afraid of being judged. That's what's holding them back. Not health concerns. Stigma. That's what continues to make cannabis a controversial topic, even though research suggests it can help treat some of the worst illnesses that we are grappling with today—cancer and AIDS. And that medical cannabis can also improve the quality of life for patients coping with chronic pain, epilepsy and a whole host of other conditions.

IMG 5842Chelsea Handler and Derek Riedle take a question from the audience in Winnipeg.

It's mind-boggling to see that oppressive power of ignorance thriving today, when we've never understood the plant better. Our knowledge of cannabis is light years ahead of where it was even ten years ago. The simple act of labelling cannabis products has become a game changer for the industry. Canadians who are worried about dosages can read labels and figure out what strain is for them. With legalization, you don't have to hit a random joint and wonder what's in it. You can find a strain or an edible with the right amount of THC or CBD and try it. You know exactly how strong your gummy or your brownie is. 

Legalization isn't about converting Canada into a nation of stoner stereotypes. It's about letting people decide their own personal use, or to abstain altogether if they prefer. It's an opportunity for those who are curious about cannabis to try some of the new products being released every day by the cannabis industry and see what works for them. From what we've heard during the cross-country tour, that's what Canadians want to talk about.

Now that our tour has wrapped, we hope that everyone who was in the audience continues to have the conversations that we started at shows across the country. And there's no better day to begin those difficult talks than October 17th, when the nation's attention will turn to this new industry.

Whether you plan to visit the local pot shop or not, we challenge those who safely can to reach out to a friend or family member and share a personal experience with cannabis. And to listen to other people's stories so that we can better understand who and what cannabis consumers are and where they come from in real life, instead of basing perceptions on two-dimensional portrayals in stoner comedies. 

If nothing else, opening up like that can clear the air about cannabis. But those chats can also make it easier for someone to stop by the local cannabis retailer to see if it can help them finally get a good night's sleep, or help a suffering patient feel more comfortable about bringing up medical marijuana with their doctor. Something as simple as sharing a story can make that sort of difference, because the greatest ally of ignorance is silence.