An Essay for 4/20



Here is a research essay I completed about a year and a half ago (originally submitted on Nov. 28, 2014). I hope that this is the last year its plea remains relevant. 4/20 comes around every year, and I am now more than ever considering the arguable sham that it is. Here people, many fellow university and college students in my city, can come out of their weed-smoking shell and partake in broad daylight, unmolested. But then it largely goes back to the status quo the next day. Why? Well, I think if this paper doesn’t answer this, it at least sheds a little light on the issue and helps expose some of the ridiculousness of the ambiguous legal standing of cannabis in Canada. 


“The thought process behind demonizing something like marijuana is completely out of ignorance. [Where are] the bodies? [Where are] the numbers? Is there one? (Scorgie, Harvey, 2014)” Comedian and marijuana advocate Joe Rogan has been talking about the plant for more than a decade, particularly how our culture perceives it to be more dangerous than it actually is. And with three more American states recently legalizing marijuana, it seems its illegality needs to be re-examined on this side of the border. This is clearly one of the most contentious, but perhaps unnecessary, arguments of the last fifty years. Much of the information gathered points to the benign nature of marijuana — or cannabis. Moreover, its numerous medical benefits seem to warrant legalization in this way. If the question is “should marijuana be legalized outright?”, then some context regarding medical use, history of legal status, comparative effects, and economics needs to be provided to properly answer it.


The history of legal status and medical use needs to be examined to understand the tumultuous relationship between marijuana and the government. In 2005, Dr. Lester Grinspoon issued a statement to the Drug Enforcement Agency relating to a lawsuit by a University of Massachusetts professor who was denied a license to grow cannabis for research purposes. The incident led Dr. Grinspoon to issue the DEA a history lesson on medical cannabis. He cites that, “During its heyday, from 1840 to 1900, more than 100 papers were published in the Western medical literature recommending it for various illnesses and discomforts. (History of Cannabis as a Medicine, 2005)” Before its downright prohibition, doctors knew much about the benefits of this treatment, “more… than contemporary physicians do,” says Grinspoon. So what happened at the turn of last century? Doctors turned to synthetic drugs which were ostensibly more effective, entering the bloodstream at quicker rates than cannabis treatments. But, as Grinspoon explains, “the new drugs [aspirin, chloral hydrate, barbiturates, etc.] had striking disadvantages. More than a thousand people die from aspirin-induced bleeding each year in the United States, and barbiturates are, of course, far more dangerous. (History of Cannabis as a Medicine. 2005)” Still, these medications were preferred over cannabis, and the momentum for it as a medicine did not sway in its favour for quite some time after.


At this point, the first decade or so of the twentieth century, it seemed as though marijuana might make a medical comeback. This thought was quickly squelched, first by William MacKenzie King’s Canadian government in 1923 — who put ‘Indian hemp’ on the proscribed list along with heroin and codeine —  and in the U.S. in 1937 by the Marihuana Tax Act, which required citizens to obtain a tax stamp to use marijuana medically and/or industrially. These stamps, however, were very difficult to obtain, as they were controlled by the federal government. From this came worry and frustration by physicians seeking access to marijuana. Eventually, interest was lost due to the government chokehold. Grinspoon laments, “Cannabis was removed from the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary in 1941.” But pushing cannabis out of society only lasted for a short time, and it came back into popularity as part of “The Hippy Movement” of the 1960’s. Suddenly people started to wake up from the hypnosis of a government outlaw. Since then, marijuana use in North America has been rampant, yet technically illegal. A troubling reality in Canada is the fact that marijuana is “illegal but often unenforced”, leaving the plant in a sort of legal purgatory.


