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Maxed Out

Have you heard? The war is over!

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By G.D. Maxwell

The Canadian Senate, that moribund public patronage trough for aging political bagpersons and defeated politicians, has sung its own song of freedom, its own redemption song - Don't Bogart that Joint My Friend, Pass it Over to Me.

Who'da thunk? The Senate, our Senate, obviously hiding balls the size of cantaloupes all these years, comes out puffing, calling for the legalization of cannabis. Not some namby-pamby, don't-ask-don't-tell, half-measure, turn a blind eye decriminalization, but outright, trot down to 7-11 for a pack of smokes legalization! Breathtaking.

In 1972, tired of protesting the Vietnam War, looking for something positive to tackle, a couple of friends and I, convinced our own redemption was near, formed a chapter of NORML - the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - at the university we were attending. It was a naïve, stupid gesture. We not only had no hope in hell of reforming the laws, we became lightning rods for every redneck cracker carrying a badge and gun. We might as well have walked around with sandwich boards reading Bust Me Pig. Instead of reforming marijuana laws, we pretty much had to give up smoking the stuff because we were always being harassed.

Worst of all, we obviously didn't understand how good we had it. At the University of New Mexico, pot was practically de facto legal. You could puff with impunity on campus, get high at the student union theatre and score pretty much anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. The Good Humor ice cream hippie who pedalled a three-wheel goodies bike around campus sold, along with frozen confections, reasonably good Mexican pot in various quantities, hash, assorted psychedelic pharmaceuticals and, best of all, he took food stamps as payment and made change in cold, hard coin of the realm. Life was good.

Though not so good as I witnessed in Amsterdam half a decade later. On a side trip north during a three month journey that consisted almost exclusively of getting chased off various Alps by bad weather and developing a lifelong addiction to Italian food, I had only two burning desires - stare at original Van Gogh canvases up close and smoke myself silly. After better than two months of abstinence, the order of these desires may not have been as stated.

Peter, the bartender at the Hotel Arrivé, a seedy dive in an even seedier part of town where I'd been directed by some climbers I'd met trying to outrun lightning on Eiger, placed an ice cold Heineken and a ball of sticky black hash on the bar in front of me before I'd asked for either. Good bartenders are like that, you know. It was a year into the government's experiment with liberalized drug laws and Peter wasn't wasting time plumbing the limits of the new regime.

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