Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2008
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Sudbury Star
Author: Michele Mandel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Organizers were handing out festival maps at Queen's Park yesterday,
but the kids ahead of me just laughed them off.

"Who the hell needs a map?" chuckled one freedom toker to the other.
"Just follow the smell."

You sure couldn't miss it. My editor told me not to inhale, but I'm
not sure what he was smoking when he offered that impossible advice.
At Saturday's Toronto Freedom Festival and Global Marijuana March, the
pungent aroma of weed was everywhere as thousands converged in the
pouring rain to openly puff away in the leafy backyard of our
provincial legislature.

Ah, yes, plunk a soccer mom in the midst of a muddy marijuana
smokefest and behold her confusion. How many different shaped bongs
can there possibly be? Who knew you could smoke a doobie the size of
an Arnold Schwarzenegger cigar? And why is that guy inhaling his grass
through a gas mask?

"It's just funny," coughs Josh Spatz, an 18-year-old aficionado from
Uxbridge, after removing said gas mask to explain. "It just makes your
eyes burn a lot more but it grabs your attention."

Sure does. So Josh, I hate to be maternal, but do your parents know
where you are?

"Oh, yeah, my mom's cool with it. If it's not at her house, it's not
her problem," he laughs. "I've been smoking since Grade 8 - weekends,
weekdays. It's a way of life. It calms me down and keeps me centred
and it's a lot better than prescription drugs."

Wrapped in a red and white flag with a cannabis leaf at its centre, he
decided to come down to find out what the festival was all about.
"It's pretty cool. I never thought I could smoke pot in downtown
Toronto without getting arrested."

Yeah, about that. Aren't all these happy, mellow people breaking the
law? "We've been doing this for 10 years and we've never had a single
charge," boasts festival co-founder Neev Tapiro.

So, Neev, how much do you think is being peacefully puffed out there
under the implicit approval of Toronto's finest?

"Ooh, that's a curveball," he replies thoughtfully. He calls over a
fellow organizer and after some heavy mathematical calculations by two
men feeling no pain, they arrive at an estimate of 60 kilograms of
weed going up in smoke.

"That's a lot of lost tax dollars," Tapiro grins. "You could fund a
small hospital on that."

The festival, you see, isn't just about the giddy freedom of toking in
public - though there was certainly a lot of that. It was also about
joining 200 other cities around the world to press for the
legalization of weed.

Among the speakers is 36-year-old Derek Pedro, a medicinal marijuana
user who always shunned going public until he was charged by Hamilton
Police - even though he's been legally licensed since 2004 to grow and
possess cannabis.

"I can't handle it anymore, I have to speak out. After all, it's just
a plant," says Pedro, who now uses marijuana to replace the 160 mg of
Percocets a day he once needed to treat his painful connective tissue
disorder. "It's a health issue but I have to explain myself all the

But I'm not sure the politics of marijuana are much on the minds of
many of these wet, glassy-eyed potheads.

Certainly not for "John" and his wide-eyed crew. Like kids in a candy
store, he and his young pals are wandering through the festival taking
in the music blaring from the stage and a cornucopia of booths that
have transformed the Queen's Park lawn into one massive head shop.

They claim they're 16, but all those braces sure make them look like
they've escaped from day care. Needless to say, they aren't keen on
offering their real names. "We found out about it on Facebook," says
Mackenzie. "My parents think I just went out with friends."

"It's a really cool feeling," he shrugs, sensing a mom's disapproval.
"If it's not this, it's alcohol and this is a far less dangerous drug.

"I just wish we'd brought a tent," John sighs to his friends, glancing
at the many tarps dotting the park.

"We could have hot boxed it."

I wander off, assuming I kind of understand what that means only to
arrive in "Yongesterdam" where people are sucking on gigantic
condom-like plastic bags.

OK, now you've really lost me.

"We're vapourizing," explains 20-year-old Tom from

According to my friendly cannabis tutor, the $650 contraption heats
your buds, turning them into vapour which is then trapped in a plastic
bag for your inhalation pleasure.

"This is much healthier. It's pure THC - all the chemicals are burned
off. Want to try it?"

Sorry, but I'm off to check out the fajitas booth instead. After all
this second-hand smoke, I have a serious case of the munchies.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin