Is it real if I don’t experience it?

Having not experienced racial disparity personally when it comes to cannabis laws, or at all for that matter, it is easy to not see much of a problem. But right here lies our first misconception ‘having not experienced’ is false. It only denotes a lack of awareness for the struggles at the other end of the spectrum, and the stark contrast in treatment.

Discrimination was not a non existent entity, but it was sometimes subtle and sometimes not, typically expressed in completely unrelated ways. I can remember an early boss telling me to “do a white mans job”, there was no confusion about what he meant.

During my late teens a near year spent homeless in Toronto there were no such divisions or distinctions made among the homeless youth. We were all outcasts regardless of skin color, united to survive. Never considering the path from misery would be much different for some of us, impossible for others.

It was a few years later before I gave some real thought to the reality the scales are not always balanced equally. My viewpoint and experience with police has always been founded in the belief they are meant to serve and protect. The good guys, unless you were a bad guy. A perception that colors so many situations if you allow it to ‘oh that guy in the back of the police car must be a bad guy’. Completely unaware that for some demographics the opposite viewpoint is held and the person seen in the back of a police car is the victim of an oppressor.

It was around 1989 I found myself having to appear in court, after a couple of Peel regional police undercover idiots made the bust of the century catching me outside a nightclub rolling a joint. I normally wouldn’t disparage police officers acting in the line of duty, but these 2 assholes were threatening and abusive, making a huge deal of the fact I was merely being sent home with only an appearance ticket. Over 2 grams of weed. Was REALLY good shit too!

I took court seriously while also not expecting the court to truly take my case too seriously, hell the hometown OPP officers I knew growing up would have ground it into the dirt and sent ya home, at worst! I had one tell me once at 1:30am “Go smoke your hash somewhere else” when someone complained about 2 of us behind the GM dealership where it was well lit.

I show up the 2nd time after the 1st ‘get a lawyer’ remand, again without a lawyer, properly attired, suit jacket etc. Wanting to get this over with as quick as possible, and knowing squat about how to navigate the legal stuff, I asked to speak to the Crown Attorney. I introduced myself and asked him if there was any way I could just plead guilty or anything to get this done and over with. He asked me my name again then told me to just come up when my name was called. When it was I stood up, the crown said a few things I didn’t really understand, judge asked me to ‘tell me about yourself’, looked at the crown said “recommendation accepted, dismissed”. I sat back down processing what it meant, they let me off.

The next case was a young guy I chatted with outside. He was there for a gram of hash. The crown listed a couple of prior arrests for possession and then started talking about probation and suspended sentences! I left confused and a little disillusioned, not at all understanding the severity in which they displayed.

Now some 30 years later as we celebrate being such a progressive society by legalizing cannabis, the same old patterns are still prevalent in the system, and hardly limited to this one issue.

Every person in North America has been affected by discrimination, racial or otherwise. For so many the effect is not negative, so it is just the way things are. Blind to what life on the other end of the scale is like is it easy to simply believe that’s just how things are. Easier still to be dismissive in the belief that you are not a racist so it is not your problem, and people bring this on themselves.

It is all our problem when equality is a myth.

The true measure of a society is how it looks after the poor, weak and most vulnerable. In how intrinsic fairness is established in it’s most entrusted legislation and it’s administration.

In this regard we are failing horribly.

Grandpa Wants a Doobie

For a very long time, the quest in cannabis growing for the recreational market has been centred around reaching maximum potency. With flavour and effect considerations coming in a very close second. The benchmark, however, was always about potency. Even as legal consumers, it is not rare for someone to ask, “What’s the strongest stuff you have?” Clearly there is a strong voice in the market demographic for the highest high test.

There is a new voice starting to be heard now that the stigmas are fading away. Perhaps they were always there, but as a minority were well drowned out. My first realization that we are not paying enough attention to the wants and needs of the whole market came through the voice of another and initially surprised me. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized there is a massive market not being catered to; incredibly massive!

While sharing the different flowers from last years harvest, I did as most might do: I offered up my best first. Somewhat deflated when the response was just ok, I went to the next best. Still the reaction was lackluster. Now I was getting really confused. I was proud of these two flowers, but fully understanding that everyone has their own preference in the type of effect, I offered up my 3rd best.

The reaction to this third choice was much more favourable. For the next round came my least favourite and, ironically, the largest amount I harvested. The response shocked me: “We love it! That’s the best one yet!” Puzzled, I sat down and asked myself, “Why is this one so good over the others? It’s my least favourite.”

The reply was simple and clear. “This one is a lot closer to the stuff we used to smoke when we were young. We get a nice buzz that we enjoy, but it’s not so strong we feel stupid or debilitated. We don’t want to get wasted, just relax and feel good”. These are folks in their 60’s who wanted an effect like they remember from their youth.

It makes great sense. In those days if you wanted to go full wasted, you could just smoke one after another until you got there. I was one of those types as were many others then labelled ‘pothead’. Today the softer ‘chronic’ is far more palatable.

When we look at legal recreational use in Canada, for the most part the focus seems to have been capturing the legacy market and converting them. Potency is a solid strategy to that end with price coming in a very close second. But massive potential is being left on the table.

There is a very large number of Canadians in the aging population, some continued to use cannabis, but many left it behind with their youth. Now facing the ills of age, aches and pains and medical treatment becomes a necessary normal along with prescription medications. More and more of this demographic are going back to cannabis, not only for it’s recreational and nostalgic value, but because of the understood benefits that can come with it.

An entire line of products geared to the 40+ crowd would do extremely well with a mid-to-low THC-, mid-to-high CBD-content flower of varying phenotypes. Unlike the youngest cannabis consumer demographic, the 40+ market has far more disposable income available to them.

