Last Thursday, cannabis became legal in Canada. For example, here’s my local provincial government’s online cannabis store (screenshot below). There are going to be physical storefronts too, some private-sector, but the licensing process is slow so there aren’t any in Vancouver yet, except of course for the dozens of “dispensaries” that have been up and running for years; I suppose some of them will become legal. Which is to say, it hasn’t been very dramatic. But I think it is sort of a big deal.

BC Cannabis Store

It’s a big deal because it’s an example of democracy actually working. We had a legal framework whose goals — stamp out pot — were not only unachievable but unsupported by evidence. In fact, the support was negative: evidence showed that the previous policy’s effects were, on balance, harmful. And one of our major political parties decided to run on an evidence-based legalization platform, won the election, and went ahead and did it.

Now, we still have a bunch of issues to sort out:

  1. Can legal weed achieve a level of price, quality, and convenience sufficient to drive the current thriving underground trade out of business?

  2. Is buzzed-out driving going to be a problem like drunk driving? Unlike alcohol, we totally don’t have good statistical data on what intoxication measurements correlate with elevated likelihood of accidents. And even if we did, we don’t have high-quality roadside tech for measuring it. There’s legislation in place, but everyone expects a legal/constitutional challenge more or less instantly after the first driving-while-high charge, and from what I read, that law is a pretty soft target.

  3. What are the appropriate cannabis-use limits? Should the legal age be the same as alcohol? For high-judgment jobs like airplane pilot, what is the cannabis equivalent of their traditional “24 hours bottle-to-throttle”?

  4. Where can you use cannabis legally? I fervently support the draconian restrictions on tobacco smoking, but at least half the justification is tobacco’s addictiveness and lethality. And I seem to recall from the seventies that people really liked to get high socially; should there be the cannabis equivalent of licensed public houses? Should they be licensed public houses?

The really interesting question, though, is who’s going to use pot, and how much? I was a college student back in the Seventies and my recollection is that:

  1. Most people did, except for those who also didn’t drink and were just naturally abstemious.

  2. The real “heads” did all the time and were thus not very effective as students or employees, and in some cases really screwed up their lives, and some of those stumbled off into the badlands of speed and opioids and so on, and some of those died of it. But I think that was just them, the cannabis wasn’t the important part of the story.

  3. After a few years I started hearing people griping that weed was just making them feel stupid and paranoid.

  4. Sometime around 1980 almost everyone I knew stopped for one reason or another, often including the discovery of a vocation: microbiology or computer programming or finance or whatever.

Me, I’m strongly convinced legalization is a step forward. People are gonna use weed, and I think it’s a fine thing that they’ll be able to get it with clearly-labeled believable levels of THC and CBD, and minus random pesticides. Because most dope dealers are skanky people you shouldn’t trust.

If you look at history, among the first public servants were the people who inspected the brewers and pubs of Europe to verify that people could trust the advertised strength of beer and advertised size of the mug it came in. So we’re on familiar ground here.

But I do wonder what social patterns will emerge, now that weed’s legal and regulated? The change feels small now, but I’ve no notion how it’ll look in the rear-view in a decade or two.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Cath (Oct 22 2018, at 04:08)

Um, actually it was last Wednesday the 17th that recreational pot became legal.

Legal medicinal with a prescription has been around for awhile. You lose a day or two there??

The issues here in NS are the extreme overpackaging (including lotsa plastics) and shortages of product as the supply chain shakes itself out.

And the local CBC radio has been playing lots of relevant music, including claiming that "Got To Get You Into My Life" by The Beatles was a song about pot not a girl.


From: Doug K (Oct 24 2018, at 09:52)

"get it with clearly-labeled be­liev­able lev­els of THC and CBD"

- this must be a Canadian thing. Here in Colorado it got legalized without any useful regulations like that. The immediate consequence is various strains of weed have been bred with immensely potent levels.

This looks like the cigarette companies spraying the tobacco leaves with extra nicotine, to ensure addiction. It's not a good look.

