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Marijuana as scapegoat, cannabis as medicine : a cognitive-rhetorical analysis of a Canadian drug-policy problem Steen, Robin Jonathan


This thesis examines the remarkable ambivalence towards Cannabis sativa L. in Canada, evidenced in the high-stakes contest between competing public conceptions of, and private interests in, the drug-plant and cash crop. Official policy regarding the enigmatic substance over the first decade of the 21st century has been notably erratic, and during this period a number of dramatic shifts in Canada’s administrative and clinical approaches to cannabis have occurred. This has resulted in changes which stand out significantly in the history of the plant’s medicinal, recreational, and industrial use in this country. Despite the recent surge in acceptance and legitimacy of its medical use in a number of jurisdictions, the definition, classification, regulation, prescription, cultivation, marketing, and consumption of cannabis for therapeutic purposes continue to pose, for many groups and individuals in this country, a medico-legal dilemma—with the boundary between licit and illicit a blurry one in deed, and in word. The many lingering questions about proper ethical and practical conduct within (and parallel to) the framework of the MMAR have made it exceedingly difficult for many participants to arrive at a comfortable fit between the activities pursuant to their roles and the uncertain, unqualifiable, or unappreciated value (or risk) entailed by those roles. I intend not only to improve understanding of the rhetorical, linguistic, and socio-cognitive basis of a particular drug-policy problem, but also to demonstrate, in so doing, the broad analytical reach of rhetorical theory and criticism, and the usefulness of applying rhetorical and cognitive-linguistic methodologies together. Through analysis of suasive elements of key terms and conceptual structures in the discourse, and of differently motivated role-value connections assumed by participants therein, I forward the claim that marijuana has played the part of the scapegoat in medicine and, more broadly, among all drugs.

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