Saturday, October 31, 2015
Revisiting The Old Days
I am old enough to remember the days here in Ontario when getting alcohol of any kind from the Liquor Control Board (fondly known here as the LCBO) was a ritual conducted without joy. Far in the future lay today's attractive displays of myriad products from around the world, inviting consumers to try new libations through samples, etc. Back then, choosing from a printed list of products, one would fill out an order on a small piece of paper, tender that order to an anonymous clerk behind a barrier who would hand it off to another employee who then disappeared into a stockroom (no displays allowed!) and returned with your purchase in a discreet brown bag. The customer would promptly leave, perhaps feeling a certain unease at having been involved in a transaction that did not seem to be wholly sanctioned by society.
It was not an atmosphere that encouraged enthusiastic consumption.
My reminiscing was prompted by a documentary I watched the other night on CBC called Reefer Riches which was made when the chance of a Liberal victory and their promised legalization of marijuana seemed remote at best. As I wrote in a recent post, I have little doubt legalization will occur under Trudeau, and I do think it will serve a greater good, but only if it is handled properly, something the documentary made very clear to me.
Justin Trudeau has stated that legalizing pot will be a means of helping keep it out of the hands of kids and reducing the multi-billion-dollar black market. Since the war on drugs has been a proven and costly failure, this makes sense. Moreover, the steps taken by American states that have embraced legalization can serve as cautionary tales that can help ensure Canadian legislation strikes the right balance between access to and promotion of marijuana.
As you will see if you watch the documentary posted below, Colorado appears to be a pothead's paradise. With open displays of plants, tinctures and edibles, daily specials and a growing 'pot tourism,' the emphasis is clearly on the promotion of consumption. It is a model we would do well to avoid if our purpose truly is to control and not promote access. As one of the speakers in the film points out, Canada can learn a great deal from the mistakes that were made in jurisdictions that have legalized the drug. In my mind, our country would do very well to avoid the open commercialization you will see in the film, and instead adopt a very understated, discrete and perhaps slightly intimidating model similar to what once existed in Ontario: no displays, a product list, and access limited to government-run stores.
A bit regressive and Puritanical? Perhaps, but still a model that repudiates prohibition without extolling cannabis consumption.