Pubdate: Wed, 10 Jan 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Rosie DiManno
Page: A2


I happened to spend three days over New Year's in Las Vegas. Work! On
the Star's dime!

What a pleasure it was to smoke indoors again, a rarity in our world,
with all the casinos tobacco-friendly. A city built on vice recognizes
that gamblers are smokers and drinkers.

But on New Year's Eve, when venturing out onto the Strip, I
immediately recoiled from the stench of cannabis.

Had forgotten that Nevada is one of eight American states where
recreational marijuana is now legal. Clark County, in which Vegas is
situated, boats some 80 dispensaries selling recreational (as opposed
to medical) pot. Anyone over the age of 21 can buy up to one ounce of
cannabis (or one-eighth-ounce of concentrate) at a time.

Technically, the fine print on the legislation - it came into effect
in November 2016 - bans smoking dope in public, on federal land or in
a vehicle. Don't know about the federal land or vehicle part, but
clearly law enforcement isn't paying any mind to public consumption.
The city reeks. It's almost impossible to avoid a second-hand pot
contact high.

This was annoying to someone such as moi who loathes the smell of
cannabis. It makes me retch. Perhaps non-smokers, similarly averse to
tobacco fumes, can sympathize. We, Butt Nation, have effectively been
shunted well away - nine metres - from any building used by the
public, where once the restriction applied only to medical facilities.
Eventually, we'll probably be forced to fire up our darts in the
middle of the street, hopefully - as Nico Nazis would have it - amid
heavy traffic, all the better to wipe us off the face of the Earth.

That's OK, I can live with it. Until I die from it.

Nevada is actually beholden to potheads. State legislators had been
scrambling to replace the moneys from hundreds of millions of dollars
- - Nevada's share of settlements with tobacco companies, recouped to
cover the cost of health-care spending attributed to smokingrelated
illnesses. But that pot of gold, which has funded dozens of education
and social programs, has severely dwindled, even though payments from
53 tobacco manufacturers to 46 states were to run a minimum of 25
years (beginning in 2008), totalling at least $206 billion (U.S.).

Marijuana tax revenue allotted to Nevada's schools - the Distributive
Schools Account, it's called, carefully avoiding the dope essence -
has grown from $571,385 in fiscal 2016 (when only medical marijuana
taxes were collected) to a projected $20 million from medical and
recreational tax revenues in fiscal 2018. That's the educational cut
from a 15-per-cent wholesale tax estimated to rake in more than $56
million by '18, according to government figures. Five million dollars
has been set aside to offset the cost of enforcing

Naturally, there's been political bickering, with some counties, such
as Clark, arguing they should be entitled to a proportionately larger
chunk of the money because it generates a heap o' marijuana sales
compared with sparsely populated regions of the state.

California, which just came on licit weed-stream Jan. 1 - and with the
world's sixth-largest economy - expects the cannabis market to reach
$3.7 billion this year and $5.1 billion in 2019.

It is always about the money, how government can most greedily profit
from vice as overarching and monopolistic drug trafficker, within the
moralizing rubric of stamping out criminal gangs that have owned the
black market for the past century.

These are issues Canada will be confronting soon, if the Liberal
government comes through on its promise to legalize dope by this
summer, a key election vow by Justin Trudeau. July 1, a Canada Day
goal for a fug of pot fumes, is no longer the precise deadline.

Relevant legislation - Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, and Bill-C-46,
which would tighten rules on impaired driving related to marijuana use
- - are still tied up in the Conservative-dominated Senate, seven months
after the House passed them. Distribution, sales and packaging will
not necessarily be consistent among provinces, although it appears
that wholesale distribution and online sales will be largely
controlled by the feds. Provinces and territories will choose from
three retail models for over-the-counter sales: private, public or

Ontario has already announced its plan to roll out pot via LCBO
subsidiary stores, essentially freezing out the private sector,
including scores of dispensaries that have already set up shop. Unless
Queen's Park offers a competitive pricing scale, this scheme will
definitely not send gangs and bikers out of business.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around Bill Blair, a former Toronto
police chief, as Trudeau's drug czar, though at least he's always been
honest about the ineffectiveness of drug laws to control crime. His
predecessor, Julian Fantino, was among the most hard-core of anti-drug
chiefs, even once comparing legalization of pot to legalizing murder.
Yet there was Fantino, in November, cutting the ribbon on a new
medical marijuana business he co-owns with former RCMP deputy
commissioner Raf Souccar.

Several other Canadian ex-cops, according to a recent Reuters story,
are wading into the pot-selling sphere. So members of the same law
enforcement gang that busted your ass lo, these many years are now
hoping to get rich off drug use.

The world keeps on turning and I can evolve with the times, although I
still think it's a dumb idea. But I've heard little of genuine
significance about how this all will work in a country where the black
market windfall from marijuana was estimated by Statistics Canada as
worth up to $7.2 billion in 2015; a country that has a ridiculously
high rate of pot consumption by teenagers, who will still be handing
over their money to street dealers because they can't buy legal. I
suspect the same guys who stroll into my local bar with a duffel bag
full of cheap untaxed smokes-off-the-reservation will be expanding
their inventory.

What of the million or so Canadians who have a pot-related criminal
record? In 2015 alone, upward of 20,000 individuals found with varying
amounts of pot were charged. Trudeau has hinted at an amnesty and
pardons but that sunny thereafter has not found its way into any
proposed legislation yet.

Politicians cock everything up. Politicians straining under the weight
of unprecedented debt, dope dollar signs dancing in their eyes, will
doubtless make a mess of this too.

And where will you be able to toke? Because I don't want the stink
anywhere around me and I sure as hell will go bat-sh-t crazy if it's
permitted anywhere I can't smoke an ordinary cigarette.

Big tobacco bad. Big pot perfectly fine Canadiana.
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