Higher than ever
Cannabis legal in Canada
This past Wednesday Canada became the second country in the world –after Uruguay– to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. And the response to this notable event in Canadian life was also quite spectacular in our city: by midafternoon the line to buy legal pot from downtown SQDC (Société québécoise du cannabis) on Ste. Catherine between Mansfield and Metcalfe counted many hundreds. Indeed it snaked around Metcalfe to finish at the entrance of the Sun Life Building, and by then more people kept arriving.
Observing the crowd gathered around the store, plus some dozens of journalists, TV crews, and a few curious bystanders, one had the opportunity to capture what was an exceptional moment.Two of those whom I interviewed actually used the term "historic" regarding the occasion, although one of them asked me to withdraw it, maybe he considered too grandiloquent.The crowd waiting to get into the store was very mixed, although with a predominance of young people (18 to thirty-something group), but also with some older men and women (one lady, probably in her sixties, said that she felt very happy for the occasion, but then refused to give her name and didn't allow me to take her picture).
The end of prohibition, as one of the young men, characterized the moment, perhaps contributed also to an ambivalent attitude among the potential pot buyers: while they were happy to share the occasion, at the same time they had some reservations to provide their names or have their pictures taken. An understandable situation one may say.
"We have been waiting for four hours," told us Louis Serre and Victor H., two francophone young men who didn't regret the long wait since for them the fact that the government is handling the sale of cannabis offers more guarantees on the safety of the product.They also emphasized the importance of this new era for those who need it for therapeutic purposes. Michael Clarke also lining up for a long time, regarded the moment as "very meaningful" and added this was a small step to initiate a conversation toward a more progressive society. "Now it is very important that those charged with possession before this law went into effect that they should not have a criminal record," he said.
Two female Concordia students for their part asked not to reveal their identities, but they also underlined what the new legislation meant to them: "we'll get to know what effects this new situation of legal cannabis could bring to our society" and in regard to the products they indicated that "there will be more variety." They also were very critical of the new provincial government's attempt to set the legal age to buy marijuana at 21, "no jurisdiction in the country has such a requirement," they said. "It would also contribute to a black market selling pot to young people," added one of them. Cyr, a thirty-something francophone was there mostly because he wants to use cannabis to deal with pain. We finally the reach of the line just in front of the Sun Life Building, where Ryan and Zach were happy that this moment has finally come: "it's historic" said Ryan. "An exciting time, the end of prohibition," they said in a very enthusiastic tone, somehow contrasting with the grey afternoon.
Indeed, the beginning of a new era regarding a substance whose use will remain controversial, but at the same time, an occasion to underline the libertarian character of the Canadian society.Without overlooking the fact that freedom should also be accompanied by responsibility.