FROM REEFER MAD­NESS TO LE­GAL­IZA­TION

CANADA TO MAKE HIS­TORY OC­TO­BER 17

Cape Breton Post - - Cannabis / News - BY JOHN DEMONT John Demont is a writer with The Chron­i­cle Her­ald in Hal­i­fax.

There are a lot of places to be­gin the story of cannabis in Canada.

So how about with a strange, medi­ocre movie be­cause that is where so many mem­bers of the largest gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans in his­tory — the baby boomers — learned of “perp,” “keef,” “gang­ster,” “doo­bie,” as mar­i­juana was known on a fed­eral govern­ment web­site pre­pared in an­tic­i­pa­tion of Oct. 17, when mar­i­juana will be le­gal­ized.

To watch Reefer Mad­ness in 2018 is to won­der.

Why is ev­ery adult in the movie — the mut­ter­ing, alarmed par­ents, the bug-eyed school prin­ci­pal, the pot-ad­dled mur­derer played with scenery-chew­ing brio by a star of “B” western movies — so old?

How, even in the late 1930s, did they get away with the laugh­able stereo­typ­ing: the deal­ers and users are the chil­dren of di­vorce and live in ur­ban ten­e­ments; the first per­son to light a spliff is a jit­tery jazz pi­anist with wild Chico Marx hair, whose an­ces­tors prob­a­bly did not come from the Bri­tish Isles?

Most of all, how did we get from there — when a cou­ple of tokes was thought to lead to “emo­tional dis­tur­bances,” “acts of shock­ing vi­o­lence” and “in­cur­able in­san­ity” — to to­day, when it will be pos­si­ble next week to buy a joint in premises as sleek and shiny as an Ap­ple store?

The eas­i­est thing to say is that the key mo­ment oc­curred in 2012, at the na­tional Lib­eral con­ven­tion when Grits from across the coun­try vowed to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana. And when elected, Justin Trudeau kept that prom­ise.

“More than push­ing the agenda for­ward he put his money where his mouth is,” says Jonathan Hiltz, di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment for INDIVA Ltd., a Lon­don, Ont., li­censed cannabis pro­ducer, who has writ­ten a newly pub­lished book called The Wild West: Canada’s Le­gal­iza­tion of Mar­i­juana.

Bill C-45, which le­gal­izes the recre­ational use of weed in this coun­try, was in­tro­duced in April 2017 and passed by the House of Com­mons seven months later.

As Ot­tawa sub­se­quently de­creed, on Oct. 17 Canada will be the sec­ond coun­try in the world — and first in the G7 — to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana pro­duc­tion, sale and con­sump­tion. (South of the bor­der, nine states and the Dis­trict of Columbia have le­gal­ized or de­crim­i­nal­ized recre­ational pot use, while 30 al­low med­i­cal use.)

“There’s no tem­plate for what we are do­ing,” says Shawn King, the Hal­i­fax-based cre­ative di­rec­tor and cre­ator of the Turn­ing a New Leaf pod­cast. “Decades from now his­to­ri­ans will be look­ing at what we did and say that was his­tory in the mak­ing.”

And his­tory is sel­dom straight­for­ward.

Be­fore pot could be le­gal it had to be nor­mal, says John Bod­ner, who teaches so­cial cul­tural stud­ies at Memo­rial Univer­sity of New­found­land’s Gren­fell cam­pus.

That meant pot eco­nom­ics had to change.

Bod­ner took me through how, in the 1970s and 80s, new grow­ing tech­niques in­creased yields and low­ered costs and a shift oc­curred away from im­port­ing weed from Cal­i­for­nia and Mex­ico to do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion.

“There is more avail­able, it is bet­ter and cheaper,” he says.

So, long be­fore our MPs and se­na­tors were de­bat­ing the pros and cons of be­ing able to buy pot like a six-pack of Kei­ths, Cana­di­ans were grow­ing our own.

We had ac­tivists — Marc and Jodie Emery in On­tario and Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s An­nie MacEach­ern — push­ing for le­gal­iza­tion.

And of course, Cana­di­ans were light­ing up.

Who can for­get when, in 1984, New Bruns­wick pre­mier Richard Hat­field found him­self at the cen­tre of a scan­dal af­ter mar­i­juana was found in his lug­gage dur­ing a rou­tine se­cu­rity check at the Fred­er­ic­ton air­port.

Hat­field, later mixed up in al­le­ga­tions of co­caine and weed-fu­elled par­ty­ing with Fred­er­ic­ton youths, was trav­el­ling with Queen El­iz­a­beth II dur­ing her royal tour at the time.

The list of Cana­dian politi­cians who have owned up to hav­ing the oc­ca­sional puff is lengthy: Justin Trudeau; for­mer Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, whose drug use was said to go far deeper than a lit­tle weed; fed­eral NDP leader Jack Lay­ton who, when asked about whether or not he smoked pot, replied, “Yes, and some might say I never ex­haled.”

Even Nova Sco­tia’s for­mer pre­mier Dar­rell Dex­ter, now a cannabis lob­by­ist, con­ceded that he smoked some at univer­sity.

It’s not just politi­cos who sparked one up be­fore cannabis be­came le­gal.

Lit­er­ary im­mor­tal Pierre Ber­ton seemed to speak with some au­thor­ity in 2010 when he ap­peared on The Rick Mercer Re­port and gave a tu­to­rial about joint rolling in which he ex­plained that he pre­ferred the “clas­sic cone-shaped joint, what the young peo­ple call a ‘coner.’”

And a quick Google search will turn up plenty of video ev­i­dence that Hal­i­fax’s own Trailer Park Boys — who are plan­ning to en­ter the le­gal ganja mar­ket in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a New Bruns­wick grower — have shared a few real-life blunts with the leg­endary, hardsmok­ing rap­per Snoop Dogg, who ap­peared on their show.

All of which goes to un­der­score that pub­lic at­ti­tude to­wards mar­i­juana has been chang­ing through­out this coun­try for a long time.

That’s not re­motely sur­pris­ing to Don Mills, the CEO of Hal­i­fax-based polling com­pany Cor­po­rate Re­search As­so­ciates, who notes that in the last 20 years Cana­di­ans, al­ready known for their tol­er­ance, “have be­come very lib­er­al­ized in how we think about ev­ery­thing.”

Put le­gal­ized mar­i­juana squarely in that cat­e­gory, says the poll­ster, who notes that his com­pany’s re­search has shown that, in just a few short years, At­lantic Canada has gone from ma­jor­ity op­po­si­tion to le­gal pot to ma­jor­ity sup­port.

“I an­tic­i­pate that once it be­comes le­gal, sup­port will in­crease fairly rapidly,” Mills says. We are about to find out.

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