Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2017
Source: Record, The (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 The Sherbrooke Record
Author: Peter Black
Page: A6


"Far out, man!" That's likely what teenaged me would have said if a
visitor from the future had said Prime Minister Trudeau had legalized
marijuana in 2018. Then I might have said "What? Trudeau is still
prime minister?" Then, "Wow, this is some boss weed if I'm talking to
some dude from the future." I might have added "Hey, visitor, when did
the Leafs win their next Cup?"

Truth be told, your scribe was not much of stoner in his youth, though
he effected some of the look and lifestyle. Long hair. Check. Tie-dyed
shirts. Check. Bare-foot summers. Check. But a regular consumer of
marijuana products? Pas a mon gout. Didn't really have the mental
constitution for it. In fact, it's always been a mystery, and the
subject of mountains of research, how people react differently when
tetrahydrocannabinol hits their bloodstream.

Some folks become drooling zombies, some become high-functioning
superbeings with insight into the universe, some are gripped by
paranoid delusions of imminent death, others just giggle a lot and eat
fistfuls of Doritos. Reaction to pot is not unlike how there are fun
and entertaining drinkers, or mean and violent ones, or the former
morphing into the latter.

Canadian society, it will be noted, has managed the sale and
consumption of alcohol for a century without disastrous results. Booze
still does far too much damage to human lives in homes and on the
highways, but its ill effects are an ongoing social challenge that
people and governments must face through effective laws and more
responsible behaviour.

Trudeau the Elder had the opportunity 45 years ago to make the move
his son is now making. His government, concerned about the soaring use
of drugs by young people and the consequent criminal impact, set up
the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-medical Use of Drugs, otherwise
known as the Ledain Commission. Its report in 1972 recommended
decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana, but the political
mood was not right, and the momentum fizzled.

Back then, smoking pot was an integral part of the protest culture of
the Sixties, along with other such substances as LSD, magic mushrooms
or the like. "Turn on, tune in, drop out," was psychedelic
psychologist Timothy Leary's mantra, followed in various degrees by
millions of young people around the world.

As laughably idealistic and naive those times seem in retrospect, some
positive social change came about as a result, mostly in the struggle
for racial and gender equality. The anti-war thing didn't seem to
stick, though, with the end of the draft in the U.S. sucking the steam
out of it, and the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower
rued making a smooth transition from Richard Nixon's Vietnam to Ronald
Reagan's global anti-communist campaign, topped by the Star Wars space
missiles plan.

Pot has lost its counter-culture chic and its political potency. It's
now just one more way of getting high in a world that seems to value
escapism above all else. While it's true organized crime still makes
millions off the pot trade, law enforcement officials report crooks
have shifted to where the big money is, in cocaine, heroin and an
ever-expanding pharmacy's worth of synthetic drugs.

It's unlikely, given the sensitivity and explosiveness of the debate
over the legalization of such a garden variety dope as marijuana,
Canada is prepared to go the route of Portugal. Back in 2001, the
country decriminalized all drugs, treating drug use as a public health
not a criminal issue. An "arrest" leads to a stint with a health
counsellor, not hard time in prison, or a criminal conviction.

The impact has been dramatic, according to research. Drug use has
decreased overall, there's less drug-related crime, fewer HIV
infections and overdoses, and there's been a huge leap in people
seeking treatment for addiction.

Canada's doing it one drug at a time, one supposes. In the meantime,
the aging hippies of this land prepare themselves for July next year
when the establishment takes the forbidden fun out of getting high on

Bummer, man.
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MAP posted-by: Matt