Perhaps a tamed down White Widow would work. How about “Grey Bearded Widow” or “Geriatric Kush”? All kidding aside, this is where the next big market push should be geared. There are millions of Canadians who, unhindered by legal ramifications, would very much enjoy partaking in some great tasting flower that does not leave them couch locked or drooling while wondering what their name was.

If you really want to cash in on the growing Canadian cannabis market, look to your elders.

Review: Craft Prairie Black Hash

Old-school black hash was typically one of three consistencies: hard and crumbly with consistent colour inside and out; semi-soft with black exterior and brownish red inside that would soften and crumble when heated; very soft black with a very dark inside that bubbles slightly when heated and crumbles into a very sticky goo that sticks to everything. The last of those was always the most rare and the most potent making your fingers sticky just handling it. It was and is always a real treat.

With the above preamble in mind, you can imagine my surprise when the mail brought me a wonderful blast from the past of what has to be some of the very best black hash my 40+ years consuming cannabis has ever seen. It wasn’t just a random gift or anything, so perhaps some context is in order.

A friend in the twitter canna community and talented grower, Tom @thegrowshoweh, held a contest late last year. Contestants had to guess the amount of hash used to make this hashface and win 5 grams of home made hash.

Funny face created with pieces of hashish
Hmmm. Just how much hash was used here, eh?

With the kind of magical luck I wish the national lottery would bestow upon me, I guessed the magic number, 9.7 grams, and won the prize.

Early this week, I was thrilled to receive my prize in the mail. I became even more excited when I opened the package and started to play with and smell the hash. It is soft and gummy at room temperature, makes my fingers sticky and has the most wonderfully deep, kush, musky hash aroma. Upon trying to heat and mix it with some herb, I found more of it stuck to my fingers than the weed! Not a bad problem to have, right up there with ‘my gold bar is too heavy’.

I have no insight into how this hash was made, bubble bags or otherwise. The only information I did get is this is a product of multiple phenotypes.

This sure does look tasty, doesn’t it?

Knowing so little made no difference in the enjoyment factor whatsoever. This is absolutely some of the very best hash I have ever tried. It smokes smoothly without any of those inevitable pin hole burns down the front of your favourite satin shirt. The effect comes in as great hash does, initially at the top of the neck, then a little fog in the head followed by a relaxing overall body high minus the overpowering couch lock. I found I could function very well, or not at all, and be quite relaxed and comfortable doing either.

I do not recall any name being given for this soft and gooey goodness aside from ‘homemade black hash’ but if I were to be so bold as to give it one, it would be something along the lines of “Alberta’s Other Black Gold”. When given choices of flower and or hash, flower would always be my singular 1st choice. If Alberta’s Other Black Gold were on the menu, it would have me splitting my buying power between it and whatever premium flower was available.

I mean, seriously. Just look at it!

There’s simply no better way to start a new year than with a nice hunk or premium Gold. Thanks, Tom! You are a hash master, sir.

Legalization Is Hard On My Neck

Counterintuitive. Unrealistic. Punitive. Exclusionary. Asinine. These are just some of the words being used with increased frequency since the announcement of the first legal cannabis regulations. Many of the reasons why are no surprise. It was no secret that a lot of money would be at stake, so an influx of opportunists and serious contenders was anything but surprising.

Some of the new laws were of little surprise, too, to be honest. Context is everything, so reading the proposed new laws with the understanding they were guided directly by a now MP, who was formerly a police chief, made some sense. Sense in respect to a police chief’s position, but not so much for an MP who is supposed to represent and serve based on the wants of a constituency. But, OK. Hey, it’s only a start; version 1.0. It is bound to improve.

From the outset, one of the primary concerns was identified by many as a major roadblock going forward: Price. There are untold thousands who man the black- and grey markets, having served millions of customers for decades with fair-priced, high-quality product. The black market is extremely good at giving the client base what they want. It is a simple ask: Good, clean cannabis.

The government position was clear: Elimination through enforcement. But what was it Albert Einstein said about repeating the same task yet expecting a different outcome? Clearly MPs are wearing blinders when it comes to just how entrenched the black market is in our society. Those many thousands of people who carry the black market have been in the civil disobedience business longer than most MPs have been MPs.

In a way, it is no surprise. Government tends to have a distorted view of the populace. Government tends to believe it can implement its will and we will simply obey. Well, Canadians are nice, but we aren’t stupid. Being herded like sheep is not high on the priority list for any thinking person.

So, “Yeah, yeah. The feds changed the rules. Who cares? I’m still gonna do what I’ve always done.” has been the position for many people. Understandably so. It was always clear the black market was never fully understood. Feds see organized crime, or at least that’s the talking point, but the truth is far simpler: The black market is our friends, family members, neighbours and coworkers. It comprises regular, everyday people who choose to not be sheep.

Hearing government officials parrot these misconceptions is one thing. The why of it is easily understood. The logic, or lack thereof, behind it is easily picked apart and oft chalked up as more government nonsense.

When we hear those with a financial stake in legal cannabis crying for increased arrests and black market clamp-downs, it is a beast of an entirely different colour. It rightfully creates anger and division. To call for police intervention to help compensate for a flawed or failed business model is nothing short of appalling.

There are some clear messages that come from this type of call to action, none of which resulting in the effect the for which instigator is hoping. To start with, outing oneself as an opportunist over activist is seldom attractive. Skipping past the 55 reasons there are to find anger, let’s skip right ahead to the lunacy, shortsightedness and blind ignorance.

Those involved in cannabis prior to legalization have always lived with the threat of arrest. It did nothing to deter a black market that serves millions on a daily basis. While we are at it, let’s add some proper scale to the black market. While the term typically refers to growers and suppliers, it truly encompasses all who take part in it, whether that be from start to finish, somewhere in between or as just a consumer.

Prior to legalization, the size of the Canadian black market was safely in the range of about 4 million people. Let that number sink in for a moment. That is a significant percentage of the Canadian population. Stats have also suggested that in the months since legalization, black market activity has not had any kind of significant reduction. That market stability was aided in part by poor reviews of some early LP offerings and a lack of accessibility.

