Higher than ever

Cannabis le­gal in Canada

Montreal Times - - News - By Ser­gio Martinez mtl­times.ca

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.

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