I voted for legalization in CO based on much the same reasoning as you. The unexpected consequences that spring to mind:

- the high potency weed

- edibles, which don't seem to be regulated in any sensible way, and are marketed as candy, see Keef Cola,

- dope smokers think they aren't smoking, so there's lots of skunky second-hand dope smoke, at any concert or bar. This is theoretically illegal but not enforced. So I don't go to concerts here anymore, since the clouds of dope smoke are choking.

I thought legalization would put it roughly in the category of cigarette smoking - tolerated, taxed, and relatively small numbers of addicts. Instead it's become a growth industry, heavily marketed and sold as a natural health supplement. Sensible regulation could prevent this, hopefully the Canadian experience will be different.


From: len (Oct 24 2018, at 16:10)

By the numbers (cancer patient, so a positive for me. Yes, it helps. No, I live in the last place on Earth that will legalize):

1. ""Can le­gal weed achieve a lev­el of price, qual­i­ty, and con­ve­nience suf­fi­cient to drive the cur­rent thriv­ing un­der­ground trade out of busi­ness?"

Yes to all but the last. It is easy to grow. It isn't easy to grow well. It is doable. So just as people make their own wine and beer, some will grow their own weed. The trick here is grow-your-own opens up hazards such as break ins to steal it and... rabbits. Rabbits are notorious pot heads. Really. So one has to have protected space. Given the hassle, most will buy flat pack or bulk as predicted. See A Child's Garden of Grass.

2. "Is buzzed-out driv­ing go­ing to be a prob­lem like drunk driv­ing?"

Yes. Two bits: low THC doses aren't as big a problem as say, beer. Alcohol and weed are very different in their effects. Pot doesn't inhibit one muscularly the way alcohol does. But it makes one very distractable. In that sense, a cell phone is more dangerous. In high THC doses, don't drive. You probably won't want to. There are more fun things to do like... play guitar and write songs, paint the walls, mow the lawn. Pot is a very good tedium work drug. Boring becomes interesting.

The big problem here is people who mix drugs, say pot and alcohol. From years and years of playing bars, those are the people most likely to get into fights. Stay home. Watch old movies. Have sex. Pot and sex seem to work well.

Except for the smell.

3. "What are the ap­pro­pri­ate cannabis-use lim­it­s?"

Sames as alcohol. And yes, keep it away from kids. Not good when the brain is developing fast. Just like alcohol, they will get it anyway but fight that. The good news, it is very hard to hide a pot buzz.

"Should the le­gal age be the same as al­co­hol?"

A good place to start. Here the problem is socialization. When we dropped the age of drinking in the US to 18, I was working the bars. The influx of high school seniors and younger (who had fake IDs) was a bad thing. It was a shark feeding frenzy.

"For high-judgment jobs like air­plane pi­lot, what is the cannabis equiv­a­lent of their tra­di­tion­al “24 hours bottle-to-throttle”?"

Pot doesn't have the same physical hangover. It makes one logey. IOW, a bit dumber. However, the 24 hour rule is a good place to be. Casual users aren't affected too badly. Heavy habitual users (wake up; light up) are noticeably slow and almost like handling a bipolar patient off meds. That said, if I had to manage an alcoholic vs a pot head, I choose the pot head every time.

4. Where can you use cannabis legal­ly?

Pretty much the same as where alcohol is legally consumed.

"should there be the cannabis equiv­a­lent of li­censed pub­lic hous­es? Should they be li­censed pub­lic hous­es?"

Yes. People should know what is going on at a party. Some crowds don't mix well. I avoid bars where heavy drinking is going on. Every violent scene I was in involved alcohol. Violence with pot was zero. Losing keys, following the small animals around, trying to grab my guitar and show me something, those are pot behaviors.

We watch the Canadians with a certain fascination. Let's see what happens when a mellow country gets a lot mellower. Party on, Garth.


From: PeterL (Oct 29 2018, at 09:52)

The solution to buzzed-out driving (and also drunk driving) is to do a performance test (e.g., reaction times) rather than level of a substance in the breath or blood. This will also catch too-tired drivers ... and people who should never have got a driver's license in the first place. Which is why it won't be implemented.


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