That is the market the legal framework would like to have step over to their side. And a significant market it is. It is a market that knows customer loyalty and product quality very well. It is a market that is used to fair prices. So, when these voices call for more arrests, who exactly do they think they are targeting?

Clearly they are operating with a lack of understanding of who their prospective customers are. Can they not see they are calling for the arrest of the very people they wish to come and buy their wares? How in any way, shape or form does that make sense in terms of attracting a loyal customer base? A loyal customer base is precisely what every canna business person wants. At what point is it recognized that loyalty is earned, not enforced?

There is so much counter intuition at play that it’s almost baffling. Demanding that people come to you, be disloyal to their current supplier and pay 3 times the price is a failed model regardless of how many misconceptions about pesticides and tainted products are put forth. There has been so little effort to win the hearts and minds of this massive consumer base, it is almost insane. Those who have gone that path have found great interest in what they are doing and they garner much attention. Some, however, are crying the blues because the cash cow they were banking on has a broken leg.

Many players seeing riches jumped on the hype wagon without fully understanding just what the government-imposed variables would mean. Those imposed variables virtually guaranteed years of a vibrant black market that continues the long-established goal of supplying reasonably priced, safe, cannabis to everyday Canadians.

LP players calling for the government to continue its failed prohibition tactics — or even increase action — make people angry. Rightfully so, too! Consumers are given a mixed message of, “When you get out of jail, come buy my weed.” It’s an approach as dumb as a bag of hammers that has proven to be ineffective. It would make more sense to be calling for government action on things such as the medical tax or inflated overhead costs for growers and retail. By advocating those things, operators would be advocating for the same things as the customer base.

It would also make sense to understand you jumped into a new and not yet understood market, so any risks taken were yours and yours alone. Calling for the government to arrest people to bail you out is, well, chickenshit cowardice. If you are not prepared to lose money for a period of time until the market normalizes and you can establish a loyal clientele, you have no business investing any money to begin with. If you are not able to objectively understand who your customer base is and will be, you have no business investing any money in such business.

If you honestly feel calling for more arrests will lure people to your products or into your store, you are in the wrong business.

And, yeah, my neck still hurts.

You May Not Have Known This

Two days. That is how long this title has sat there while I contemplated just how to go about this article. The original premise was to be a series of small anecdotes of fake names and made up circumstances. All would relate to a perspective into why any given person on any given day could be so easily overwhelmed or in pain of some kind and lash out at a stranger online. It does not even have to be lashing out; a not well thought out reply is often enough to offend someone.

Yes, we are going to discuss social media interactions and the bitterness that seems to be so prevalent of late.

To save some of you some time, I have no idea what I am talking about. I can relate only my own personal experience and I have no business or intent to speak for anyone else. I am without post-graduate education of any kind and therefore have no qualifications or belief that would make me an expert of any kind.

OK. Let me know when they are gone.

Are they gone? It’s just us? Excellent! Let’s try and have a discussion. I think if we focus on influence and choices, we might find that great nirvana that frees us all: An alternate perspective.

Influence, while seemingly more powerful than choice, is incredibly powerful but truly second to informed choice. It is all around us every day. We constantly see Republicans bashing Democrats and, in other countries, Conservatives bashing Liberals. Public discourse among nations’ highest leaders offer little in terms of having respect for political opposition. Recent years have seen this ramped up to extraordinary levels with veiled insults being set aside for openly abusive language.

Before long, the neighbour who displays a different political affiliation on their lawn goes from respected to hated because that is what leaders are telling them. Human exploration into global connectivity and intercommunication on levels never seen before comes with it’s own downsides. The widespread belief that free speech is just that — regardless of the media or intent — is as false a human premise as could be imagined. It is a myth, a carrot held over our heads by those who would choose to use the stick.

Everyone has a right to life free from abuse. Any law or given right that permits violation of that right is immoral. Yet so often it is the cry of the oppressor that it is their right to be abusive. What it is, is a choice that is made. A choice to be abusive, condescending and to try to unload some personal baggage onto someone else. A choice to respond in anger instead of with understanding. Sadly, it’s the easiest choice, but it’s far from the most powerful.

Setting aside influence, choice is the path past anger and hostility. Just as those going after another, for any reason, seem to be able to justify it a hundred different ways, the hardest choice requires no justification. Choosing to attack someone who was rude only keeps the cycle of negativity going. Yet some seem to derive great satisfaction from it. In the moment, they are fully unaware that they are elevating themselves by stepping on another.

Choice is the great power we all possess. It is ours alone and, used well, great benefit for oneself and others is easily found. If, that is, we make the right choices.

Choose to be aware that everyone you encounter on social media is damaged in some way. We all are. No human walks this life without knowing difficulty in some manner, visible or otherwise. Choose to be aware. Communication is a gift and a skill some are much more proficient at than others. Choose to look at intent over content. Quite often they can be polar opposite, again reflecting a lack of communication skills.

You can choose to create and feed fires or you can choose to put them out. You can choose to be understanding, perhaps offering a hand in friendship. Inspiring gratitude for even a small kindness in another is a gift that everyone receives.

You can choose compassion.

You can choose to embrace the positive.

You can choose to be happy.

These are the only rights that matter and that no one can take away.

What will you choose to do?

Cannabis Legalization in Canada: It’s Not All Bad

It’s now mid-2019 and cannabis has been legal for recreational use for over half a year. This far in, there is no shortage of directions to look that lead to head-shaking disbelief. It started in some sense back in 2017, when we were getting the first glimpses into what the government thought legalization should look like. It really did not get much better leading up to oct 2018 when it came into effect. It may even have gotten worse, as confusion and frustration over access and prices led established consumers to stay with current black- and grey market sources.

