Marijuana Anonymous Sparking More Interest In Canada

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Marijuana Anonymous Sparking More Interest In Canada

By Beth Leipholtz 08/08/18

Marijuana Anonymous uses an adaptation of the 12 steps from Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Image: 
members of a support group

For some marijuana users, Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous don’t quite feel like a good fit. 

That’s why in some areas, Marijuana Anonymous is being introduced as an alternative. According to Vice, the group follows similar routines and readings as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. But it was created especially for marijuana users, as some felt that they did not identify with those individuals at AA meetings, while others who’d attended NA felt their marijuana use was dismissed as not being serious enough.

In Simcoe, Ontario, Marijuana Anonymous meetings began in March 2018. Typically attendance hovers around five members. The Simcoe meeting is one of about 12 in the country, while there are hundreds of AA and NA meetings in comparison.

One member, David, tells Vice he discovered the meeting online. Prior to attending, he had tried other recovery groups, as he also struggles with alcohol use. But for David, those groups weren’t effective when it came to addressing marijuana.

“I knew I had a problem,” David told the group at the meeting. “My life had become totally unmanageable. I had become totally isolated… smoked a lot of joints.” 

Marijuana Anonymous roughly follows the same 12 steps as NA and AA. However, the group celebrates milestones with a token of their own—small rocks painted with an M and A to represent the group’s name.

“They’re called Stones for Stoners,” David said during the meeting. “I should probably collect because I’m 21 days away from nine months without weed.”

According to Vice, Marijuana Anonymous members are to try and stay removed from providing thoughts about topics such as legalization of recreational marijuana. But outside these groups, the conversations are happening.

David Juurlink, an addictions expert and head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, tells Vice that marijuana use disorder is legitimate, but that the withdrawal symptoms of marijuana are much less severe so people tend to view it as safer.

“Alcohol withdrawal kills people,” he said. “Once people drinking 40 ounces of alcohol a day stop, they can go into withdrawal and they can die. Opioid withdrawal is a big deal. Someone who is a heavy user of cannabis who stops is not going to die. They are going to have trouble sleeping, they’re going to be irritable, they might have weird dreams, they might have anxiety. And all of these things might get better when they resume their cannabis again.”

According to the MA public information trustee, Josh, interest in the group is growing. He tells Vice that there has been a 51% increase in calls to the organization’s phone line over the past year.

Soon, Canada may become an important destination for Marijuana Anonymous members, as the country is hosting the 2019 world convention and conference in Toronto and Vancouver, Vice notes. The conference just happens to fall around seven months after Canada will implement the legalization of recreational marijuana, which members say is a coincidence. 

“As legalization happens and becomes more ingrained in our culture, we probably will see a rise in attendance but at the same time, we’re an anonymous corporation,” MA member Lori told Vice.

“I was miserable and I was lonely, so eventually I ran out of excuses as to why my life was a mess,” she added. “There’s all these conjectures and this thinking that pot’s not addictive, so as an addict I latched onto that. Then I get to MA and I hear the stories and I see the recovery and I say OK, I will give this a shot. And things went much better.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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