One can see just how popular the cannabis industry is by examining the numbers. Ian Mulgrew, journalist and author of Bud Inc., presented figures from The Fraser Institute’s Stephen Easton regarding the industry in Canada. Among the statistics, Mulgrew cites this: “By 2000 — Easton figured — Canadian cannabis consumers actually spent $1.8 billion per year on bud. That’s almost as much as Canadians spend on tobacco — $2.3 billion.” Also surprising is Easton’s estimation that, “the [marijuana] industry was worth $5.7 billion wholesale and $19.5 billion if high-end retail pricing is assumed. That’s about the size of the Canadian cattle industry ($5.2 billion). (Mulgrew, 2003)” These estimates are from 2003, so one could assume the worth has increased significantly. Although surprising, these figures are also incredibly disheartening when examining the legal status of cannabis in conjunction. All this worth for a plant in high demand, with adequate supply, but one that is illegal and therefore untaxed. If it used tax revenue from marijuana sales, it is estimated that the Canadian government “would have a budget surplus of $2.7 billion” by 2014-15 (Flister, 2012). Conventional thought might suggest that this drug cannot be legalized and taxed because of the piles of evidence outlining its dangerous effects, and that society cannot have people making wages or building businesses based on such a harmful substance. This is not the case whatsoever.


The clear demand of the drug in the face of illegality, and illegality in the face of facts and evidence was and is troubling. Part of the legalization narrative includes perspectives on different drugs. In a British parliamentary poll, Professor David Nutt of Imperial College found that a majority of politicians, when asked if alcohol was a drug, said no. Why was this their answer? “Because it is not illegal,” Professor Nutt explains their rationale (Scorgie, Harvey, 2014). This stance reflects mischaracterization of and confusion about what a drug is. Science communicator Cara Santa Maria explains, “All illicit drugs get lumped together… caffeine is a drug, alcohol is a drug, Viagra is a drug… People, when they think of drugs, they think only of illicit drugs. (Scorgie, Harvey, 2014)” This leads to even more confusion about which drugs are more dangerous than others. One might think, ‘well, alcohol is legal… It must be less dangerous than marijuana.’ This is false. Regarding the danger of alcohol versus marijuana, addictions specialist Gabor Mate states, “..if I asked the question, ‘which of these has more potentially debilitating and harmful, life-threatening, health-eroding effects?’, there is no comparison. Alcohol wins, hands down. (Scorgie, Harvey, 2014)”  So, alcohol “wins” in the overall danger category. What about the fear that marijuana use causes mental issues like schizophrenia? Unfortunately for fear-mongering prohibitionists, Dr. Grinspoon, Prof. Nutt, and Dr. Igor Grant of University of California-San Diego — to name a few — all found that there was no uptick in schizophrenia as marijuana use became more prevalent from the late 60’s to present day.


The case has been made that marijuana is not dangerous compared to other drugs, and it has also been found to be medically beneficial. Grinspoon cites that JR Reynolds, a 19th century British physician found cannabis valuable in treatment of conditions such as depression, asthma, and epilepsy (History of Cannabis as a Medicine, 2005). Jason David, father of a 7 year-old epileptic boy named Jayden, was administering 22 pills per day to his son, and was watching his son suffer up to 500 seizures per day. He turned to medical marijuana as a last resort, and began administering a CBD marijuana extract — “CBD is the stuff that doesn’t have psychoactive effects,” David explains (Scorgie, Harvey, 2014). When he did, his son’s seizures stopped completely . People like Ian Mulgrew have similar experiences with cannabis as medicine. “In recent years,” he explains, “I have lost three friends to various cancers. Each found marijuana the only effective medication for defeating the nausea of chemotherapy… Those experiences left me seriously questioning our public policy.” If these stories, and many others like them, are not enough to implement a new Canadian marijuana policy, then the country needs to reconsider its values. The medical cannabis industry wouldn’t just help an estimated 1 million Canadians, it could dwarf the economic projections of the recreational market, “perhaps $20 billion domestically,” Mulgrew states (Bud Inc., 2003).


When analyzing issues surrounding cannabis, such as medical validity, legal status compared to dangerous drugs, and economic benefits, it is evident that the plant should be legalized, at least for medical purposes. This issue could be boiled down to a battle of new ideas. Canadian author Mark Steyn writes “… any original thinking on almost any issue is likely to be controversial… That’s what makes free societies the most dynamic on the planet: they’re great big jostling marketplaces of ideas. (Shakedown, 2009)” The idea of making cannabis legal — and productive — may still be controversial, but maybe that is what makes it a good one.




