In the fight between the Harper Conservative’s Health Canada and actual health experts, Minister Rona Ambrose claims the high road in a fight to ‘protect the children’ from pot while actually fighting to retain federal control over adult access to a useful, versatile drug. She doesn’t want pot use ‘normalized’ for kids.

While I agree that pot use among children and teens shouldn’t be encouraged, Ambrose’s claim that legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries would do so is inherently flawed.

‘Normal’ Isn’t Inevitable

‘Normalizing’ isn’t a magical cheat code that transforms the existence of something into a free-for-all, universally-accepted thing. It just means ‘becoming normal’.

When we observe how normalization occurs in our society, we see that the mere existence of something, the mere availability of something in one circumstance or other, doesn’t lead to complete acceptance of it for all people, at all times, in all circumstances.

Something ‘becomes normal’ because the status quo isn’t appropriate or necessary any longer, because society’s norms change as our knowledge of the world changes. Normalization isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s simply acceptance of something, at some time, as normal when it wasn’t normal before.

A non-controversial example: Hatless men on North American streets are normal now, they were normalized mid–last century. Wearing hats stopped being a necessity for keeping hair clean between washes while walking city streets. It might not have seemed polite, and was surely a ‘sign of moral decay’ to established society, but hatless men on the street became the norm.

‘Normal’ Isn’t Any Time

There’s also a limit to normalization when it occurs. When we become used to something, we don’t automatically become accepting of it in all situations and at all times and for all people. We are able to weight pros and cons as we collectively consider altering what we think of as normal. Normalization is not an inevitable consequence to something that society must resign itself to or fight absolutely, it’s a guidable reaction by society to needed changes in our culture. Those guided changes also do not apply universally to all aspects of something. Simply thinking something is normal ‘here and now for us’ doesn’t mean it must also be considered normal ‘there and then for them’.

A non-controversial example: Personal bottles and mugs have become regular sights on the streets, at work, and at coffee shops and cafés. They’ve become normal. But there’s a limit. We don’t bring reusables to dinners, to religious institutions, or to memorials — even if we’ll probably be offered a drink — because, well, because we don’t.

‘Normal’ Isn’t ‘Not Talking’

Obviously children aren’t going to just simply, inherently understand where ‘okay’ begins and where it ends. Because they’re children. But we’re supposed to teach children what’s okay and what’s not, rather than stopping adults from doing neutral or beneficial things in case children get the wrong idea.

We don’t suggest people not bring their reusable cups on buses just to prevent kids from wanting to bring one to church. And when men started to go bareheaded, there wasn’t a government agency threatening to have people arrested for washing their hair more in order to ‘protect the children’ from the indecency of seeing a man’s hair part.

Claiming medical marijuana dispensaries ‘normalize’ recreational adolescent use presumes children blindly mimic what strangers do on the street but also don’t learn from the actual adults in their lives.

Hiding information from children isn’t possible in the internet age, educating them on determining what is factual information and what is fraudulent is. Stopping children from knowing adults do something isn’t useful, educating them on why adults do things is.

Dispensaries do not normalize recreational teen use, they are a result of normalizing medical use of marijuana for ill Canadians.