Don’t Bogart That Joint Policy, My Friend: Give It A Pardon Instead
For a nation that fetishizes fake virtue, Canada’s rollout of legalized marijuana on Wednesday might have been the Parnassus of self absorption. Blanket coverage by the domestic press of the first stores opening suggested something akin to a PCP D-Day in its scope and gravity.
In case you’ve been in a medically induced coma the past year, you know that Canada is only the second nation in the developed world to legalize the sale of recreational cannabis in its various forms. This basically completes the process that began with the legalization of medical marijuana a few years back.
So flimsy were those requirements to get a doctor’s note for dope that many Canadians— particularly those who don’t use the stuff— were already bored stiff by the risqué slant adopted by the media this week. If this be scandal then heaven help us if hemlines go up in Fashion Week.
Like any stolen fruit, marijuana has achieved mythical status— one reflected by the blanket coverage the TV networks dedicated to the issue. We learned— egad— that a house where people smoked weed would be worth less on the market.
Naturally, the coverage in the foreign press of daring old Canada breaking the shibboleths around smoke was dutifully repeated to satisfy our culture industry— the one that inhales outsiders’ praise the way marijuana users inhale a joint. Sadly, however impressed they might be, Americans told us that our boldness will not be rewarded at their border.
Everyone from casual consumer to owner of industrial marijuana grow-ops will be hassled bigly if they bring their Canadian habit with them to America.
One earnest CTV host summed up the sanctimony when she asked a reporter on the scene of a store opening in Montreal whether the people who’d waited in line for a hit or a swallow of their favourite weed were “taking the day off work.” Yeah, they delayed the opening of the stock market just so the brokers could get their spliffs.
(If you wanted to play a drinking game, take a hit every time you see a male customer wearing a beard interviewed on TV. You’d be hammered in 30 seconds. The biggest challenge for supporters of #legalcannabis was finding a tie in their father’s cupboard for the TV hits every network was doing.)
If weed is a problem, it’s a self-made problem. The irrational ban on marijuana in society when alcohol was permitted was one of the mystery factors attacked by marijuana use over the years. The culture industry certainly embraced the risky business aspect of weed, starting with 1969 movies like M*A*S*H where football players were toking during the Korean War of the ‘50s.
For those of us who’ve lived since Woodstock with the idea that cannabis is the quintessential counter-culture talisman it’s a relief that the exalted status of weed might finally be reduced to tedious habit for other people. No longer will we subjected to a blanket of “look-at-me” smoke in a concert or on the sidewalk.
Don’t get me wrong. God bless those who need it for medical purposes (still a controversial claim) or just to unwind after a tough week at the hemp factory. You have a bong, I’ll sip a Barossa. Santé.
Perhaps it was coincidence, but in the welter of coverage I sat through on Wednesday I saw many, many store settings but none where the story is really a story: on the native reserves, bike gang hangouts and Asian gangs shops that will continue to defy the government shops (Alberta continues to go rogue with private stores).
Just how low will the price go in the black-market battle? How long can governments, with all their inefficiencies, lose money on the product to eliminate the shadowy suppliers who can also get foreign product? (All legal sales must be domestic product.) According to reports Ontario plans to lose “$48 million over the first two years. Even by 2021, Ontario pot revenue will only be about $100 million per year.” The federal government coffers are not likely to overflow with tax dollars anytime soon.
One good thing. The normalization of weed by government will subject it to the strangling embrace of bureaucracy and bassakwardness that governments specialize in. Before they’re done bureaucratizing the stuff it’ll be as daring as getting a building permit.
In one example, Ontario is not opening any stores just yet. All sales will be online for now. Ditto Nunavut. Can’t be too careful. (Ontario was overwhelmed by orders on Day One, meaning no one got product. A place to stand, a place to blow, Ontari-ari-ari-oooo.)
But the Trudeaupian pièce de resistance was using launch day to announce that the government will be offering pardons to those who were convicted of possession. (Forget that many bargained down from trafficking charges to mere possession to avoid jail time.) Again, the pardons may still not impress U.S. border types.
Now that the Virtuous One has exhausted the low-hanging fruit of weed legalization it might be a great time for him to give the rest of the job to Ralph Goodale and move to an ashram where his Indian wardrobe will come in handy. Don’t Bogart that join policy, my friend.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps AreKilling Pro Sports And How The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.