To use a basketball analogy: When it comes to cannabis legalization, our federal leaders are no Harlem Globetrotters. Fumbles and whiffs are plentiful and consistent. That is not, however, what this article will be about. We don’t get a lot of articles on the subject of the best parts of the new normal. Exposés and feel-good stories are as near an oxymoron when used in the same context as it gets. But feel-good, upside stories exist and are plentiful when one goes looking for them. Most centre around an individual’s accomplishments, but some are bigger stories such as the one we will now get explore.

Gifting and Trading Cannabis: A Jewel in the Crown

Have you done it? Has a friend done it? Do you know anyone who does it? Lots of people are doing it every day! And it’s fun as hell! You should try it.

The best thing we were given in the new regulations is the legal ability to gift or trade cannabis freely among legal-age adults anywhere in Canada. It was not long after the new laws came into effect that people saw there would be potential in gifting and trading. Websites designed to facilitate people coming together for that purpose arrived soon after. Having never utilized one for any purpose, I will not suggest an opinion on them one way or the other.

Social media interactions became an important part of trading for myself and, I suspect, many others. We own our social media in the sense that what we publish says who we are or who we want the world to see. Reputation and credibility come into play and, based on ongoing interactions, trust is formed.

For me, trading was initially about trading seeds. We all know how expensive good genetics are. So, I was really not disappointed with the result of my hedonistic exuberance last season and the 800+ seeds that it yielded. That first trip to Canada Post to send off a package was a pleasure, even when I was told how much it would cost. Knowing it was legal made it fun, even if it was only for the novelty of doing it. Quickly, however, one trade turned into several and not all were seed-for-seed. Through the process of building relationships over the course of the next few months, my experiences went beyond trading and into gifting. There is no feeling quite like opening a package or being handed a bag or two of such premium flower that it would be otherwise unaffordable, which was sent only because someone knew of a need or simply wanted to do so.

This is the very heart of who we are when we are at our best.

The idea for an article around this phenomenon has been with me for while. It was the culmination of a period of vitriol and bitterness that led someone to finally almost beg for a good-news story that fuelled my motivation. That and it’s raining today.

If you have yet to do some trading, don’t be afraid to say you are looking to do some trading. Or if you’re in a position to perhaps send some gifts, find some people who could use a little boost. It’ll make everyone feel good.

Each and every day, we are in a position to make someone else’s day a little better. Often, it isn’t even obvious because it seems so small and insignificant. In truth, small kindnesses have huge impacts on people’s everyday lives. You might let someone in line with two items checkout ahead of you with your 40. As has become popular with the drive-through coffee crowd, you might pay for the person behind you in line. There are a million ways to be kind in a world that bombards us with hate and intolerance. It’s a simple choice where no one loses.

What better gift is there to someone having a bad day than finding a way to make it better, even if only for a little while?

Tips for Gifting/Sharing

Social media: Be aware with whom you are gifting or trading. Never engage in illegal trades, such as crossing international borders. Mailing: If sending flower, use vacuum-sealed, odour-proof bags. There is also a smell-proof mailing envelope available for purchase. The smaller the package, the less it will cost. If sending seeds, try to avoid using things like greeting cards and flat envelopes, which get run through processing machines and will crush seeds.

Most importantly, pay it forward. Be good to each other; it elevates us all.

The Gift of an Enemy

This is likely the 25th or 30th time I’ve tried to put something of my story into words. I’m unsure of why or even if would want it read, but there is an unknown need to satiate. I cannot ignore it any longer.

In truth, the reasons to not write this are far easier to find. Fear is always the first one, as it has so many components. Fear of being judged or disliked roots itself deep in my earliest years. Fear of exposing oneself, which I suspect is strongly tied to the previously mentioned fear, has been ever present.

There was also an internal conflict that seemingly could not be overcome. For a long time, the motivation could have easily been claimed as anger. That anger and the message it wanted to send was in direct conflict with my personal growth. Truth be told, I used that anger from a very young age as motivation to get as far away from the source as possible.

That was flawed plan from the start, as you cannot outrun that which you carry with you.

Such viewpoints and considerations are not granted to a youth who is trying to cope with a reason to be fearful in most any direction. Fear becomes fight or flight. When it is impossible to fight, flight remains the only option. Both responses being fuelled and justified by fear, it becomes a singular all powerful drive with no sense or direction beyond just escape.

I met a friend recently whose flight response resulted in him basically running away to university. Never let it be said the power of diversion is a weak force. His journey lead me to wonder how many post graduate students are there for similar reasons. Likely more than we would care to realize. For others, I suspect taking the fight path came about in much the same way, with the only real difference being a choice to stand instead of run.

So, how to tell a story without needing to tell the whole story? The last thing I wish to do here is create a list of traumas and crises. It neither serves me or the reader any benefit to endure the process of reliving any of it.

In fact, that very unwillingness — something I see as a crucial step forward — is a hinderance in finding a way through this with help from the medical community. How truly beneficial is it to force someone to relive all the most terrifying moments they can recall, for the sole purpose of giving a clinician a ‘complete’ picture of what they live with on a daily basis? It makes as much sense as reopening every cut and rebreaking every broken bone a patient endured to get a complete picture of their overall health.

While that description may sound extreme, anyone with PTSD who has interacted with health professionals in the course of treatment will agree 100%. Barbaric is how I would honestly describe it.

This, however — whatever it is — is not about the failures of the medical system. In fact, perhaps through an unwillingness to waste my time or theirs, I cycled through enough individuals to end up sitting in front of someone who was truly helpful. An old Irish hippie GP and my current nurse practitioner. So if we are not here to bash the medical system or lay bare all my scars, what the fuck are we doing here? Wasting your time? Wasting my time? Maybe.

