The store was stark and bare, with framed lists of brand names adorning the painted green walls. I strode excitedly to the centre kiosk and, as I had been coached to do, tore a slip of paper from the pad, filled in my name and address and entered "264B" in the appropriate slot.
I handed the paper and a $10 bill to the well dressed older man at the counter. He looked at me intently, then retreated without a word through a passage way, returning with a tightly wrapped package. Do not open this until you get home, he instructed. I nodded and he winked, smiled and said "happy birthday."
I had just turned 21 and the purchase, Bacardi Rum, was my rite of passage at the local Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlet. The process was easy compared to my parents day; they had to produce an official government booklet which was stamped with every purchase.
The federal government instituted prohibition in 1916. Although considered a social experiment at the time it was met with varying degrees of resistance. Quebec refused to comply and was granted an exemption.
In 1927 the experiment was deemed not only a failure but a disaster. The provinces quickly filled the vacuum left by the repeal of prohibition.
Today alcohol is controlled by provincial statutes which reflect the community standards of tolerance to its distribution and consumption. Ontario residents can’t take home beer from a bar like they can in Alberta, and can buy beer at only 60 'special' government-approved grocery stores.
We are today faced with a federal government study group looking into legalizing marijuana. Headed by former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, it's tasked with determining how to control its sale, distribution and taxation but apparently is not considering individual community tolerances to the stuff.
We are in for a wild ride if the GWO (the Great Wizard of Ottawa) decides to enforce pot growing and distribution on a national scale. The dandelions in June will be nothing compared to what is coming. You think Johnny Appleseed did a good job? Get ready for countless imitators merrily strewing billions of pot seeds across the countryside... and the inevitable Disneyesque movie honouring these 'pioneers of pot'.
Marijuana laws must be made provincial offences... like liquor laws. Legalizing pot is no different than legalizing alcohol in 1927, other than the ease of producing, growing and distributing it. The federal government should simply repeal the law and let the provinces determine the tolerance levels of communities and citizens.
Ample recent evidence has demonstrated that Vancouver and Toronto will need to be controlled and enforced mostly at the municipal level through the bylaw, zoning and health departments, who will invariably ask for the assistance of local police.
This also begs the question of the savings long touted by free drug use advocates; the tax windfall and money saved from disbanding police units set up to catch them. Where's the savings from moving tax money and expenses from one pocket to the other; from federal coffers to provincial, then municipal, then?
Pot stores will open on every street corner, but most will close almost as quickly. Unlike alcohol or tobacco absolutely everyone can grow weed. Anyone with a seed and a clump of dirt can compete.
The light at the end of the tunnel will soon be obscured by clouds of smoke built on the foundations of repealed alcohol and marijuana laws. The next cry from the lunatic fringe will be "the government has no right to tell me what I can ingest."
Just as the right to assisted suicide is deemed to be of concern only to the individual who requests it, so too will controls on drugs. The new mantra will be that the "victimless crime" of consuming any substance should be left up to the individual and immediately purged from the criminal code.
Victimless? Study after study has shown that cannabis produces a laconic attitude that distorts an individual's ability to judge time and distance – two crucial requirements to safely drive a motor vehicle. THC adheres to fat molecules and will not purge from the system as efficiently as alcohol. It also increases appetite. Connect the dots. That burns fat. We now have to be concerned with road safety and public health.
There are many factors to consider but the first must be to repeal marijuana laws from the Criminal Code and let the provinces take over. Let controls be enforced in the same manner as liquor laws, traffic and zoning bylaws. Let each province and municipality determine tolerance levels to the stuff and we can all move on.
One more thing. Ontario should also repeal its ban on Roundup. I don't want the stuff on my lawn.