Flister, L. (2012). The Economic Case for Marijuana Legalization in Canada.

Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, 5(1), 96-100. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from


Grinspoon, L. (2005). History of Cannabis as a Medicine. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from


Levant, E., Steyn, M. (2009). Shakedown. Toronto, Canada: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.


Mulgrew, I. (2003). Bud Inc. Vancouver, Canada: Random House Canada


Scorgie, A. (Producer), Harvey, B. (Director). (2014). The Culture High [Motion

picture]. Canada: BKS Productions, Score-G Productions




THST 2450 – Folksonomy/Remix/Mashup/Creative Commons/Geotagging Assignment

Beautiful Fighters Cover v2


I decided to do something musical for this assignment. This came about because when I heard the ensuing instrumental, my mind connected a set of lyrics from another song that seemed to fit together (to me anyway). Then, while recording, I had the idea of adding another set of lyrics (commonly called hooks) into the remix as well. The result is this mashup of an instrumental cover/remix of a song, remixed with vocals from two other songs, mashed up together to create something that I’m pretty proud of — if not for its content as much as its creativity. The two songs I covered vocals for are from the same album, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool. The vocals were originally performed by Matthew Santos. It was immediately deleted from Soundcloud as it contains a youtube-to-mp3 rip of the instrumental (somehow they can still detect it), so I uploaded the track and cover art to a more mashup-friendly site, I geotagged it to UofG. Unfortunately, the embed code would not work. So here is the link:



THST 2450 – Random Reflection: “You Doing You”

I stumbled upon this fascinating film project, called You Doing You, recently. The filmmaker asks a ton of people the same questions: what’s your name? What are your titles? When was the last time you cried? Why? The last question is a little more open-ended and makes for some amazing, tragic, inspiring, and beautifully weird answers.  After watching, I decided to give these questions a try. Here they are.



Dylan Max Ullman



Human, Student, Artist, Guy, Dude, Sleeper, Dreamer


When was the last time you cried? Why?


I tear up during many films and songs, but what really gets me 90% of the time is one of the ESPN 30 for 30 films. Most of the time those don’t really “count” though. So, the last time I really cried was at a funeral for a friend’s dad who really passed away suddenly. I don’t know if our minds process grief differently depending on the circumstances of someone’s death… Anyway, I was pretty fine for the first few minutes of the service, and then it just hit me like a wave. I think it was from looking around and recognizing the gravity and the reality of the situation. He was a well-liked, well-travelled man who touched many people’s lives; I could tell this by the amount of people who were there and the stories that were told. It was like I was expressing part of their collective pain, but also expressing mine about the situation in general. It was the kind of crying when you’re trying too hard to hold it back, and it just makes it worse. And I guess I, or maybe we, don’t come in contact with that gravity very often. Different people handle it differently. I think it was a mix of expressing my pain and an empathetic pain for the close friends and family members who were there. I was able to smile and even laugh near the end, so I was happy about that.


What makes you want to be alive/What gives you drive/What do you believe in/Why do you do what you do?



Family makes me want to be alive. And then a lot of smaller things, like food for example. Ideas, and how I interpret them, and then choose to express some of them through different forms of art — those are giant in terms of the desire to be alive to kind of grapple with them. I think art in general makes me want to be alive a lot, to see and to absorb works of art from other people which in turn can give me a clue as to how I should approach something that I make. It’s a very weird chain that we’re involved in — not just as artists, to be clear. Individual lives are kind of like equations, where we’re writing them, but they can be written an infinite amount of ways to produce an infinite amount of results. That’s why we’re all at least a little bit different from each other. The events that occur and the choices we make in our lives are all variables in the equation. So what gives me drive is seeing what outcome my equation will produce, and trying to exercise some foresight while I write it. But sometimes not. I think what drives me to do things past a survival level is probably relentless optimism. I don’t think I’ve ever lost that for any significant period of time — although I have lost it. But clearly not all the way. So that optimism is part of why I do what I do as well. I tend to put a lot of myself in a drawing, painting, song, etc. A piece of me is in there by default, but I think the throughline in almost all of my art is optimism. Even a dark concept or image is usually expressed in lighter visual tones. I kind of believe that it’s all love, that it’s all good too. I don’t really know what I mean by that, and it sounds “hippy-dippy”, but I think there’s an underlying direction to the whole thing, and maybe it’s an optimistic direction. So I just try to illustrate all of that, one little piece at a time.

