Mary Jane, or maybe now it’s Kanni Bas? Only in Canada, you say?

Now that Tricky Trudeau has made good on his election promise to legalize marijuana, mostly to get votes from young people, the roll-out was so typically Canadian.

Justin made the promise in the “federal” election, committing to legalize recreational use of pot by the “federal” government, which, okay, he actually did, but as is so typically Canadian he left it to the provinces to decide the logistics. Who can grow it? Who can sell it? Who can buy it? Who can and will still be charged for illegally selling it? Who will enforce the law? And, the big one, who is going to buy it?

As usual Canadians couldn’t agree on anything. In some provinces it’s sold by the government, through existing liquor control boards (vice control?), or new government run stores (can you say Brewers Retail?). In other provinces it’s run by retail private enterprise, although it was a nightmare for them trying to decide to stay open before the law was passed, which meant being shut down and denied a license after the law came into effect. Go figure.

The stated goal was not to encourage the use of pot, especially by young people, despite the fact that they were already the largest group of users. No. It was to eliminate the “black market”, particularly organized crime. How? By making the legal price lower than you paid your local pot guy. Seriously? No. It was to collect all the new tax revenues from legal sellers, something they had never got a dime from before. Not only sales tax, but what drug dealer, big or small, ever paid income tax on the huge amount of money they made. That’s why so many seniors who were not able to afford to live on their meagre pensions started to grow pot. All that money and no tax! Cool!

Our feds have no problem laying down the law for pipelines or carbon tax. Not up to the provinces and not even any real consultation with all the native bands who manage their land. But, marijuana? No way, Jose. Other than signing it into law they wanted nothing to do with the very idea of having a national law that would cover every aspect of the business, plus things like policing, medical use and the expulsion of some half a million criminal records for simple possession. That would be far too simple.

For me personally I grew up in an era of some limited pot use, mostly because I was in a band and, well, there was always temptation everywhere. My one experience with pot was when I was the drummer for the house band at the old Club Bluenote in Toronto. One of the star entertainers we backed, Eric Mercury, offered me a joint in our dressing room. Of course I was in awe of this guy and felt stupid to say no. Peer pressure at its best.

The first song of our next set is a song only known to old guys like me, You Keep Me Hanging On, by Vanilla Fudge. Maybe you can’t stand the song but check out the tempo.

It’s pretty funky enough, but when I hit my snare in the warm-up I realized just how stoned I was. It sounded incredible! I counted in most of our songs so I started. Next thing I knew our lead guitarist, Nolan Yearwood, was turning around shouting at me to speed up! Apparently I was so stoned that I was playing it about half speed just grooving on this whole new sound from my kit. That was the last time I ever toked before playing, in fact, it pretty well scared me off pot forever.

Okay, I tried it a couple of other times in my life, but that’s a different story. Life’s cruelty caught up with me when I started to suffer terribly from a complication of my newly discovered diabetes. I got what’s called peripheral neuropathy in my feet. People have often asked me to describe what it’s like and the best description I’ve come up with is it’s like someone is holding a lighter under your feet. Excruciatingly painful and you are never without pain.

When I lived in London, Ontario a neighbor in the building asked me if I had ever tried marijuana for the pain? I hadn’t, so he said there was a nice senior on our floor that sold pot to the residents. I think it was ten dollars for three joints. I hid them in the freezer. Don’t forget it was very illegal and I figured the police had nothing better to do than bust a bunch of seniors.

So, one night I thought I would give it a try. Can’t hurt, right? It was the first time in years that my pain was gone! It only lasted a couple of hours but those were the best hours ever. I knew that medical marijuana was available so I thought I could get some that way. No sooner was I thinking that I might have some relief from my pain than I learned it would only cost SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS to apply! So much for that idea.

How has this personal experience formed my personal opinion about the possible benefits of marijuana?

Well, I believe that study after study has proven the medical benefits of pot for mitigating pain. No question. Recreational use? Well, a whole lot of folks like marijuana more than smoking or drinking, both of which have well documented perils. Not sure there has ever been a driver who has ever killed anyone under the influence of pot instead of being drunk. How many people have died of cancer from years of smoking cigarettes? How many innocent lives have been lost because of drunk driving? How many families have been destroyed by alcohol? Pot? Sure sounds a lot less dangerous to me.

Many people were dead set against legalizing recreational use of marijuana. I don’t agree that we should necessarily be promoting it, but I do believe one hundred percent that it needed to be decriminalized. Not long ago there was a case where a father was denied access to his flight from Canada to Disneyland with his four kids because he had a forty year old conviction for simple possession. It that fair? No way!

If legalization had been handled properly at the federal level there are tons of existing laws about the sale of cigarettes and alcohol. Why not just add pot as another controlled substance? That takes away the profit motive for all these huge companies jumping into growing and selling it. A twelve year old can’t go into a liquor store and buy beer, so what’s different with pot?

What the government could have done, in my mind far more responsibly, was allow people to grow their own for their own use. After all, it’s a weed! Someone like me could grow enough for pain management, something I still can’t do. Expunge the half a million criminal records for people charged with simple possession, which has grossly affected their lives, like not being able to get a job because they have a criminal record. Truly stupid.

What’s done is done, of course. Far too late to bring any common sense to the whole issue. I consider myself liberal, not in the political sense, open-minded and progressive, but I think Canada is going to regret this move. It’s already started off with huge challenges, like stockouts across the country. The whole issue of edibles has been delayed at least a year so there’s more trouble to come.

Just one man’s humble opinion. What’s yours?

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