I’m certainly not here to make any claims that anyone should ‘just do as I do/did and you’ll be fine’. Nor am I here to entertain any delusion that my path of healing is complete. It is a journey I will walk with gratitude all my days. So the only real story I guess want to tell, for now, is where I was in the time before it all collided and how that collision in turn changed my life. Let me reword that: How that collision forced me to change my life.

By my mid-40s, I had run the medical gambit of therapists, god-complex, “I can heal you” doctors and resident psychiatrists and I had had a few good years with the afore mentioned Irish hippie doc. There was also a new relationship in my life that proved to be an incredibly grounding force. Unconditional love seems like an empty platitude until you experience it for yourself. May you have the ability to offer it and recognize it in those around you for there is little in life more rewarding.

Things should have been perfect. On the surface, they were. Burying anger becomes so normal that even when rooting it out over time, there will be areas that get missed or overlooked.

I knew it was there. Its own cycle kept it fed as it would anger me that I had not been able to identify the source and deal with it. I had gotten pretty good at getting past triggers through identification and clear choices to leave whatever that was behind and move forward without it. That is easy to do once you start to take ownership of yourself, claim what is yours — good or bad — and toss any rocks packed in your bag by someone else.

Easy isn’t the best word, but it fits. The viewpoint on that word in that context is vastly different depending on where you are in your own personal journey. For me it was still not enough; there was still something deep I couldn’t quite find. I sure as hell was not expecting it to be revealed in the manner it was.

Gratitude was not something strange to me. There was much around me to be grateful for. Life brings to us many gifts. Some we ask for; some are more of a surprise. My gift, at a time when needed, was an enemy. Someone who went out of their way to be abusive to others had decided I was worthy of their negative attention.

Four years of numerous and consistent incidents had served well to fuel the remaining anger I sought to bury because I couldn’t kill it. I did not realize at all how closely tied that anger was to the current state of affairs. One particular day, there was another incident. I sat down, frustrated, having tried everything within reason to simply keep the peace. Yet this person was having none of it.

Something inside me switched that day. As I sat there, I told myself that enough was enough. Living like this was no different from parts of childhood I fled so many years ago. I remember thinking, “I thought this shit was behind me”. And then, “I am putting a stop to this once and for all”. That thought had no sooner appeared to me when here was this person once again in my face.

Nobody touched anybody that day and no one was hurt in any way, but a clear message was sent. And received. The arresting officers could not have been nicer and they went out of their way to make the process very easy. They even drove me both ways to the station and back home again.

It started in the back of the police car with a feeling in my gut. Something was different, yet in a good way. It was something I could not reconcile at the time. In fact, it was confusing. Being in the back of a cop car means you’re in trouble. So why did I feel somehow liberated?

It was hard to even identify that sense of liberation at the time. For the entire month prior to my single court appearance it was there alongside a knot in the gut. It wasn’t that I had no idea what it was; it was accepting it for what it was. In conversations with one of the most special and influential people in my life in the immediate days following my arrest, we talked about epiphanies. The system, however, still had something to say about my losing my cool. Until I knew what the outcome was, there would be a knot.

Court came and went in a day, just a single appearance. It seems that accepting responsibility for ones actions is favoured, though I did not share the reality I had no regrets. Having that burden lifted, it was on to dealing with the fallout. It was time to sort through this mess. What came next was life-changing. All the anger and frustration I thought I held towards that person became something entirely different: Gratitude.

While I already had a nice list of people and things I was grateful for, when it came to this person, well, it was the last thing I expected. The more I thought about it, however, the more it made sense. The more I accepted it, the smaller the knot in my gut became. Before long, it was gone.

If someone said to me 20 or 30 years ago, “Life gives you what you need when you need it”, I would likely have responded with resentful anger and listed off 20 or so things I would have demanded justification for ‘needing’. But the filters change with time. My progress up to that point had been my own. I owned it. I nurtured it. I guided it. Yet I was still stuck with a ball of anger I could not root out. I likely would not have managed to do so without the gift of an enemy.

Life had put me in a position where I had to face some of my worst fears head on. Where I had to choose fight over flight. Even if only to know it was possible to make that choice.

Who knows.

I can only tell you what I do know: I am not angry anymore, though I regret living so many years with anger. It blinds you. It is not life, it is merely existence.

A lyric comes to mind, “I don’t know where I’m going. but I sure know where I’ve been”. It has special meaning for me these days. In some ways, I feel like I have only just become alive and aware. And I do not know where this life, just like this article, is going. Not knowing where this path now leads only brings excitement and enthusiasm. One foot in front of the other, I’ll go where it takes me knowing my past does not predetermine my future. I am in control.

If there is any real takeaway message in all this, it is simple: Self-empowerment equals choice. Choice is everything. My own fears were drowned because I made a choice. I made the choice to stand up and demand something better for myself, to protect myself and to heal myself.

I wish for all of you to find the strength you need. To make a choice. To heal yourself.

To walk a path unburdened.

Ending the War: It Has to Start Somewhere

Maybe it has to start with me. Or you. Us. How about everyone? Who cares, as long as it begins.

Okay, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s lay out some context. Following the lead of the United States, Canada long ago created laws to make cannabis use illegal. Since that time, a massive number of Canadians have been persecuted and faced criminal charges, criminal records and suffered all the downsides that come with that. All for the desire to consume cannabis.

This would be normally a good place to go into benefits verses harm of cannabis; however, the reality of it now being legal for recreational use makes a much stronger case on its own merit. For a long time it was clear, sort of. We knew growing up that cannabis was illegal, like theft. We also later learned, through parents or peers, that cannabis use was, well, fun, not to mention a lot more benign than the other rebel option, alcohol. Grass fit easily in your pocket and was a heck of a lot easier to carry 3 miles across town than a two-four of bottled beer.

