Visiting British Columbia is like going to a foreign land without using your passport.
Having spent most of my early life there, it’s always fun to see how much has changed. When I was a kid, for example, there was a major moral panic over marijuana use and another about Vancouver being the heroin gateway to North America.
The drug scene today is the opposite of a moral panic. It’s more a matter of everyday complacency. With pot soon to be legal across the country, B.C. provides a glimpse of our future. Indeed, if you wander through B.C. today, as we did over the Christmas break, more or less normal Albertans might be forgiven for thinking that the whole province is stoned.
Our first evidence came at a steak joint in Abbotsford. The waiter looked puzzled when I asked for steak sauce. He first brought mustard to the table, then ketchup. Our daughter, more familiar with such behaviour than her parents, stated, matter-of-factly, “the guy is stoned.”
The steak, ordered rare, was grey. I pointed this out to the waiter, who got the manager. “This steak is cooked just right,” the manager announced. He was stoned, too.
B.C. has long had a serious relationship with pot. Years ago, “B.C. bud” was in demand all along the West Coast, from Juneau to San Diego. But then hydroponics and the invention of medical marijuana introduced a whole new set of options.
In the last year, Vancouver pot entrepreneurs have expanded their operations with the usual unintended and comic political effects. Vancouver city council voted against allowing grocery stores to sell wine because it was said to be unhealthy. Yet, in a city that is poorly served with wine outlets, at least compared to Calgary, there are dozens of illegal pot dispensaries.