Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jan 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Barry Cooper (Barry Cooper teaches political science at the
University of Calgary.)
Page: A11


Albertans might be forgiven for thinking the whole province is stoned

Visiting British Columbia is like going to a foreign land without using
your passport.

Having spent most of my early life there, it's always fun to see how much
has changed. When I was a kid, for example, there was a major moral panic
over marijuana use and another about Vancouver being the heroin gateway to
North America.

The drug scene today is the opposite of a moral panic. It's more a matter
of everyday complacency. With pot soon to be legal across the country,
B.C. provides a glimpse of our future. Indeed, if you wander through B.C.
today, as we did over the Christmas break, more or less normal Albertans
might be forgiven for thinking the whole province is stoned.

Our first evidence came at a steak joint in Abbotsford. The waiter looked
puzzled when I asked for steak sauce. He first brought mustard to the
table, then ketchup. Our daughter, more familiar with such behaviour than
her parents, stated matter-of-factly, "the guy is stoned."

The steak, ordered rare, was grey. I pointed this out to the waiter, who
got the manager.

"This steak is cooked just right," the manager announced. He was stoned, too.

B.C. has long had a serious relationship with pot. Years ago, "B.C. bud"
was in demand all along the West Coast, from Juneau to San Diego. But then
hydroponics and the invention of medical marijuana introduced a whole new
set of options.

In the past year, Vancouver pot entrepreneurs have expanded their
operations with the usual unintended and comic political effects.

Vancouver city council voted against allowing grocery stores to sell wine
because it was said to be unhealthy. Yet, in a city that is poorly served
with wine outlets, at least compared to Calgary, there are dozens of
illegal pot dispensaries.

These are not places where you need a prescription to purchase weed. They
are retail stores advertising what's in stock and the effects that, say,
Bruce Banner No. 3 or Bubba Kush have on their clients.

Evidently, the Vancouver police don't bother to enforce what is still
Canadian law. Nevertheless, the municipality demanded these retail outlets
purchase expensive business licences. Or at least it tried to do so.
Several pot marts have discovered that they can get along quite well
without a licence. And they refuse to pay when they are fined for
operating without one.

There is also a gloomy side to the drug scene in B.C. By mid-December,
more than 750 people had died from drug overdoses, mostly from opioids. By
normal standards, that would be an epidemic.

Back in 2003, 44 people died from SARS in the whole country and it was
deemed an epidemic. In November alone, 128 people in B.C. died from drugs.

Even pets have suffered. A touching story in the Victoria paper told of
Chico the pug pup, who ate opioid-laced scraps while walking in Mount
Douglas Park.

At first, the veterinarian, Helen Rae, thought Chico had just swallowed
some pot. But then she treated the dog with two doses of naloxone, an
opioid-reversing medication usually used on humans who overdose on
fentanyl. Her clinic was then repeatedly contacted by "sketchy-sounding
people," as Rae called them, asking about fentanyl, not the antidote.

Another major story told of misuse of the 911 emergency number.

One caller wanted advice on dealing with a spider in his bathtub. Another
couldn't get his electric razor to turn off. A third wanted help in
getting his toy drone out of a tree.

It was unclear whether these emergencies involved pot or just stupidity.
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