Even interactions with law enforcement in my youth betrayed the letter of law in how those who were meant to enforce said laws almost did not want to. There were far more serious things they could be concerned with. In many ways those early interactions were as much responsible for my own skepticism of the official legal position of our government. The first of those interactions is one of the funniest: After catching me and a friend at 1 am sitting behind a building smoking hash and seeing the hash sitting in the open, he sent us on our way. He surprised us when he pulled up and rolled his window down and asked, “What are you boys doing here?” I panicked and replied, “Just smoking some hash. It’s well lit so I can see to roll”. It was not the answer he was expecting, I suspect. After asking who we were, he sent us on our way with, “Well, we had a noise complaint, so go smoke your hash somewhere else”. We did.

It was not until some years later when getting involved with medical cannabis and cultivation of same I began to really understand the division. The ‘no big deal’ attitude I had learned was in stark contrast to the reality for many. Seeing a simple plant medication being denied to the most in need was bad. Seeing those same people being punished for trying to live a healthy life was just wrong. It breeds anger.

Anger and frustration became common for many on the pro side who were fuelled by a senseless drug war with no logical reason to exist. That war was only born of hatred and discrimination. It has gone on for decades now, with two fairly clear sides.

Sort of.

What also became clear at some point was that my experience was not necessarily representative of others. That everybody had their own unique entry and interpretation of cannabis and it’s standing in society. Much of which I did not understand was regarding its opposition.

For the opposition side there were a few different, key positions depending on context and employment. Doctors who prefer to stay inside the box, for example, claim no benefit based on no studies. Recommending illegal substances does not tend to go over well with medical boards and administrators to whom they must answer. Law enforcement? The name says it all. If it’s illegal, it is their job to enforce those laws. It is only natural that after many decades, the perception and language used would evolve to suit the goal. It was clear, however, that many really did not buy into the Reefer Madness mentality. The result was a wide range of reactions depending on who you happen to come in contact with and the scope of the situation. A joint may get dumped or ignored; a couple of pounds might present a more sticky situation.

For many in every day society who simply had no real world experience with cannabis, what they were told by authority, medical and legal, was what they believed. Why wouldn’t they? We believe many things based on what an expert or educator tells us and we are quite content to do so. Were that not true, I would be building a particle accelerator instead of penning this op-ed. Today there are many conflicting viewpoints around cannabis, even though it is a legal substance. More and more we also have an extremely diverse number of incredibly talented individuals in a wide range of careers who, for whatever reason, have an interest working in or even trailblazing in this new legal landscape.

Maybe we are getting onto the main point. Many social media interactions led me to want to write this article. There are situations where someone working in the cannabis industry, for whatever reason, does not seem to fit the perception of another of who belongs in those jobs. As a result, some people feel it is appropriate to question, interrogate and sometimes even berate them openly and publicly. It’s as though they have committed some offence for being successful or having a high profile.

Some of these attacks are made by high-profile advocates who, for whatever reason, see these newcomers — I was tempted to say ‘corporate newcomers’, but it is broader than that — as unwelcome intruders who have no right to be where they are. There are several problems with a purely confrontational approach to the emerging legal cannabis sector professionals. Not least of these problems is the stark contrast to what the entire cannabis culture and society is built around: The acceptance of those who accept cannabis, without judgement or preconceived notions as to why. That “stick together through adversity” belief permeates deeply into the culture.

When did it become acceptable to degrade someone pro-cannabis only because they are wealthy and you have never seen them smoking a joint? It makes absolutely no sense to attack, berate or demean anyone who is pro-cannabis for any reason, whether they be an executive or craft grower.

I know some of you who have gotten this far might be a tad triggered and ready with all kinds of ‘But, but, but’ rebuttals and justification for the aforementioned attitudes. Let me, however, explain why that is a dead end approach that actually hurts the progress of the current legal cannabis landscape in Canada.

First off: Quality. Let the quality of a product stand on the company name, not individuals who quite often have had little or no ability to affect end-result retail product. Over time, product quality will allow the market to determine who should survive and who should not. The barometer for any professional individual is how well the decisions and career choices see them progress based on results. The best will rise, the good will survive and the rest will recycle into something else or get out of the game. That’s how it should be with any profession.

Second: The changes we still wish to see. Consumers want good product at affordable prices. Companies want to make money. Both sides want a market that meets those needs. Consumers need products. Producers need clients. It is a very simple formula. We will have a much harder time getting the changes required to establish a stable and effective retail cannabis system when we are too busy fighting with each other to focus on where real change needs to happen. The government’s intended goal of illicit market elimination also is very much dependent on a good quality, affordable, retail marketplace.

Some things will take time. Medical acceptance is growing by leaps and bounds, as is the research that is so long past due. Schools will adapt fairly quickly, as will much of the medical establishment. The landscape in 5 years will look very different from today.

I remember vividly as a teenager smoking and pondering why weed was illegal. Even then it seemed simple. Many of us said it: “They should just make it legal and tax it. It would pay off the deficit”. Maybe 30 years ago it could have, but not today and not in its current form. That form will be much better suited to our needs and closer to our desires when we accept without pre-qualifiers. If you accept cannabis we accept you, unless you’re a pedophile or some other horrid creation.

Personally, I find many of the high-profile individuals very interesting. There are perspectives shared through curiosity and asking civil questions that provide ideas and concepts I may never have been able to consider. Perspective is a pretty major thing. Moreover, we need these leaders and trailblazers as allies. Far more can be achieved in attaining mutual goals as a united, well-informed front. Well-informed goes both ways. I am sure there are questions and opinions to be shared almost equally among all parties.

Unless we all sit at the same table, in respect and acceptance, how will we ever find reconciliation with the other side? How will the war ever end? Personally, I want to learn, engage and be active in this new green reality.

Let’s finally make it what we once envisioned. Let’s not perpetuate what was once forced upon us.

Reconsidering Marihuana Reconsidered 47 Years On

Scan of book cover of Marihuana Reconsidered, written by Lester Grinspoon, M.D.

