A NEW ERA DAWNS

With le­gal­iza­tion Oct. 17, what was once con­sid­ered a taboo sub­ject is now a con­ver­sa­tion more peo­ple are hav­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - LIVING - BY DAVE STE­WART Dave Ste­wart is a journalist with The Guardian in Char­lot­te­town.

It’s not the taboo sub­ject it once was in pop cul­ture. The sale of cannabis will be­come le­gal for those 19 and over across Canada on Oct. 17 and the con­ver­sa­tion sur­round­ing the drug has been shift­ing over the past few years. That chang­ing di­a­logue can be heard through­out the east coast. Al­li­son Wolvers, as­sis­tant man­ager at Wild Im­pulse in Char­lot­te­town, P.E.I., which car­ries a wide se­lec­tion of smok­ing essentials, said there is much more ac­cep­tance and a lot less stigma now. In fact, Canada’s small­est province is build­ing a store that will sell cannabis just a few doors down from Wild Im­pulse. “Peo­ple aren’t so se­cre­tive about it anymore,” Wolvers said. “It’s not just the pot­heads com­ing in. We get soccer moms com­ing in. We get men with PTSD (post-trau­matic stress disor­der) com­ing in to talk about stuff. It’s a lot more ed­u­ca­tion and peo­ple are a lot more open these days, and that’s even be­fore it’s be­com­ing le­gal.” Wild Im­pulse looks to cap­i­tal­ize on the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis, of­fer­ing a num­ber of sales and dis­counts on their prod­ucts in the leadup to Oct. 17. “I would say the stigma is wear­ing off and there’s a lot more peo­ple who are more com­fort­able com­ing into the store,” Wolvers said. “Be­fore I would never get just a run-of-themill mom com­ing in and ask­ing about va­por­iz­ers. Peo­ple are now ac­tu­ally com­ing in for in­for­ma­tion and to get ed­u­cated.” But Brad Smith, an em­ployee at Mary Jane’s Smoke Shop in Hal­i­fax, N.S., said there is a mis­con­cep­tion that Oct. 17 means a lot more peo­ple are go­ing to start con­sum­ing cannabis. “We’re not see­ing an in­flux of peo­ple who are say­ing we’re go­ing to start smok­ing,” Smith said, not­ing where they are see­ing an in­crease is with peo­ple con­sid­er­ing cannabis as a medic­i­nal op­tion to doc­tor-pre­scribed pills. “I think you’re see­ing so many soccer moms and older peo­ple... they’re com­ing in and they’re look­ing for va­por­iz­ers and tech­nol­ogy for va­p­ing that their doc­tors are rec­om­mend­ing. (We’re) def­i­nitely see­ing an in­crease in that.’’ Mary Jane’s Smoke Shop in St. John’s, N.L., de­clined an in­ter­view. But may­ors in that province are con­vers­ing on cannabis. Their re­cent mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties con­ven­tion in­cluded a lunch with Aurora cannabis, a li­censed pro­ducer. Lewis­porte, N.L., Mayor Betty Clarke hopes the health and safety risks of the il­le­gal mar­ket will be less­ened. "Ru­mour has it that mar­i­juana on the black mar­ket can be laced with un­known sub­stances, so I think le­gal­iz­ing cannabis will bet­ter pro­tect peo­ple," she told SaltWire Net­work. Back in P.E.I., 30-year-old An­nie MacEach­ern of Char­lot­te­town started out con­sum­ing cannabis recre­ation­ally when she was 18 but felt it was ben­e­fit­ing her in other ways. “I quickly kind of started re­al­iz­ing that it was help­ing with the di­ges­tive is­sues that I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing so I was self-med­i­cat­ing for prob­a­bly about 10 years be­fore I pur­sued my med­i­cal cannabis pre­scrip­tion,” MacEach­ern said. “I’ve been a med­i­cal pa­tient for about a year.” MacEach­ern is now a cannabis ad­vo­cate. She was re­cently nom­i­nated cannabis cru­sader for the Cana­dian Cannabis Awards. And she wasn’t sur­prised when she heard the drug was be­ing le­gal­ized. “I think this is just kind of round one. We’re go­ing to see it rev up. We’re not go­ing to see edi­bles or con­cen­trates, two of the, maybe, health­ier al­ter­na­tives to com­bus­tion. We’re not go­ing to see those hit the shelves un­til 2019. So, while Oct. 17 is a re­ally great first step, we’re not done and so many ad­vo­cates have so much more work to do.” MacEach­ern hopes le­gal­iza­tion means less stigma and more ed­u­ca­tion around con­sump­tion of cannabis. “With al­co­hol we’ve seen a cul­ture of binge drink­ing, of over con­sump­tion, we’ve glo­ri­fied nights of black­ing out and that is dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour. I re­ally don’t want to see the cannabis in­dus­try go that way. I want to see a move of mind­ful and mod­er­ate con­sump­tion.’’ Craig Gaudet, 49, of Sum­mer­side, P.E.I., agrees. He was a recre­ational user for years and now uses it medic­i­nally. “I’d sooner see a bunch of guys smok­ing a joint than drink­ing a bot­tle of rum,” Gaudet said. “I do see (le­gal­iza­tion) as a step for­ward in the fact that it is be­ing le­gal­ized and it’s go­ing to be more so­cially ac­cept­able that way. A lot more peo­ple who want to try it and want to use it for med­i­cal rea­sons are go­ing to be able to get a lot more easy ac­cess to it. I see it re­plac­ing things like As­pirin and low-dose anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries and stuff like that that you buy over the counter.” Gary Lippman, 52, of Char­lot­te­town, P.E.I., said he comes from a home where the mere sub­ject of cannabis when he was young was taboo. Now, he’s fine with talk­ing about it openly. He’s a cur­rent recre­ational user who is try­ing to be­come a medic­i­nal user. “I started smok­ing as a kid when I was 17, maybe younger than that,” Lippman said. Then Lippman spent 22 years in the U.S. Army. “I went 22 years with­out (cannabis), and through the course of work and travel, I de­vel­oped dif­fi­cul­ties with age and pain and suf­fer­ing and some form of PTSD.’’ Asked if cannabis will help, Lippman an­swers ab­so­lutely. “My anx­i­ety level is go­ing to drop eas­ily.’’ How­ever, through his ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing cannabis over the years, Lippman has found a va­ri­ety of strains that re­sult in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ef­fects. He feels there needs to be more ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially for first-time users. “Some­thing needs to be done ... so many first-time users have bad ex­pe­ri­ences through lack of ex­pe­ri­ence. I was com­pletely un­e­d­u­cated about it.’’

DAVE STE­WART • THE GUARDIAN

Jean­nette Affleck, man­ager of Wild Im­pulse in Char­lot­te­town, which car­ries a wide se­lec­tion of smok­ing essentials, said the con­ver­sa­tion around cannabis has changed over the last few years. What was once con­sid­ered a taboo sub­ject in the main­stream is now be­com­ing more pop cul­ture.

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