YOU DOING YOU BY DANIEL JOSEPH from Ivan Hurzeler on Vimeo.

THST 2450 Assignment #7: Wiki Play

This semester was my first time using a wikispace. I enjoyed reading and commenting on the various posts and found myself inspired by even the seemingly simple questions like “What are you listening to?”. I felt the gears turning when asked to give our thoughts on a movie/TV show. These informal exercises really initiated the foray into metacognitive space. It sort of trained me to take this kind of sense into the act of consuming different items of media and made myself aware of, if not made me document, the resulting thoughts from a TV episode, article, interview, etc.


I also came to appreciate the layout and feel of the wiki page in general. The thing is that CourseLink, in the ‘Content’ or ‘Discussion’ areas, etc., feels a little too buttoned-up — like you’re at a formal dinner schmoozing with fellow guests but you don’t want to say the wrong thing at risk of sounding like an asshole or troglodyte. I think the extreme of this would be a Facebook or Twitter group chat, where it’s as if you started drinking at 2 pm and suddenly everyone starts to head over to the local dumpster fire for some good times. Tommy straps a keg to his back for the trip and Jimmy gets arrested on the way for taking his sweaty hawaiian shirt off and spinning it around his head before he lets go of it and it hits a cop in the face. This is where I find the Wikispace to be a happy medium. You can mill about and provide your input if and where you want to. Everybody’s cool, man. This is probably as much a testament to the class a whole as it is to the format itself, and the environment that Mark facilitated throughout the semester.


The metacognitive aspect of the wiki is something that I keep reflecting back on (how meta is that?). It’s amazing how much you can relearn or rediscover about yourself and your thoughts just by answering some simple questions like the ones posed over the course of the semester. After listing my favourite music artists and groups, I went back and made a giant playlist of all those artists (some of their albums and some favourite singles). I found myself falling back in love with albums or songs that maybe I hadn’t heard in a while, or hadn’t listened to with a new sense of reverence, or at least attention. I feel deeply connected to music — it is nearly impossible for me to listen to a certain song and not go back in my mind to when I first listened to it, or when I first heard it. It brings up a question of why certain music — artists, albums, songs — affects you and reacts with you in the way that it does. Why did you choose this music in particular? I, and I suspect countless others, can create a timeline of events or periods in their life when they were into x artist or y album, and I think this can say a lot about the psychological and personal development of someone, almost irrespective of the artists as personas. I think observing the music itself can be telling in just about any case.


A strange thing happened when we were asked to comment on ‘The Big Short’ and the pilot of ‘Mr. Robot’. I discovered that I had a lot to say, or write, about both works. This is not entirely peculiar, since I enjoy writing in pretty much any format and/or about a myriad of topics, but it struck me as odd because I don’t think I would have written a thing on either one were I not asked to share simply what I thought. And I sort of caught myself off-guard because a substantial review revealed itself seemingly without a real concerted effort. It could have been because it was 2 am and I had nothing better to do (sleep? Nah). This seems to have revealed to me something about the way I work: when asked to provide something, an answer, analysis, etc., I am usually very keen. It’s not that I’m not ever a self-starter though, so it’s difficult to pin down where I lie on the motivation spectrum. I suppose the main thing I can glean from this realization is that if I ask myself these kinds of simple questions, I will probably be surprised and excited to hear what I have to say in response to them.


I would certainly use a wiki again. It appears to be an appropriate forum for many uses. If you want to get away from using Facebook or Twitter exclusively, wikispaces gives you a different look that again feels like a really cool party where you can walk around to different circles of conversation and just add your input. The metacognitive aspect of the questions themselves was something that affected me in a positive way, and really got me to inquire about and analyze some other ideas or concepts about myself and the world around me that I might not have arrived at without them. The course wiki name was a good reminder of this search: be meta, be dope, and always be on a quest for knowledge!  

