Since it’s 2016, Canadian marijuana policy is about to change. Yesterday’s users were delinquent outsiders. They apparently acted as criminal, conspiratorial spys, students and single mothers. They were immoral, indictable and illegal sitting targets. Tomorrow they will become moral, politically correct and legislatively upright at the stroke of a pen, as the State, previously bereft of clothes, begins to dress.
I stand here and look on the not previously visible crowd and I look at them in wonder. Let me attempt to see through the violent fog of yesterday as a new dawn, not a false dawn, burns through to the earth. We wipe our eyes, we enter Canada again, reborn perhaps, ready since yesterday.
As the Canadian marijuana mob was being chased, hunted, set up, framed, hand cuffed, beaten, fined, humiliated, incriminated and jailed their patriotism did not waver as their Charter of Rights trembled and was tested.
I have lately engaged in the surreal experience of attending the openings of store front medicinal marijuana dispensaries and following the evolution of compassion clubs, seed banks and vapour lounges. Their range of clients have fashionable accouterments from multiple earring studs and tattoos to comfortable looking fold up walkers with cushy seats.
There’s that nice lady who works for Corrections Canada talking with the young woman who organizes for a food bank. There is that twenty something long haired glass blower working out of his garage talking to the magazine publisher about profit and loss. There is that heavy set fellow in a wheel chair reminiscing about a life time in construction talking to a bank manager about edible gummie bears. All this happens in rooms filled with glass counters, charts, scales and menus within the antiseptic clarity of proper vision. They then are part of the population of the delicate rascals and rogues of resistance, most often previously invisible to one another but working together.
Now you see. Now they see. These nice people, these rough people callused and thick skinned in their suffering endurance are blossoming and poking through the social surface, engaging sunlight and truth. Sunny days, indeed.
What did we leave behind? What did we create? It was longer but let’s say it was forty years; two generations that lived under perverted marijuana policy. If we step back and allow the possible legitimate rationalization of policy to encompass a willing suspension of disbelief then perhaps the government really deliberately wanted to create a vast shadowy net work of green spooks supporting green warriors. The resistance developed trade craft, code words, signals, looks, phrases, hand-shakes, dead letter drops, money laundering, blade runners, smugglers, front men, beards, cut outs, mules and rubber gun shows.
It was national policy, it was a covert poison pill. Perhaps a part of the back bone that keeps Canada free, in addition to the forces of law and order, is the creation and maintenance of a vast sub-rosa citizen based movement of patriots working in faceless anonymous cells from government Jacks to ner-do-well pirates. This resistance established itself as part of the body politic substantially enshrined by an omnibus crime bill that guaranteed underground existence and upped the ante. Spys, agents and spooks, Baby. Canada was creating a very antagonistic foundation for prosperity and security through incarceration and despair.
The Gas Town riots have evolved into the Quebec Cannabis Cup. Somewhere in between the green secret agent was born. For some there was a calling, a moral imperative to resist a colossal mistake after a time when Saint Simon and Auguste Comte’s modern musings of a scientifically controlled society is only hindered by the shortage of post-modern statistics, recently made available, placing pension cheques a paranoid’s piss test away.
The maple leaf, the fleur-de-lis were replaced by the cannabis leaf silhouette on national flags, carried through the streets, on the sidewalks, up the steps of Parliament and, increasingly well deported, into the chambers of justice equal to the Crown to halt the persecution of innocence.
Wittingly or unwittingly the State had shepherded a multi-generational shadow citizenry into the law books, into searching Supreme Court records, into puzzling out the intricacies of legislation as if it mattered. That was seen more appropriate than matching the ante to October crisis levels, which was always a heart-beat away.
After forty years of perceived persecution, calmer heads had occasional doubts. The historical records reveal that sometimes it just takes that extra spark and the prairies light up – good or bad.
This prohibition also existed as an Achilles heel, damping certain voices in certain movements across time and space. So we do look forward to the attendees of tomorrow’s political tent enhancing their bongs with national administrative duty no longer threatened by the narcotics officer as we imagine a ‘Norbert the Narc’ free Canada.
I asked some marijuana activists about their thoughts to explain why the cannabis movement was mainly peaceful and did they smell victory?
Chris Bennett a long time activist, store owner and author said, “Greenpeace was started by pot heads, Earth First too as well…cannabis is the plant of peace. After twenty five years of activism the smell of victory is down the bend and around the corner.”
Marc Emery,the extradited prince of pot who most recently served five years in a US series of jails for selling pot seeds said, “It smells more like integration. Pot will be like any commodity that’s legal, it will attract the people who can produce it efficiently and meet demand in a competitive market. If we have a legitimate legalization – the alternative is Prohibition 2.0 where the governments limit the franchises for selling or producing similar to the government liquor system, etc. then cannabis will be $20 an ounce within three years. Once Canadian farmers with their thousands of hectares of farmland begin mass cultivation of cannabis – for them it’s profitable at $20,000 a metric ton, that’s two cents a gram – pot prices will plummet to an appropriate level suitable to plants grown in a legal common environment.”
Dana Larsen who last week sent 184 Members of Parliament a gram of weed and a book about the history of cannabis said, “The cannabis movement is Canada’s largest example of peaceful civil disobedience that I know of. Over the last two decades, the cannabis activist movement has peacefully defied laws against cannabis books, pipes and bongs, we have held massive rallies of civil disobedience, cannabis use and give-a-ways, we now have hundreds of dispensaries thriving nationwide, all it peaceful civil disobedience of these unjust and immoral laws.”
David Malmo-Levine, cannabis warrior and no stranger to fighting cannabis laws in court said, “Canadians are peaceful. Assertive, but peaceful. We used civil disobedience tactics such as ‘hug power’ (learned from watching documentaries about the free speech movement in Berkeley) to defend our cannabis farmers market – the crowds got bigger every year. Raids on retail outlets did not scare away customers. Jail did not scare activists into obedience.”
Push did come to shove in every instance where someone was punished for such innocent behaviour. Some friends, families and co-workers paid a higher price than others and their stories are unbelievable legends. The victorious debate on legalization was unfortunately not won through reasoned mature intellectual debate but through a raw political power t hat seeks to remove domination. The myths too will be reinvented and legend may have it that one of those weed warriors one day became Prime Minister. We are all Canadians in 2016. Undercover shadows no more, sunny days ahead.
Roy Berger is a contributor to Fogel’s 2015 Underground Comic Book Guide. http://www.hippycomix.com/ and author of 2012 Rabbits http://www.amazon.ca/Rabbits-Happy-Apocalypse-Shortwave-Radio-ebook/dp/B005CBFR9G