Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2017
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Barry Cooper (Barry Cooper teaches political science at the
University of Calgary.)
Page: 5


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 an
everyday complacency. With pot soon to be legal across the country, B.C.
provides a glimpse of our future. If you wander through B.C. today, as we
did over the Christmas break, more or less normal Albertans might be
forgiven for thinking that 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, 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 last 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 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 tries 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 persons had died from drug overdoses, mostly from opioids.
By normal standards, that would be an epidemic. Back in 2003, 44 persons
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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