Ashley Csanady: Thanks, Ontario government, for taking the fun out of legal weed

Will I buy a joint from Premier Mom? Yes, because I’ll have to. But just like the LCBO, that doesn’t mean I’ll like it or be able to get what I want.

Thanks, Ontario government. You did it. You managed to take the fun out of legal weed.

The government announced Friday its plan for legal weed sales, and its approach is predictably parochial: the government-run liquor retailer will control all supply through just 150 stores and an online outlet.

No pot cafés. No private stores. No branding to encourage quality from suppliers. Nothing that would see the big hand of government offer even the slightest enjoyment in selling a bag of weed.

Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, centre, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, right, and Minister of Health Eric Hoskins detail Ontario’s solution for recreational marijuana sales, on Friday, September 8, 2017.

But maybe we were high when we thought that was possible.

This regulatory wrapping is just so inherently Canadian, so typically nanny state Ontario. You’ll soon be able to buy a dime bag, but good luck finding somewhere to smoke or even bake it.

Both levels of government are essentially saying, “Fine, we’ll give you legal weed, but we won’t enjoy it and nor should you.”

The message is that adults aren’t capable of making their own decisions, which is contrary to the whole point of winding down prohibition. Are we to expect, a century from now, echoes of this preciousness to remain as it does with the lingering Blue Laws in Ontario that prohibit the sale of booze after 6 p.m. on a Sunday?

My guess is these same ridiculous rules, which echo a time when Protestant pearl-clutching dominated our public policy, will be in place for legal weed sales, as well. Heaven forbid you should grab a bottle of Burgundy for coq-au-vin and smoke some Bubba Kush on a Sunday evening!

Not in Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario.

Even the number of stores won’t serve demand. There are hundreds of illegal dispensaries in Ontario and 651 LCBO outlets. Are we really to expect that 150 marijuana stores will serve the whole province? Or that the government can procure and build a website in the nine months before legalization, let alone the 40 stores it’s hoping for?

At least we can look forward to watching the finance minister twist himself into pretzels over the NIMBY battles that are sure to follow any attempt to actually build and open these stores

At least we can look forward to watching the finance minister twist himself into pretzels over the NIMBY battles that are sure to follow any attempt to actually build and open these stores.

Yet, like many rational pot smokers, I’m sympathetic to the attempt at finding a middle ground. There are millions of us and we want private weed stores and legal edibles (which the federal government, not Ontario, has chosen to prohibit.)

We are the professionals, the shift workers, the adults, those with multiple degrees, people who work hard and play hard with their kids — so what if they take a toke before that 100th screening of Frozen?

Surprise, surprise, the LCBO will run legal week sales in Ontario. Goodie.

I’ve been smoking pot longer than the legalization debate has been taken seriously.

I have had a medical card, I have belonged to membership stores, I’ve gone to pot cafés here and abroad. I frequent a friendly, clean and safe dispensary in my neighbourhood.

I also have a graduate degree and have been employed since I was 15. I’m not a degenerate stereotype, nor am I a rabid, irrational activist, nor do I pretend marijuana is perfectly safe.

Like alcohol and caffeine and sugar, it has side-effects, especially when smoked. Most adults who smoke weed realize this, just as most adults who occasionally overindulge at the bar do, too. Pot smoking also has a stigma and remains technically illegal if barely so in practice, which is why it took me so long to speak up.

But I realized my privileged position, I’m a white blonde girl who grew up in the suburbs and everyone I have ever known who was charged with a pot-related crime has gotten off with at most a conditional discharge, thanks to good lawyers hired by parents.

There’s also a market for good weed sold by nice people who know what they are talking about

Weed has for years managed my anxiety. Some therapists may say that’s unhealthy, but it helps me sleep when the world is swirling and drowning my brain. And I’m far from alone.

I’ve smoked with people of every background, profession and class.

There’s a common Canadian pride in the quality of our bud and our tacit acceptance of its use.

There’s also a market for good weed sold by nice people who know what they are talking about. Why else would the grey business of dispensaries prove so lucrative? Giant magnifying glasses sit on clear counters so buyers can examine the bud for signs of quality: colour, tightness, crystal, threads, dryness or sticky bits.

We know what we like and if we aren’t going to get it from the government, then the grey and black market will continue to exist. And isn’t the whole point of legalization to get rid of the crime and, gasp, treat consumers like adults? Excuse me if I don’t trust the same system that prohibits the availability of Super Tuscans and French biologique wines to deliver a decent sativa.

Now, many of the licensed medical growers in this country are already producing premium product. The question is whether the LCBO will bother to offer it in a way that isn’t off-putting.

It took the LCBO decades to stop treating booze as something to be sold in bare-bones stores under the strictest circumstances — recall the years following alcohol prohibition required imbibers to fill out forms just to buy a bottle of spirits from behind a counter. I suspect the first weed stores will look eerily similar a century later, and it will take just as long for government-run dispensaries to look as nice as LCBO stores do today. I look forward to my grandkids one day enjoying a copy of Weed & Drink over a cup of pot tea.

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What is a Sativa?

Sativa strains of medicinal marijuana are usually uplifting and stimulating. If you’ve ever smoked or ingested cannabis that makes everything funny and puts you in a great mood, it was probably from a Sativa strain. It creates a feeling of comfort, non-drowsy, and usually introspective highs. The effects of smoking or ingesting a Sativa makes them particularly popular among artists and creatives. The most popular medicinal benefits range from treating mental and behavioral problems, to treating depression, stress and ADHD.

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