Activist concerned Maritime marijuana tradition could lead to tobacco addictions

With the expected legalization of pot, a Nova Scotia activist is concerned about a Maritime marijuana tradition spreading — smoking marijuana cigarettes cut with tobacco.

Nova Scotia activist doesn't want people to mix marijuana with tobacco if pot is legalized

Chris Backer says mixing tobacco with marijuana is a tradition that needs to end. (CBC)

With the expected legalization of pot, a Nova Scotia activist is concerned about a Maritime marijuana tradition spreading — smoking marijuana cigarettes cut with tobacco.

It's a practice Nova Scotia rapper Classified referenced in his song, The Maritimes. 

"We always mix our tobacco with weed, it's the way we've always done it," Classified raps.

That song brings a smile to Chris Backer's face.

"For a lot of Maritimers financially, we have less money here. And a lot of people stretched [marijuana] out that way by mixing it with tobacco," said the vice-chair of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana.

If the Trudeau election promise to legalize recreational use is fulfilled, Backer expects initially more people will try smoking marijuana, and then as the novelty wears off, use will drop.

"When you're allowed to it's not as much fun," said Backer.

And as people try legalized marijuana, he expects many will smoke it because the only added expense is the rolling papers. 

Nova Scotia's smoking rate is stuck at 19 per cent, and that's higher than the national average. With potentially more people inhaling marijuana and tobacco mixed cigarettes, known as spliffs, Backer is concerned that nicotine addictions could develop.

And with no filters on hand-rolled joints, "you're not even stopping any of the garbage in tobacco," Backer said.

It's also an emerging public health issue for the Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Department.

"We know that tobacco and marijuana smoking have negative health impacts and we want to be working to decrease the use of both," the department said in an email.

Backer is in favour of setting the legal age to use recreational marijuana as 19, the same age as legal alcohol consumption. He says eating or vaporizing marijuana is healthier than smoking it. 

"I see people that don't smoke cigarettes that put tobacco in it. And they go, 'Well, I don't smoke cigarettes. And I go 'Yes, you do. Sorry, you do.'"

Besides, he says, tobacco ruins the flavour.

"Kind of [like] mixing Kool-Aid with nice wine," Backer said.

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu

Reporter

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter with CBC Nova Scotia and host of Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7, 7:30 in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.

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