Pubdate: Tue, 30 May 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Allison Hanes
Page: A1


Montrealers have a well-earned reputation as a society of bon vivants
with our abundant terrasses, fun festivals and depanneurs stocked with

But with the countdown on to the legalization of marijuana in Canada,
which is scheduled to happen just over a year from now, on July 1,
2018, Quebecers are raining on the parade.

It started with the Quebec government, expressing skepticism about the
social costs versus the anticipated windfalls. Quebec's public health
institute has raised red flags about potential harm from stoned
driving or the effects of cannabis on developing brains. And now the
concern apparently extends to ordinary citizens, who have expressed
serious reservations about the implications of permitting recreational
pot use compared to other Canadians.

A CROP survey conducted for Radio-Canada found that while 54 per cent
of Canadians support the Liberal government's plans to permit
recreational pot use, 54 per cent of Quebecers are opposed.

Interestingly, if you exclude Quebec from the national average, 58 per
cent of Canadians back legalization whereas a third of Quebecers
profess themselves extremely opposed.

The results are being greeted with a fair amount of surprise, that
somehow this finding is at odds with our easygoing nature and penchant
for enjoying life.

There are a few possibilities that might explain this latest
difference of opinion between the Two Solitudes.

One is that Quebec is a rapidly greying society. So there may simply
be more seniors answering the poll here who have never smoked up - or
last did so many decades ago. Support for marijuana legalization is,
after all, strongest among 18- to 34-year olds.

Another, put forth by CROP president Alain Giguere, is that Quebecers
are more preoccupied about health in general, especially that of young

But more likely, having a good time while being cognizant of the
dangers of going too far is not out of keeping with the Quebec character.

As noted in the book Cracking the Quebec Code, by JeanMarc Leger,
Jacques Nantel and Pierre Duhamel, Quebecers do indeed have a
hedonistic streak. But their joie de vivre, love of food and wine and
permissive attitudes are tempered by an abundance of caution.

Quebecers are the biggest purchasers of life insurance in Canada and
among the most avid consumers of private health services, the book

We are also walking conundrums. Examples of Quebecers legendary
contradictions include: being happier but having a higher suicide
rate; being concerned about the environment, but being big polluters;
and prioritizing education but having a high dropout rate.

"Obviously Quebecers love to have fun. The corollary is also true:
they hate to suffer," wrote Nantel in a chapter entitled Happy as a
Quebecer. "Having such joie de vivre sometimes means you have to make
difficult choices."

Montrealers have no aversion to amusement, of course; it's part of our
culture and lifestyle. But we frequently mingle with outsiders who
seem to come here with the goal of letting loose. From Montreal's
heyday as a sin city in prohibition era, to the annual Grand Prix
bacchanal, to being a destination for so many bachelor and
bachelorette festivities, visitors are often prone to excess. Like any
good party host, we mostly manage to keep our wits about us, even as
we indulge ourselves.

So while Mount Royal may fill up with pot fanatics every 4/20 and the
pungent odour of pot frequently wafts in the air, there is a
recognition among Quebecers that marijuana legalization will come at a

It's an idea whose time has come. It no longer makes sense to saddle
people with criminal records for smoking pot or clogging up the
justice system for possessing small amounts for personal consumption.
It's no longer wise to let the black market flourish under the control
of organized crime when governments could be putting the proceeds of
sales to use in service of the public interest. And it is worth
opening the door to new pain management and treatment options for
sufferers of chronic disease without patients having to jump through
so many hoops.

But no matter how many safeguards are put in place, underage kids are
going to get their hands on weed. It's been hard enough to get the
stubborn youth smoking rate down with the arrival of flavoured
e-cigarettes; now joints will be in the mix.

Someone, somewhere, will eventually die because a careless driver got
behind the wheel while high, a phenomenon that certainly occurs already.

And people run the real risk of becoming addicted.

Quebecers know we must go into this new era with our eyes wide open to
the downsides that will inevitably accompany legalization. So even
though many of us might light up joints and smoke some newly legal pot
come next summer, Quebecers' enjoyment will include a healthy dose of

And that won't be out of character.
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