Drug awareness event hears cannabis concerns from northeast Calgarians

Concerned parents and community members filled a hall in northeast Calgary Sunday to learn more about Canada’s looming Cannabis legalization.

Many, including parents, are voicing concerns around impending cannabis legalization and access

Parents and community members turned out to learn more about cannabis and its effects, particularly on teens, at an event in northeast Calgary Sunday, Sept 23. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Apprehensive parents and community members filled a hall in northeast Calgary Sunday to learn more about Canada's looming cannabis legalization.

The event was held in response to concerns being voiced in several communities around cannabis stores opening their doors and worries about teens having wider access to it once it goes legal on October 17.

The event was organized by the group Love With Humanity and the Al-Madina Calgary Islamic Assembly and included speeches, presentations and Q&As from Imam Syed Soharwardy and local psychologist and radio host Sajjad Mirza. 

"It's a huge concern for families, it's a huge concern for all of us," said Soharwardy, who says medical marijuana use is acceptable but has major worries around recreational use, which he says is forbidden for Muslims along with using other intoxicants, like alcohol.

Calgary Imam and chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, Syed Soharwardy, says medical marijuana consumption is completely fine but even legal recreational cannabis use in Muslim communities is forbidden. He is dissapointed with retail stores in communities and near kids and schools. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"It is a sin without any medical reasons," Soharwardy said. 

Parents, along with Soharwardy, are particularly concerned about cannabis retail stores in their communities and cannabis falling into the wrong hands.

"The city has given permits to marijuana shops in communities near schools and it's very irresponsible," said Soharwardy. "It's wrong."

The city received 261 retail applications this summer and is still going through the process of approving and rejecting them.

While many disagree with legalization they are keen to learn more about cannabis, its effects and starting a dialogue at home with kids and teens.

"Honestly, I didn't know much about Marijuana but I learned a lot of things," said Bushra Shehzad. "It's a very important issue right now."

Bushra Shehzad admits she didn’t know much about marijuana and needs more education on the issue. She is worried about the impacts of legalization on Canadian society. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We should build Canada as a healthy and prosperous country. Teenagers are the backbone of the society and I don't know how much it will benefit Canadian society," Shehzad said.

"Before coming to Canada we had a mindset that it was a safe country for everyone but now we are going through this situation it is disturbing us," she said.

Despite the city taking proximity to schools into account when granting approvals to cannabis stores, many think some stores are still too close.

Mona Shehzad says parents and teens need to start talking more openly about drug use, and especially cannabis, with legalization around the corner. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We cannot hide this in the closet, this problem, our teens, our kids and as a parent we should know what steps we should take to benefit our teens and stop drug use," said Mona Shehzad.

"It's education for the parents but also for the kids and I'm feeling thankful for the event," said Shehzad.

"In the schools too there should be awareness programs addressing this issue," she added.

Many at the event don't have young kids but say they still wanted to learn more about cannabis to be better informed members of the community.

Malik Riaz says more seminars and education events are needed to bring many parents up to speed on cannabis and what legalization means for communities. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"These seminars give you the information about the problem. I started getting myself educated about this issue, what is this and why and how people are using," said Malik Riaz.

"I'm not talking from a religious point of view but just the health and the consequences on society. Everybody has plus and minus views," said Riaz.

"I learned so many new things. These kinds of seminars should be some kind of ongoing thing," he said.

A similar education and awareness event is being planned by the Islamic Information Society of Calgary next month.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist covering all kinds of stories from northeast Calgary for web, radio, TV and social media, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey