Celebrate 5/21 without marijuana

Tyler Clarke
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April 20 -- commonly referred to as “4/20” -- is a day in which marijuana smokers convene at Parliament Hill to advocate for the legalization of pot. 

A cannabis bud is seen. 

Now, there’s a counterpoint, with the Prince Albert Addiction Awareness Committee’s inaugural event set for Wednesday, May 21 -- a day they now refer to as “5/21.”

In advance of the inaugural 5/21 celebration, addictions counsellor Shelly Carriere took a moment to explain the effort, which will begin with a noon barbecue at Wesmor Community School.

“Our overall theme is to create a whole new attitude where it’s not ‘just’ pot, it’s a drug and we want people to learn to cope in a better way,” she explained of the Wednesday afternoon celebration set to take place at Wesmor Community School.

“We want to encourage people, if only for the day, to put it down for the day and try something else.”

When addictions are discussed, the conversational typically veers toward alcohol, Carriere said, noting that this sentiment is particularly true in Prince Albert.

“What do we focus on?” she asked. “When we focus on addiction that’s a broad spectrum with different topics.”

By the age of 16, 70.6 per cent of local youth have consumed alcohol and 54 per cent have drank to excess.

Although these statistics are staggering, marijuana use should not fall by the wayside of public discourse, Carriere argued.

With 33.5 of the city’s Grade 9 students reporting marijuana use (twice the national average of 17.1 per cent), the drug’s role in Prince Albert is worth consideration.

“The No. 1 concern, I think, is that it’s used as a coping tool and it’s not a healthy coping tool,” Carriere said, adding that 5/21 is intended to “plant a seed that maybe there’s an alternative.”

In addition to encouraging local marijuana smokers to butt out for the day, the Prince Albert Addictions Awareness Committee is co-hosting an event at Wesmor Community School beginning with a barbecue at noon.

We want to encourage people, if only for the day, to put it down for the day and try something else. Shelly Carriere

Various activities will fill the afternoon, including a floor hockey game between Carlton Comprehensive Public High School students and adults.

Open to the public, the afternoon community event is a means of offering alternatives to marijuana.

“That’s why we thought of the giveaways that we came up with,” Carriere said.

Stress balls to deal with stress, journals and pencils to write down feelings or lists of alternatives, water bottles to hydrate and take care of one’s body, and candy to satiate the hand-to-mouth action will be up for grabs.

The candies are Lifesavers, Carriere said, noting that although the metaphor is somewhat cheesy it’s worth contemplation in relation to drug use.

Also worthy of consideration are the following self-assessment questions that Carriere hopes to see those who smoke marijuana consider during a 5/21 without the drug:

Is pot use for me? Am I addicted? Can I quit if I want to? Am I dependent? Do I want to feel better? Can I get help? Do I have all the information? Are there other ways to cope? Can I say no?

The Prince Albert Addictions Awareness Committee formed during last year’s Saskatchewan Addictions Awareness Week, which is held the third week in November.

Consisting of addictions counsellors, concerned parents, recovering addicts and various community stewards, the organization was founded to host events throughout the year, Carriere explained.

“We saw a huge need to have more than one week a year with addiction awareness education.”

Wednesday’s event is open to the public and will begin at noon and is expected to carry on through the early afternoon.

Organizations: Prince Albert Addictions Awareness Committee, Wesmor Community School, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School Saskatchewan Addictions Awareness Week

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