There are all kinds of awards in professional life. For one like myself, the theme is a bit repetitive, such as a particularly good crop or some new well-crafted flower to sample. Every once in a while, really helping someone better their life in any manner is a real high point.

When I recently had the opportunity to acquire a 1st edition of Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s 1971 Marihuana Reconsidered that was in excellent condition, I did not let it pass by. Over a series of mini reports, we will look into the message shared by Dr. Grinspoon, discuss notable points of interest and relevant predictions and comparisons.


The book begins with general information to provide context and quickly delves into history, cultural attitudes and policy. It is also full of little surprises. When discussing tetrahydrocannabinol on page five, Dr. Grinspoon writes, “It is possible that other cannabinol derivatives do have pharmacological activity”. This statement immediately prompted my realization that D.r Grinspoon suggested CBD benefits in 1970!

A great deal of the introduction addresses clinical confusion and the difficulties surrounding cannabis medicine stigma and flawed research. In the book clearly outlining just how muddled the whole issue had become by then, I was reminded of some of the positions I see taken by a segment of clinicians that there are no supporting studies, so, no it does not work. Since the anecdotal evidence is so prevalent for many cannabis treatable conditions, such contrary positions always surprise me.

Grinspoon writes on page eight, “Of the body of knowledge known as modern medicine, the clinical segment particularly was largely derived from observations and studies which could hardly be considered controlled, rigorous, or even scientific.” The statement left me wondering just how relevant the statement is today versus in 1970 when Grinspoon penned it. An insight into the problems around cannabis, as well as a few interesting questions, are found in and around the introduction. At the end of the introduction, our confusion and frustration at the apparent madness being explained before us are brought gently back down with the last line penned on page nine: “It is still better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Yes, yes it is.

Chapter One: The History of Marihuana in the United States

In the first chapter, Grinspoon immediately addresses the love-hate relationship between cannabis and United States interests. He goes on to explain in great detail the history of hemp from George Washington to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and the significance of one Mr. Harry J Anslinger. Myths surrounding George Washington and hemp are as old as he would be now. Did they smoke it or use it for medicinal purposes? Did they grow it for flower or just for hemp fibre and feed? I will not attempt to answer any of those questions, but I will make note of a very relevant note made by George Washington in his diary where he writes on page 12, “Aug 7, 1765: Began to separate the male from the female hemp, rather too late”. The only reason I know to separate male and female cannabis is for increased flower mass by not pollenating. I am unaware of a different reason for hemp to be separated should one exist.

Discussed along with Washington separating male and female plants were some studies that claimed separating the sexes was a waste of effort as it did not increase resin production. This reasoning seems to indicate a failure in realizing that it is the increase in flower production from denying pollination that is the sole reason to separate male from female plants.

The discussed decline in industrial hemp was a multi-factor, downward spiral tied to several changing industries and growing offshore competition offering cheaper product. By the time the idea of a drug war was beginning, hemp was on a steep decline a just few strides ahead of the cotton industry.

By the 1930s, the FBI had placed cannabis smoking in their sights and, despite credible evidence to the contrary, began a media campaign claiming cannabis use was responsible for most of the violent crime that occurred. FBI propaganda surrounding cannabis use involved such terms as “The Killer Drug Marihuana”. The propaganda was so effective that in August 1937, House Resolution (H.R.) 6906 was brought before the House of Representatives. Also known as The Marihuana Tax Act, the legislation imposing a tax on cannabis use had no difficulty being passed in the House.

The main reason The Marihuana Tax Act passed so easily was due in no small part to several years of negative and outright false claims and reports by the FBI. Additionally, the presentation of the bill claimed that it would channel cannabis into industrial and medical research hands and “discourage the current and widespread undesirable use of marihuana by smokers and drug addicts”. (Page 21)

The majority of the testimony for H.R. 6906 was negative, comprised mostly of newspaper stories and supportive mythology. The mythology went so far as to share a long believed false twist in Homer’s works, claiming the Persian assassins of which he wrote derived the name assassin from hashish. There was one man, however, who sought to be the voice of reason: Dr. W. C. Woodward, Legislative Council for the American Medical Association.

Being the voice of reason did not go well for the good doctor. He was harassed and ridiculed, presented at length with newspaper stories and being asked to explain the propaganda. Ultimately, his efforts proved to be a waste of time. Those who were meant to listen instead sought to dismiss the testimony. In the end, they claimed Dr. Woodward was uncooperative and should have arrived with “constructive proposals rather than criticisms”. (Page 26)

Not all were willing to simply be told cannabis was evil and leave it at that. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia championed a sensible approach to cannabis and commissioned the La Guardia report in 1938 with the help of the New York Academy of Medicine. Shortly before its release in 1943, Colonel J. M. Phalen, a Military Surgeon editor, printed an editorial called “The Marihuana Bugaboo”, in which he claimed cannabis was no more harmful than tobacco.

The La Guardia report was widely and strongly criticized. Harry Anslinger was very vocal in his firm belief that cannabis was evil and should be eradicated. His voice was so strong that both the League of Nations drug expert and the AMA denounced the La Guardia report. In April 1945, the Journal of the American Medical Association posted an editorial claiming the LaGuardia report was causing harm. The editorial claimed that the report was causing damage to law enforcement and advised public officials to disregard it and treat cannabis as a menace.

The desire of the American Medical Association to stay in close alignment to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics is a testament to just how powerful the opposition to cannabis medicine was. Going back to the early 1930s, you can find Anslinger’s name in and around cannabis falsehoods and fear almost everywhere they arise. Even today, we are still dealing with the fallout of his less than honourably motivated actions. Harry J. Anslinger truly is the father of cannabis prohibition.

Note: All page references apply to the 1st pressing of the Harvard University Press release of the book.

