Article by Margaret Shkimba, Hamilton Spectator
My friend went to a cannabis dispensary a couple of weeks ago. I was eager to hear her experience; I see them all over the city, I wondered how it worked. A lifetime ago I visited Amsterdam where cannabis was available at coffee shops. At the time, I couldn’t imagine the change in the attitude of the Canadian public that would be required to mimic the situation. The ability to openly purchase and carry cannabis without fear of prosecution was but a far away dream. It still is.
The dispensary was packed with a constant stream of people lining up at the counter. That was a surprise. She let her friend take the lead as he’d been there before and knew what to ask for. The selection was impressive. With names like Diesel Acid, Green Crack, and Raspberry Cough, it’s hard to tell the specific qualities of each brand, so some assistance from the budmaster is probably helpful. Acid, crack, cough, cannabis culture could take a page from the makeup industry in how it names product. Right girls?
I’ve never been to a dispensary; too paranoid about being busted. I’ll own that paranoia, although most would call it caution. Who knows when the police are going to bust the door down, confiscate your purchase, maybe even lay a charge? That would be bad. And with the changes the provincial government has proposed to the recreational cannabis distribution scheme, it looks like consumers will continue to be criminalized, along with the businesses that have served this economic for decades.
Although cannabis will be legal in just a couple of months, on October 17, 2018, Ontarians will be limited to online sales only while the provincial government gets its act together with their revamped private distribution system. Never mind that there is already a private distribution system in place and there has been since forever, there has to be one vetted and controlled by the government. It would make more sense to legitimize those individuals and businesses that are currently filling the void, at great risk to themselves, while those that have never been caught, charged or carry a record get to reap the profits from an industry nurtured for decades by outlaws.
We need to stop talking about cannabis legalization as though there will be free and open consumption of the product, and start talking about regulation and the many ways consumer choice is restricted and cannabis use prohibited under the federal legislation. We can start with the regional disparities around distribution as each province determines its own system and restrictions on use. Ontario is proposing that municipalities can opt out of distribution, like that’s going to make consumers in those jurisdictions just disappear. Landlords and condo associations can prohibit cultivation and use in their units, creating fertile ground for human rights challenges. Law enforcement agencies are clamouring for more and more money to prepare themselves for “legalization.”