THST 2450 Assignment #6: Invisible Technology

As the concept of civilization has evolved, humans have gone from dipping their hands in the river and taking a drink, to constructing containers holding larger quantities at a time, to the manual pump, all the way to complex piping, sewage and treatment systems we see today. This infrastructure has infiltrated and installed itself into the deep layers of skin of our Earth, all for the crucial substance of life: water. The ways in which humans have harnessed this necessity is a representation of the manner of development of systems around aspects of existence we deem perpetually necessary. Through the lens of media ecology, the inventions of the pump and the pipe — tools of intentional diversion and control — are the media through which the signal, water, can ideally appear. And it has become so sophisticated, so streamlined, that we have generally easy access to this signal in the western hemisphere; it is so automatic and ubiquitous that the media of pipes and pumps and faucets and sinks has become an integral part of the blueprints of residential and commercial interior architecture, to the point where pipes are literally sight unseen (unless by choice), and the rest is virtually so. Essentially, these technologies have made themselves invisible.


Even the “visible” parts of this system are so ingrained as part and parcel of the majority of at least western dwellings, that they then become invisible by default. No one is surprised when they walk into a friend’s new home and see at least two faucet-and-sink areas, and even further, no one is surprised when a simple push or turn action of the faucet handle releases a steady stream of water.
But maybe we should be surprised. It takes a coordinated effort of technologies to bring the clear life serum to a fingertip reality. It is an effort that requires an unconscionable amount of maintenance and innovation. But that is exactly what got civilization up to this point. Much like the sustained evolution of the internet, from cranky dial tones and jumbled cables to cleaner hard-wires to now but a wisp of data floating through the air like a formation of transparent birds, water systems development has hit the stage of clean, efficient wires (pipes). Maybe it can be said that the ecology of the internet has entered into the area of becoming a climax community; receivers installed in anything from televisions to sprinklers has created an Internet of Things. So much is working together in a network that is seemingly sustainable. It would only be chronological that the next stage of water delivery in this analogy would be to go pipeless; perhaps homes will be equipped with condensation/rainwater-catching mini-reservoirs (technology like this already exists, but has clearly not implanted itself into the common household). If data is in the “cloud”, and all we need is a receiver to transmit and translate the signal for everyday use, and water is stored in the literal clouds, then we only need a receiver for it. Right? Now, it is safe and I am thankful to say that this is not the point at which society is. Luckily, we do not have to splay out giant tarps to funnel rain for our personal uses.



But, was WiFi absolutely necessary? Was the old ethernet hookup just too cumbersome as a mainstream access method to the world wide web? The answer ‘no’ could probably be argued successfully to both questions. But the conventional wisdom here suggests that it’s not that we don’t cherish our wired setups that give us unfettered access, it’s that wireless is just better. It provides an untethered yet connected version of discursive bliss. Would we, will we, feel the same pleasure from breaking free from yet another grounded chain of “the past”? There are a million different motivations for why a million different people have decided to harvest their own water supplies — whether it be a conscious revolt against the monolithic government system that by and large controls it, or just modest and local ingenuity put into practice. Maybe this approach would cause us to place more value on the resource being harvested, thereby reversing or at least significantly curtailing the long emergency among many long emergencies: a decreasing and relatively low-access fresh water supply.

Another question comes to mind: just who or what is driving the ship here? We would like to think we are the collective arbiters of this system of utilities that we have ostensibly constructed. But maybe they are as biological and evolving as we are; they merely interact with us, and water, to increase in complexity or efficiency, just as humans evolve from babies to adults. Of course it could be that it all is biological, evolving, interconnected, and interactive. As each of us, and humanity as a whole, develops over time, these media extensions will continue to change — and we will continue to talk to each other. It will certainly be interesting to see the direction in which this invisible technology grows, but all signs point to more invisibility. Some form of end point, like a faucet, might stay, but if the development of this technology is analogous to the internet delivery, then who knows — the internet has now reached us through a wearable item. Maybe water will go micro, and then go nano.

