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Randall Denley: Marijuana legalization is an invitation to be stupid, but we have every right to be stupid

Is it possible that marijuana is the gateway drug to sanity? The legalization of cannabis later this month has the potential to set off a chain of events that might propel Ontario right into the 21st century.

The first step, of course, is legalization itself. It’s a remarkable move for a country that is so preoccupied with health and safety that it always seems to be just one step away from ordering mandatory helmets for all. Now, government is going to legalize something that admittedly isn’t good for us and it’s going to let us smoke it, despite its aggressive condemnation of tobacco smoking.

It’s almost as if government has realized that Canadian adults are entitled to make their own decisions. Or perhaps, it has finally come to understand that there isn’t much point in banning something a large percentage of the population finds socially acceptable.

But that’s the federal government, under madcap toker Justin Trudeau. The previous Ontario government took a much different approach. Grim-faced cabinet ministers announced that there would be cannabis retail stores, but not many, and not soon. Everything would be tightly controlled by a new government corporation set up just for that purpose. Well, that and creating good union jobs.

This is where it gets interesting, for those who think Ontario’s approach to intoxicating substances should be more like the adult attitude of Europe

It was a bogart-that-joint plan that was entirely in keeping with a Liberal regime that was always more comfortable with banning things than allowing them. Former premier Dalton McGuinty banned pit bulls, junk food, tanning beds for those under 18, lawn pesticides and smoking in most public places. His successor, Kathleen Wynne, mused about banning texting while walking, and did ban politicians from attending their own fundraisers. For balance, she apologized for a 1912 rule banning French from Ontario elementary schools.


Premier Doug Ford, centre, speaks to the media with Rod Phillips, right, minister of the environment, conservation and parks, and John Yakabuski, minister of transportation, in Toronto on Friday, September 28, 2018.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Now, under Premier Doug Ford, we have a new approach to marijuana retailing that might be summarized as “let her rip,” relatively speaking. The private sector will be trusted to handle the sale of marijuana but government will still control the supply and will look after online sales. The private sector sales thing is a big deal, for Ontario. This is the province that thought it was going lampshade-on-your-head-at-the-Christmas-party crazy when it allowed some grocery stores to sell beer and wine.

This is where it gets interesting, for those who think Ontario’s approach to intoxicating substances should be more like the adult attitude of Europe. As part of the new rules, people will be allowed to smoke a joint in a public park. Reasonable folks immediately asked why it was fair to allow dope smoking in a park but ban consumption of a bottle of beer.

Beer and wine in public parks would be just another small step for government, but one can hope that it is part of a new attitude

Ford is open to the idea of beer and wine consumption in parks and Toronto Mayor John Tory has come out in favour of the idea. Ford wants to consult before he makes a move, but you can bet liberalization is coming.

And why not? Allowing public drinking is the norm in Europe, the sole exception being Latvia. Ontarians realize that we are out of step with more mature countries, even if their governments have not. What’s the harm in allowing people to have some wine with a picnic?

Beer and wine in public parks would be just another small step for government, but one can hope that it is part of a new attitude. For any government, passing laws to stop things the party in power doesn’t like can be intoxicating, but it violates our right to be adults who are entitled to make their own decisions.

Personally, I think marijuana legalization is an invitation to be stupid, but we have a right to be stupid.

There is evidence that Ontarians have finally had enough of government that tries to micro-manage our lives according to its values. As the provincial Liberals examined the reasons for their devastating election loss, a former senior Liberal staffer posted this observation on Facebook: “For five years she (Kathleen Wynne) was the only face and the only voice of our government, and our message was often a scold, or advice about the way people should live their lives. Or some guidance on how they can become better people. And they were sick of it.”

It’s tough to argue with that assessment, and it ought to act as a warning to Trudeau’s federal Liberals, the government that just can’t stop chiding us for failing to live up to its standards.

The rules for where we can consume beer or marijuana are small things in the grand scheme, but we have ceded far too much control over our lives to government, and it always wants more. Our personal freedom is a valuable thing, and we’re long overdue to take some of it back.

Randall Denley is an Ottawa political commentator and former Ontario PC candidate. Contact him at randalldenley1@gmail.com



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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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