Cannabis Gummies: Nice treat Or Bad Trick

Photo of cannabis gummies

Cannabis use was once so simple. Once flower was procured, ingestion was a simple decision: Smoke a joint or smoke a bowl. Even the twenty different ways to describe it basically came down to those two choices. Once in awhile you might come across some ‘special’ hash brownies or cake baked with some canna butter. Depending on the method and experience of the baker, the taste would vary from weedy to hard-to-finish.

Over time, as extraction methods other than making butter became more and more common, options for culinary cannabis enhancement also grew as the green unpleasant flavours were lost. During this early shift, most of the jurisdictions that now see cannabis legal in one form or another were legislated otherwise. The result? This burgeoning cannabis edible market is, for the most part, entirely unregulated. The end result could have been predicted. Faced with no resistance or guidelines, any movement will naturally progress to the extreme. This is where we find ourselves today.

The extreme nature of the edibles market has clinicians voicing concern and suggesting a serious look at how some cannabis edibles are being sold. Some are even asking whether certain types of products, such as child-familiar gummies, should be sold at all. It’s clear that no responsible individual would make THC-infused gummies intended for children. For adults, it is our right to medicate as we see fit; however, it’s possible that we’re lacking sufficient education on the risks that such edibles pose for children. As well, there need to be sufficient punitive measures for irresponsible parents whose child found some treats and ended up in the ER. Some will oppose any such measures based on what they perceive as continued ‘Reefer Madness’ drug war propaganda. The reality is that a child who stumbles upon a bag of 80-mg gummies and eats a handful of them could be in very serious danger.

Some of the earliest products that became available to me via the Canadian online grey market were completely snack based. Rice Krispie squares, peanut butter cookies and gummies were some of the most common. Novelty effect is real and trying a few of these treats was kinda fun. They certainly tasted better than the party cakes of the past and such products led to me and my Mrs. discovering our required dosages for noticeable effect, 350+ mg and 30 mg respectively.

It was fun trying those treats. Learning how much more effective orally ingested cannabinoids are for therapeutic purposes was, however, the valuable take away for us. Dosage consistency and ease of ingestion — you don’t always want a cookie — led us away from treats and into using CBD and whole-plant THC oil in a capsule as a daily-dose medium. Any treat-based edibles we now consume are only what we make from our own butter.

I do not even have full exposure in Canada to the incredible range of products found in different parts of the world. Seeing 1000 mg chocolate bars online seemed fairly inert at first glance and may have elicited the thought, “That might be fun”. Yet, something seemed off and gave me pause for thought.

There have been plenty of times in recent years where cannabis edibles have made the news in some notorious fashion. Children mistakenly taking them to school or unfamiliar adults calling 911 in fear from an edible-induced anxiety attack are just a couple of examples. Social media responses are predictable, ranging from blind disbelief because “cannabis is harmless”, mockery and even abuse from the ‘no regulation’ side. Those advocating for common sense controls are typically shouted down and end up muted in the din of recreational outrage. Such is the modern internet.

An objective venture into the issue circles around some key basic questions:

  • Is the availability of infused sweets a public health issue?
  • Is the availability of infused sweets an education issue?
  • Is the availability of infused sweets an enforcement issue?
  • What is the most responsible approach?

The above questions are easy to ask, yet answers pose more of a challenge. As a public health issue, adding additional concerns to the sugar addiction our society is already dealing with is never going to be a good idea. That, however, is truly minor in comparison to how serious an edible episode can be. It is not at all uncommon for someone to experience some mild anxiety from ingesting edibles. For some, the anxiety can be extreme and downright terrifying. Imagine being in such a state of fear that you feel you are going to die. While those stories seem to draw much ridicule, it is anything but funny to those facing an overwhelming and impending sense of death.

An education issue?

I don’t think that anyone would be opposed to a well-informed public. That may remain difficult, however, while there is still such distance between the opposing sides and inconsistent positions among governments. One person’s information is another’s propaganda. It turns out that another victim of the drug war is clear and concise truth.

An enforcement issue?

It would be unsurprising to see some governments attempt a heavy-handed restrictive approach that mirrors past prohibition policies. Legalization in Canada, for example, has in its initial approach taken a very restrictive ‘harm reduction’ stand with clear lines between legal and illegal activities. We do not yet know what the laws regarding edibles will be until the federal government releases them later this year. Those laws are to go into effect as of Oct 17th. I think it is very likely the laws will be extremely restrictive in the THC levels that can be present, as well as what can be sold.

What is the responsible approach?

Each side will have a very different answer on the outer edges, ranging from outright banning to fully unregulated. As with anything however, agreement on some basic truths on each side usually points towards a happy medium. Or a balanced discontent.

Is banning prepackaged, cannabis edibles that are too easily indistinguishable from normal dessert treats from being sold the right approach? Perhaps. An entire sector of the cannabis industry is very much hoping for minimal regulation knowing this could potentially be a huge market. Some believe the edible market share will come to rival the dried flower market. The possibility of a billion dollar marketplace is squarely at odds with public health.

Is there a form of prepackaged edible that fully appeases health care concerns? It’s unlikely. Is there likely to be a version that is far more acceptable and meets some of the main concerns? Chief among such concerns are edibles looking like anything a child might find in the candy isle of the local general store. Finding an acceptable product could be a tough call. Sweet treats were a natural evolution from the brownies and cakes of old. There is no obvious substitute. The next best — frankly, for some, better — alternative is the active ingredients in a capsule form. While it would be very effective, it’d hardly be the fun of a good cookie.

Where do common sense, public health and public demand all find acceptable common ground? Surely public health concerns are better met with legislated controls. Ensuring safe dose levels would, in all probability, put an end to the 1000mg chocolate bar type offerings.

Perhaps the only solution is strict dosage limits. It serves harm reduction well, but not perfectly. Nothing I can think of, in fact, serves to fully appease any of the relevant positions. It may be in that grey zone where the only possible solution is found. One thing is certain: No one side is happy, but all are equally unhappy.