THST 2450 – Approaches to Media Studies – Exercise 4: Digital Narrative

Loud As A Mouse


The Eve. The Other Eve. Strange thoughts a-brewin’. Spectacled crooners were reading confused eulogies of California, and an overpriced rack of ribs never tasted so good. Everyone was regularly parsing their mind to find the right inflection with which to apply the goofy syntactic sequence of vowels and consonants which indicated the arrival of The New Year.

“Happy new year’s!”

“Uh, yeah, you too.”

It wasn’t all rosy. But it certainly wasn’t all thorns, either. Those who were busy earning in all sorts of spectacular ways mostly closed up shop early for the day. Just another day.

“Are you celebrating anything special today?”


As mouse-like warriors of the dark tried to make themselves big, their souls screaming into the temporal abyss, they tore away at foundations made up of the yearscape, and of people — close people who were not ready to be ripped away for nothing. But a quick-draw, superficial meme mentality had convinced one another that they weren’t right, this wasn’t right, nothing was right. But that was right. Did anything make more sense than anything else?

Walk-skating on the slick uphill and pumping gait brakes on downhills, he stepped a muted clop through dark and quiet city corridors. Some of them were subtly abuzz with humans of similar ilk, flouting fantasies rife with noble delusion. He was no different in this regard. Smart people were delusional; those who were less so possessed the same quality to varying degrees.

Today was the day of walking contradictions. Lusting for freedom, in the bars and clubs to dramatize the dance of life, then craving the caress of comfort, on their way to watch it all unfold on screen under blankets and sheets.





Streamers and ornamental kazoos hung from the top of the mouse’s small tree-house door. They had been left there by a human passerby. The mouse knew nothing of streamers, kazoos, and barley-based brews. It dealt in scurrying, scrounging, scavenging, scraping the soil with its sinewy digging tools known as claws. It experienced visceral connection with the earth, even if it didn’t know it did. It knew nothing of Super Bowls and Stanley Cups and Miss Universes, New Years, new days, new hours, new minutes, and new seconds. Each moment was a moment for the mouse.

The human, with its hubris, had segmented these moments into blocks, obsessively logging the goings-on of itself virtually worldwide, invading its own organism’s privacy from each individual’s conception. This inspection had its virtues; cancers could be diagnosed, monitored, and treated — killed if necessary. But, a chicken-egg dilemma emerged from this: would these collective maladies exist if not for this public system? The organism created, and thus commodified time, consequently limiting its own cells’ potential abilities and lifespans. Nevertheless, the track record with time was impressive: sophisticated architectural structures, jet-propelled astronomical vehicles, all that jazz.

Or was it? Maybe it was only really formidable while viewing through the filter of modern time. All this swirled around his mind as he passed by a tag on the wall that read:




He huddled over the table, teetering on the edge of his chair, making out with the coffee spout. Tapping the feeder for another hit. Higher was the desired direction on all fronts. But this trajectory also seemed to encounter a blockage by the modern temporal paradigm to which he was subjected. By extensively packaging and sub-packaging time into classified containers, they had let a good many tangible things fall into an hermetic seal as well. Substances which unlocked rooms where ideas of higher consciousness thrived were all but destroyed. The clock did not have any use for them, in fact the clock was threatened by them, for they essentially negated the clock when put into use. So here he was, crafted into a modern mouse, ready to shuffle about within the paradoxical free-range time limits this land had allowed. Although it wasn’t the land, it was again the surface organism which hovered over itself.

There he was, standing, swaying, his toes jerking as if they were scared of bass rumbles. The music. There lay a special palace in unmoving time for this… this what. He had a beer and a half in him: far from stoned. But he might has well have been on moon juice given the current sensations. The shocks. Plodding in their approach, sharp in their attack. He surrendered.

Still he could hear the far-off cries of “I think my life, is passing me byyy…

Solve the puzzle, music man. Be my escape guide, music man. Make me feel, music man.

It was his birthday.

The mouse knew nothing of birthdays.