On being … into the weeds

By Ingrid Sapona

Autumn in Canada always brings a marked change in the air and people’s behaviour. The days seem to suddenly become shorter so it feels like you’re headed to work in the middle of the night. The landscape, which normally occupies the background, suddenly takes its bow at centre stage with yellows, oranges, and reds. The drop in temperature sends us digging deep into drawers and closets to pull out sweaters and corduroys.

Normally, the only uncertainty about autumn in Canada is when these changes will happen. This year, however, one autumn day will change things across all of Canada: October 17th. That’s the day recreational cannabis (marijuana, as it’s more commonly called) becomes legal here.

Legalization has been on the horizon for some time. But, in these last few days before the 17th, there have been multiple news stories about it daily. Here are a just a few headlines from the Toronto Star this past week:
  • ·       The weed man of St. John’s – about a guy in Newfoundland (a province with its own time zone out in the Atlantic) who hopes to be the first person in Canada to legally sell pot for recreational use.
  • ·       Expect cannabis shortages across the country, Aphria warns – a business story about concerns raised by Aphria, a licensed marijuana producer, about supply chain problems and product shortages.
  • ·       Ontario pot-sale plan raises health concerns – about warnings that legalized marijuana may promote a generation of addicts.
  • ·       Toronto police face strict pot use rules – about the Toronto Police force’s announcement that officers will be banned from using recreational marijuana within 28 days of being on duty.
  • ·       Cannabis awareness campaign imminent as legalization looms – about a government ad campaign on the rules, regulations, and health and safety matters related to pot.

Closer to home, my condo Board is grappling with rules related to cannabis use in and around the building. The Board surveyed owners on whether to allow pot smoking on balconies and within one’s own unit. The majority of survey respondents would like it banned everywhere in the building. The Board has the right to pass a rule about things like this unless at least 15% of owners demand a formal vote. Well, that’s happened, so the matter will be up for vote at our November Annual General Meeting.

In principle, I don’t care if pot is legalized. I’m not a user and I can’t see myself becoming one – it’s just never interested me. But, given how popular marijuana use is, I figure the government may as well profit from it. If it seems cynical to think that’s one of the motivators for this change, you need look no further than a postcard the government sent out to tell us about the ins and outs of the Cannabis Act. One of the eight bullet points on the card says: “Legal cannabis has an excise stamp appearing on it.” So, rather than the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, if there’s an excise stamp on it, you can rest assured the government’s share of the proceeds have been accounted for.

Since the summer, I’ve started thinking more seriously about how legalization of marijuana will impact people’s daily life and society in general. In Ontario, the rules that apply to smoking cigarettes will also apply to pot. At my sail club, for example, there are quite a few smokers. Though Ontario has rules that say no smoking inside, or on covered patios, or under party tents, the reality is, it’s pretty hard to stay up-wind when groups of folks are enjoying a smoke near the Club’s Gazebo bar.

Over the summer I was invited to someone’s house for a BBQ. I didn’t know most of the people there, and a few of us brought some desserts, which were put out as a buffet. As I reached for a brownie, I couldn’t help wonder whether – in years to come – I’d be more hesitant to choose something from the dessert table if I didn’t know who the baker was.

And of course, there’s the question of the impact THC (the ingredient in marijuana that gives you the buzz) will have on people’s general behaviour. From what I’ve read, there are a lot of unknowns. We all learned defensive driving, which is where you watch for others drivers’ erratic behavior. Now, besides watching for others driving, maybe we’ll have to pay more attention to erratic behavior by everyone on the street. (Mind you, with people walking and doing things on their mobile devices, having heightened attention to everything that moves is probably a good idea regardless.)

I remember the fuss about Y2K and how that ended up being a nothing. And I’ve also read articles about what society was like when Prohibition ended and it seemed that was a non-event too. Maybe a couple years from now I’ll look back on my trepidation with a touch of embarrassment. Hell, maybe it’ll end up being just what’s needed to get us through the Trump years…

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona


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