Pubdate: Thu, 24 Apr 2014
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: G. D. Maxwell


The pall of pot smoke coalescing over Skier's Plaza Sunday afternoon 
at forty minutes to five was not visible from orbiting surveillance 
satellites. It might have been had there not been a heavy cloud cover 
obscuring their cameras, the ones sensitive enough to take 
connect-the-dots pictures of the freckles on a bald man's head.

What had been, in the hour or so before 4:20 p.m., persistent light 
wafting of sweet-smelling smoke from not-so openly puffed joints, 
gathered momentum quickly, like a skier straightlining a steepening 
slope. At 4:20 and thirty seconds, my eyes began to sting, my throat 
constricted slightly, my lungs laboured and my nostrils flared while 
the rest of the disparate parts I call myself swayed gently to the 
familiar patterns of songs made anthemic by Bob Marley and The 
Wailers, compliments of said Wailers, sans Bob in anything but spirit.

In the dark ages of pop pot culture, I had a strategy for gatherings 
such as rock concerts where I suspected there might be a reasonable 
chance for some crowdsourced pot smoking. Carefully husbanding what 
was both a scarce and expensive commodity, I'd roll a lone joint, not 
too skinny, not too fat, just a real humdinger, as Mitch Ryder might 
say. Around the time I felt both the momentum growing and the absence 
of sneaky cops, I'd spark 'er up and pass it around. This overt act 
of generosity begat an instant community and meant my new best 
friends and I would enjoy the benefits of everyone else's 
preparedness, thus assuring a festive evening none of us would have 
the capacity to remember. Fortunately, I made notes.

No such subterfuge was required Sunday afternoon. In fact, I may have 
been the only one in the crowd not packing. It didn't matter though. 
Moments after the Hairfarmers left the stage, the mosh pit began to 
take on the quality of a Tokyo subway at rush hour and the personal 
space where I'd had room to move was increasingly occupied by elbows, 
backpacks, nervous dogs, excited stoners, wild-eyed energy drinkers, 
aging hippies, bewildered children, humid skiers, puzzled tourists 
and no visible escape route. All of them, yes the dogs too, seemed to 
flame on at 4:20 and by 4:30 no one in the area could have 
successfully passed a random drug test. Fortunately, we were all 
aware of the Rebagliati Defence, not that any of us would need it in this town.

Notably absent from the scene, unless they were undercover, were the 
RCMP. Gentlemen, ladies, I salute you. It wasn't long ago you just 
couldn't bring yourself to display such restraint. Only two years 
ago, uniformed officers would troll through the 4/20 crowd, select 
some sad stoner at random, escort him to the stairs by Excalibur, 
turn out his pockets and go through the motions of writing the poor 
sap a citation. That the crowd gathered didn't rise up and riot is 
more a testament to the weed being smoked and the music being played 
- - and, perhaps native apathy - than the wisdom of official actions.

But this year, from my sightline-challenged location, nothing. In 
Vancouver, where an order of magnitude more people lit up, nothing.

Ironically, in Denver, where pot is more or less legal, police issued 
92 citations for public consumption over the two day 4/20 festival at 
Civic Park, compared to five they issued during the one-day smoke-in 
last year. That's because it's legal to smoke pot in Colorado at 
home, at friends' houses, quite possibly in the teachers' smoking 
lounge if they still have those, but not in public. Having become 
partly pregnant, stoners in the Mile High state ignored the vagaries 
of the law and toked en masse because (a) they could, (b) they want 
to get rid of the last vestiges of prohibition and, (c) well, heck, 
it's spring; why not?

Inevitably, there has been pushback to Colorado's brave experiment in 
sanity. National groups took the case to the White House's Office of 
National Drug Control Policy, asking the feds to intervene in 
Colorado and Washington and block legalization. A Colorado group 
concerned about the impacts of legalization - outbreaks of mass 
laughter and screaming munchies? - issued their own screed. Police in 
neighbouring states waited expectantly on their own side of the state 
line to catch stoners careering dangerously while driving under the influence.

But it's too late. In the home of the brave, land of the free market, 
the market has spoken and legal pot has become unstoppable. Ignoring 
for a moment the very positive impact legalizing marijuana has had on 
the Colorado's tax revenue, there is, as anticipated, sprung up like 
skunk cabbage in Whistler's spring, a corporate juggernaut of 
pot-related businesses in Colorado, embracing production, 
distribution, sales and pot tourism. Where business goes, votes are 
sure to follow and it is a brave and stupid politician that cries out 
to put an end to the party.

So where does that leave B.C., arguably home to the current form of 
the 4/20 celebration of all things cannabinoid? Bravely pushing the 
envelope, changing the paradigm, thinking outside the box and 
playing, yes, the historic role of Johnny Canuck - Hewer of Wood, 
Drawer of Water, Provider of Natural Resources for the World.

Ignoring the widely known and highly respected success of the 
province's pot farmers - the storied and cutting-edge B.C. Bud - our 
current provincial government is busy playing Me-Too in the LNG 
floating timebombs game. It's supporting tearing mountains apart and 
despoiling watersheds for a pocketful of copper and gold. It's 
getting its ducks in line to roll over and play dead for a couple of 
big pipelines. It's actively building a ski resort where no one wants 
one built. It's ready to open the province's parks to commercial exploitation.

And it is profoundly silent on stepping boldly into the minefield of 
potonomics. "Ooh, that's a federal issue," coos Premieress Christy 
Clark, ignoring the dichotomy of Colorado and Washington taking the 
reins and passing state laws legalizing pot in the face of the U.S. 
federal prohibition and continuing War on Drugs, a war that's 
beginning to look a lot like the stoic battle fought by the Black 
Knight in (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). "It's only a flesh wound."

But it's a battle our own lady of darkness is unwilling to fight. 
It's an opportunity we'll cede to our friends on the other side of 
the border, at least for now. After all, why be an early adopter of 
something truly sustainable when you can go on cutting wood, digging 
minerals, delivering bitumen and selling your resources for a mess of 
pottage? It is, after all, the Canadian way.

In the meantime, another generation will muddle through, high but 
cynical and always looking over its shoulder to make sure the fellow 
traveller behind them isn't sporting well-polished shoes.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom