Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018|2 a.m.
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The doorway behind the front counter of Coffee shop 66 conjured images from black-and-white motion pictures of a speakeasy throughout Restriction in the United States, when alcohol was banned by constitutional amendment. Prior to another modification had to be embraced reversing the ban, gangsters hefting submachine guns shot it out with J. Edgar Hoover’s G-men– FBI agents– trying to stop truckloads of booze coming in from Canada.
“Please knock prior to going into,” checked out the sign scrawled above the door. Rapping gently, tentatively pressing the panels open, I was greeted by display screens bearing pictures of sticks of marijuana with exotic names like “Mango Pie,” “Thin Mint GSC,” “Duke Nukem,” “Yukon Gold” and “Green Lantern,” among others. Notes helpfully recommended differences in flavor and strength– “mellow” was a persistent theme.
In fact, I may have copied down more names but for a careful boy behind the counter. “What are you composing?” he asked. Not amazed when I told him I didn’t wish to forget those colorful names, he asked me to please stop. When I identified myself as a journalist, he said he had nothing to say.
Right, it’s now legal for those 19 and above to smoke, whiff, chew or grow marijuana anywhere in Canada. The catch is, here in Toronto and the rest of Ontario Province, home to one-third of Canada’s 37 million people, you need to purchase it online through the main Ontario Marijuana Shop. While the guidelines vary from province to province, it’s technically unlawful to buy it nonprescription in all of Ontario.
How then could this tiny store, understood for offering marijuana long before it was formally legislated last month, offer it so freely? “By the grace of God,” the young man reacted as consumers were lining up. “Don’t fret.” When I paused at the screen of cannabis-laced cakes and cookies, he begged, “Please hurry.”
Unwillingly, I took the hint.
So enthusiastic are Canadians about their newly won liberty to smoke pot that the online service for Ontario has just about run out. Orders go unfilled for weeks, packages show up late, and dealerships, legal and illegal, thrive regardless of whether they are within the letter of the differing laws of Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 areas.
So erratic and inconsistent are the policies from province to province that it’s likely to take years for the folks who govern the nation from the capital of Ottawa to integrate all the guidelines and regs. At Coffee shop 66, I bought one joint for $12– overall $14 after the guy added $2 for the plastic envelope in which it was wrapped. Taking no opportunities, a note in small letters on the front mentioned it was for “medicinal purposes only.”Right.
Not everybody is so willing to wink at the law. Another place that came advised had the appropriate name, Finest Buds. I made sure they too would be stocked with marijuana, however the place was tight shut. Through broad plate glass windows, I saw just empty shelves.
While I was knocking to be sure nobody was prowling inside, willing to offer buds surreptitiously, 3 or 4 individuals joined me, all prospective consumers. “Aren’t they open,” one asked plaintively, hurrying up with high expectations. “What’s going on?”
A day or 2 earlier, I had actually gotten a whiff of the sensitivities as I waited at the Niagara Falls entry while a Canadian immigration official asked a great deal of questions about why I was visiting his nation. He would like to know about my relationship with my host– old buddy from Vietnam War days– for how long I would stay, how typically I ‘d been in the nation.
When I told him I was a reporter, he asked what I ‘d be discussing. I’m uncertain I had to respond to all those concerns, however I ‘d read in the paper in Buffalo, the closest big U.S. city to this particular crossing, about individuals arrested with a stash in their vehicle– the very first I ‘d known about the legalization of marijuana in Canada.
For sure, when my good friend invited me to his excellent location for an exchange of old war stories, I hadn’t been thinking about reporting on marijuana. Simply to keep the migration man happy, I said I might discuss the trade dispute in between Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and President Donald Trump– undoubtedly a safe subject.
Holding on to my passport, the man shut down his window prior to examining a computer system for a long minute. After he returned my passport and told me I was complimentary to enter, I asked what he had actually been looking up. “You can go,” he said. When I repeated the question, he purchased, “Go.”
So I think relations in between the United States and Canada are not the best these days while Trump grumbles about trade problems that have nothing to do with the illicit import of Canadian marijuana. No, I would not think about returning to the United States with joints in my car. The news on Canadian TELEVISION priced estimate U.S. migration officials and New York state troopers stating anyone caught with the stuff at the border would lose their entire stash and face prosecution.
But wait. Will the Canadian experience set a precedent for the United States– and other nations where pot remains unlawful? U.S. mindsets toward cannabis differ widely even if it’s OKAY in some places for medicinal purposes. Canadians seem to have rather blended sensations. Yes, any adult can get it, online or over-the-counter. No, do not get high while driving– the penalties there are if anything more rigid than for drinking while intoxicated on alcohol.
When it comes to the joint I had purchased at Cafe 66, I didn’t light up. Having actually heard– and written– a lot about drugs among U.S. soldiers in Vietnam all those years back, I do not touch the stuff. Prior to bidding a fond goodbye, I provided the joint to my pal, who let me know I ‘d been overcharged. Appears the going cost on the open black market, pre-legalization, was $6.
Donald Kirk has been a writer for the Korea Times and South China Morning Post, to name a few newspapers and magazines. He composed this for InsideSources.com.