My 19-year-old and I were on our way home one day, coasting along the Cape Spear highway between St. John’s and Petty Harbour. It was a “large day” as we say in these parts: sun in the sky, not a cloud in the eye. We were alone in our dream-like appreciation of the drive—until a single vehicle passed us headed in the other direction. Seconds later, I became aware of the strangest sickly-sweet odour. It seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it. It wasn’t funky exhaust from the other car. Or the earthiness of emerging spring. It definitely didn’t smell like anything coniferous. “What is that stench?”
My son gave me “the look” from the passenger seat. “Really, mom? You don’t know what weed smells like? You’re such a dork.”
I know what it smells like—I just wasn’t expecting to smell it from a passing car when I’m travelling 80km an hour with the windows up. Sounds like a tripping exam question from some psychedelic prof: if two vehicles are travelling in opposite directions, what’s the speed and gram-to-passenger threshold for exhaled smoke to impact other drivers?Sounds like a tripping exam question from some psychedelic prof: if two vehicles are travelling in opposite directions, what’s the speed and gram-to-passenger threshold for exhaled smoke to impact other drivers?
I’m no patchouli pro (hell, I’m not even an amateur), but I think it’s fair to say there was an excess amount of weed being consumed in a vehicle with only two passengers. Assuming the driver wasn’t imbibing (an unlikely story), isn’t there still a danger from secondhand consumption and intoxication? And, if people are this bold now, while it’s still illegal, how ridiculous is the public consumption and intoxication going to be when it’s officially sanctioned?
I am a dork. And I have concerns.
Listening to a CBC call-in program (also, coincidentally, on the drive home), it was evident that I’m not alone in questioning the smoke show. Should marijuana be sold by private entrepreneurs with the price set by market demand? Or, should the price be set by government and the product sold in pharmacies or liquor stores? What should be the legal age for consumption? The same age as alcohol or 25 as some medical experts are advocating? If the price and age limits are set too high, does that encourage the continuation of an illegal/underground economy to service that demand? Will a legalized pot industry boost government coffers to a higher debt-free consciousness?
Getting back to the situation that triggered this column: will there be a legal limit for drugged driving? What will that limit be? How will it be policed? So many questions, so little time to figure out the answers.
If I’m being fully honest, after a lifetime of marijuana being an illegal substance, I’m also struggling to accept that it’s suddenly ok. When I invite people over for a sociable, will they think that means a drink and a toke? I know that’s already the reality for a lot of people, but it was never my reality. How will I react if (when) it happens?
I’m so conflicted.
For instance, it takes a couple of hours to consume a dozen beer. You can burn through one strong spliff in minutes, so the rate of intoxication typically happens much faster than booze. And what if there’s more than just marijuana in that joint? Isn’t that how dealers have gotten people hooked on stronger drugs?
If anything, it’s this last point that fuddy-duddy me sees as the strongest selling point for a legalized industry. I’m predicting that a government-regulated industry will push the drug dealers out of the marijuana business, opening opportunities for entrepreneurs like the ones profiled in our story on page 22. And, it will bring standards to the industry, ensuring that weed is weed and not some exponentially more addictive substance.
I have concerns—but they’re a moot point. The larger public debate is already over and about to be writ large. Perhaps I should just buy a few bags of chips and get ready to roll with it.