Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun
Note: Chris Bennett is also co-author of 'Sex, Drugs, Violence and the 
Bible' which posits the sacramental use of cannabis by biblical era Jews 
and Christians.  - MAP editor
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Bennett, Chris)
Bookmark: (Boje, Renee)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Chris Bennett Took His First Toke At Age 12. He's Been At It Ever Since

It's 10 a.m. and the pungent odor of pot lingers around the headquarters of 
the Marijuana Party on West Hastings Street.

It doesn't take a sleuth to know the law is being broken here. Check out 
the law books. It is still an offence in Canada to possess and smoke marijuana.

Yet no police hover nearby ready to swoop.

Inside sits 40-year-old Chris Bennett. He is content. He has already had a 
joint with his morning coffee.

"To tell you the truth, I have much more of a problem dealing with coffee 
in my life than I have ever had dealing with marijuana," he chats affably, 
while his 11-month-old son, Shiva, crawls around nearby.

His wife, Renee Boje, keeps a watchful eye on the bright-eyed little boy.

She knows all too well the consequences of straying on the wrong side of 
the law. She faces 10 years in prison in the U.S. for aiding a medical 
growing operation in California. But now she has refugee status in Canada, 
the land of the benign, turn-a-blind-eye approach to all but major 
marijuana trafficking offences.

Bennett doesn't mind giving his name or having his photo taken.

"There is a situation of de facto decriminalization here in Vancouver," he 
says confidently. If police catch you with a small stash, "generally, they 
just throw it away and don't bother charging you because it's not worth 
clogging the court system."

He has been smoking pot for 28 years.

"I smoked pot for the first time when I was 12 years old. It was at my 
school in Deep Cove. I was quite frightened of it for some years before and 
quite horrified when I learned some of my school chums had been smoking 
marijuana. But the trend hit my school and I went out and scored a little pot."

At first, he didn't get high. In fact, it took him about a year of trying 
the weed before he actually felt its euphoric benefits.

"When I was a kid, it was mostly an escape from boredom. It was pretty 
readily available, unlike alcohol, which you had to find some bootlegger to 
go into the liquor store for you."

Now, he's a convert.

"I'd say the cannabis stoned state is very similar to the meditative state 
in that being high has a tendency to bring one really focused into the 

Go to any snowboard hill, skateboard park, jam session of musicians or 
gathering of surfers on the West Coast, he counsels, and you'll find the 
same thing: pot. Lots of it.

It doesn't bother him that he is breaking the law when he partakes of his 
favourite elixir.

"The only reason we have continued legislation against marijuana is to 
placate America, and it's purely over trade. It's got nothing to do with 
the morality of what is right and what is wrong."

For the past decade or so, he has been very open in his consumption of 
marijuana. He wouldn't hesitate to smoke in front of the Marijuana Party's 
storefront office on West Hastings although he wouldn't do it in a 
restaurant or bar where it wasn't welcome. Other than that, he would light 
up almost anywhere.

"I think anyone with a little bit of courtesy and common sense can get away 
with smoking marijuana here in Vancouver," he said. "You have to be pretty 
aggressive to get busted for simple possession."
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MAP posted-by: Jackl