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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