When the weather gets warmer and summer finally deigns to spread her hand, we expect to be outside more regularly.
It’s one of life’s cheapest pleasures — to walk on a balmy summer evening and see others doing the same.
But this year I am dreading it. And I know I’m not alone, and nor is St. John’s the only city that will experience the increasing incidence of marijuana use in public.
Next month, the federal government is expected to enact its long-awaited legalization of cannabis use by decriminalizing its possession and distribution. Its goal is to protect youth, reduce the demand on the justice system and support continuing public health by protecting the populace through education and community action.
The fact that it is not yet legal has not stopped anyone from using; rather, I think the closer we get to a legal date, the more we are going to see the opportunities for growth, as it were, in producing, marketing and distributing it to those who want it.
Just take a look at the magazine rack at Chapters — the last time I looked, there were at least six magazines dedicated to the leafy substance, a number which is quickly outstripping the previous trend of backyard animal husbandry.
I’ve always appreciated the concept of moderation. Not too much and not too little, as my nieces used to say about giving treats to their cat. If you want to indulge, feel free. Just be sure to use it within the confines of your own space or in those places where smoking marijuana will be permitted.
My issue has been with those who smoke it in public.
Just as I do not want to inhale smoke from cigarettes, I do not want to walk through clouds of marijuana smoke. While it may be legal to possess it (up to 30 grams, max), it is not like cigarettes where you can find a park bench and then light up.
If you want to indulge, feel free. Just be sure to use it within the confines of your own space or in those places where smoking marijuana will be permitted.
It’s not quite like alcohol, either. Alcohol use has its limits – you can’t walk down Water Street swigging it from a Thermos or sipping from a carry cup, much less sitting in the cab of your truck knocking back a cold one before heading out.
The federal government has promised its legislation will ensure the protection of youth – and their still-developing brains – under the age of 18 through restrictions and penalties. The federal government also promised to support public health education about the hazards of cannabis with an infusion of cash for education programs and materials. While recent research suggests there won’t be a spike in impaired driving incidences, Newfoundland and Labrador does have the highest drug-impaired driving rates in all of Canada. And Statistics Canada notes that while alcohol-impaired driving rates are declining, drug-impaired driving rates are increasing steadily.
The new law will have an impact on the courts. We’ve already seen the local police refocus its efforts away from pursuing marijuana cases in favour of investigating more serious drugs. The justice system should also be affected positively: possession cases were generally minor, clogged up the system, and no doubt had a harmful if not devastating impact on many Canadian families.
But let’s do this right.
Enjoy your joints, Canadians, but do it legally — and respectfully.
By that I mean respect those around you. Acknowledge that marijuana smoke can have a serious impact on others, including passersby. Recognize that your liberty comes with an obligation to not do harm to others. Accept that you have a responsibility to not be — to be blunt, no pun intended — a jerk.
Public sentiment led the federal Liberals to the point where a history-making change in the law came to be.
I have no doubt that public sentiment can change again, if the nuisances become common, and the threats to public health and safety become pronounced.
As for me, as I plan a jaunt along a favourite trail, I would just like the air around me to be as fresh as possible.
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Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant living in St. John’s.