Article by Gary Genosko, This.org
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) faced a monumental task: Not only did it need to build a credible recreational cannabis business to manage consumer demand, but it had to outflank the drug’s illicit market, all while undercutting head shops. In figuring out how to balance it all, the LCBO turned to its control-centric history of alcohol management and adopted an approach generously described as happily repressive.
Gone are the resistant values of 1960s counterculture, along with any notion that marijuana was a key element of the era’s mind expansion and generational definition—not to mention a statement of alienation, especially by minority youth, facing police and an unforgiving justice and legal system.
Counterculture, with cannabis at or near its core, was always about experimentation with consciousness. But with the advent of Ontario Cannabis Stores, the arms-length agency created by the LCBO to oversee legal weed sales, any liberatory value that marijuana once had to challenge mainstream culture is gone. Come July 1, there will be nothing left of the subversiveness of pot.
More than 50 years ago, critical theorist Herbert Marcuse described how the loss of antagonism and an undercutting of subversion leads to an indifference to all things under a system of consumerism run amok. In One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse dubbed this “repressive desublimation.” While sublimation reroutes our impulses toward expressions of different realities, desublimation strips creativity of its inherent resistance, offering instead promises of immediate gratification.
And in Ontario, what restrictive pleasure it is! In historic LCBO fashion, whereas bottles of booze were fetched in brown paper bags, provincial Cannabis Stores won’t even permit self-service. There will be no open, well-stocked shelves of little green bags with unique, outward-facing branding. Virtual interfaces with products will abound, augmented by samples hoarded by sales consultants for smelling purposes only. Crowd management will begin at the door.