Marijuana, weed, sticky icky, Kush, grass, reefer, Mary Jane or whatever it is you choose to call it Canada’s choice to legalize cannabis has made the leafy green plant one hot topic. Or is it many hot topics…. I think it’s too many topics, so many in fact that people both new and old to the conversation have it all confused; lost in that confusion is for me the true art and essence of being a weed smoker.
Smoking weed is a lifestyle and a cultural choice. For decades it has been attributed to odd groupings of society from hippie to hipster to the Rasta Man and skaters alike. These dreadlocked for their own reasons, lovers of wheat grass, the Kush kind of grass and astrology have often been maligned as the worst part of every generation; that is until we elected the Disney Prince and he made good on his campaign promise to legalize the green unicorn. Now instead of a religious, lifestyle or medicinal choice marijuana has become nothing more than a party drug. The choice of NASCAR, hockey and curling lovers, not to mention the average Canadian you’d never suspect to enjoy the modern trend, the leafy green is as synonymous with being Canadian as cold beer and outdoor rinks. Amongst the controversial suggestions that marijuana could be a threat to our youth, cause as many health issues as it cures and that it offers our overexposed, exhausted society another outlet for addiction and abuse there is the champions of the movement and tax collectors saying “Just Do It to” every new generation without any real thought to what doing it means. Yes, yes I know marijuana isn’t addictive; but the added chemicals in commercial products and social status it offers can be. Lost to the conversation is the sense of community and the idea that pot smokers aim to bring the world together in peace and harmony. Make love not war, share the peace pipe or celebrate your God in the smoke; these concepts are not new, but have you ever questioned what’s in the pipes of history? Weed I’m sure would’ve made the negotiations of our forefathers easier and a lot less violent.
I have so much to say on the many facets of the marijuana conversation, but this past weekend on a girl’s trip to my happy place -Toronto – I was struck by the complete loss of marijuana culture in a city that celebrated public use and accessibility long before the rest of the country.
My husband and I have travelled to my Mecca for years to see art shows and take in comicons. One constant of every trip were visits to The Hot Box, an institution decades old in Kensington Market. The front of house features a head shop selling hemp friendly and marijuana support products. From here we purchased our first pieces of hemp clothing and any number of accessories that are great memories of our vacations every time we use them. The middle is a cafe where we first tried a volcano vaporizer and watched one of the best comedy shows we’ve ever seen (besides Letterkenny live, Letterkenny was truly the best live comedy show ever!), but now just offers a safe place to roll your joint or fill your vape before you take your past time back to the public spaces where they’re legal. Through the green door at the very back of the cafe, well that’s the magic portal to true weed culture. Sadly closed because of the ridiculous laws that have come hand in hand with the supposed gift of legalization, it is a one of a kind green space that once held a series of tables, chairs, bars and stools that allowed fellow culturists to snuggle up and share their weed and their stories. I liked to just sit back and listen to the tales of some who’d lived in the market since the 1960’s and claimed to know everyone ever involved in the legalization movement and others new comers, if by nothing other than age alone, who are always sure they know more, see more, and smoke more weed than those that came before them. Don’t forget the tourists. People who haven’t smoked the green goblin since college, but thought why not be young again? When in Rome be Roman right? Their stories though different still bind them together and make them feel a sense of camaraderie, sometimes almost a sense of family. So many in Toronto have ventured there alone that this hidden vale of possibilities gave them a place to gather and feel like they belonged somewhere. From every visit I made there I always thought it a good place to belong. Visitors have always been welcome to sign the tables and walls in the garden; leaving their mark and memory for all to see. I’ve signed more than a few tables myself wanting to make sure my visits remained a part of the fabric holding this simple yet intricately woven institution together. The actual art on the walls, bright, powerful and completely defining the people housed within. The day marijuana became legal and the Ontario government instituted ridiculous control laws that make no sense the true weed culture began to die. Now I can feel free to walk down the street and share my smoke with children, old people and every other person passing by; but I can no longer visit The Hot Box and smoke a joint in the magic garden or safely vape in the cafe. New laws say we must only enjoy our weed on public sidewalks like cigarette smokers; yet the government has legalized the green stuff like its beer. Beer drinkers get bars and restaurants. Weed smokers get more restrictions than before legalization ever happened. We get to be shamed like cigarette smokers although I’m sure the shamers will enjoy the extra tax dollars legalization will dump into the government coffers; I’m even more convinced most of them are just angry that they still enjoy their weed consumption while hiding in their homes, not yet brave enough to enjoy the only freedom legalization allows.
Last month my husband and I spent Christmas in the city and the owner of The Hot Box was kind enough to allow us to say goodbye to the patio. I snapped a few pics and took it all in one final time. The bird house claiming “Trucker Wuz Here” said it all. We were all there, spirits entwined. Lifting up the movement, helping to push it into the mainstream; now we are living in the past tense. Legalization has robbed us of community and safe spaces. It has opened us up to scrutiny and censorship. The concept that it’s medicinal has been completely lost in the need to make the green machine widely available. The average person isn’t growing their own or investigating the quality of their product. The average person is petitioning for store fronts and hoping all of them will soon bank a beer or liquor store because parking twice is such a hassle.
The truth is weed, as I like to call it, has never been illegal at my house. My husband, like my parents when they were with us, has been a part of the culture since long before I’ve even been alive. I’ve seen it, lived it and known all about it every day since I emerged to make my mark on the world. I never felt guilty for smoking it. I will always procure it from clean, safe, chemical free channels I trust and never through blind mail order. The big change for me – I now just mourn the loss of the culture I expect to celebrate with each and every toke. Smoking a joint shouldn’t just be an action to stimulate nothingness; it should be an act to stimulate greater consciousness, greater awareness and a greater sense of the world around us. Weed smokers should all be philosophers, if only in their own circles and minds. Smoking, vaping even eating edibles should happen in safe spaces where we celebrate our culture; not in marginalized spaces where we are meant to feel bad about our choices.
I’m sad but still hopeful. I’ve followed the owner of The Hot Box for years, online and in the news, as she has fought for legalization and if anyone can overturn the laws killing the culture I have faith it will be her. Until then I will visit her stores every time I can and support the current model of her business, all the while looking forward to the day her secret garden opens once again. Until then the culture still lives on at Chez Us. Philosophers are always welcome. Most popular days and times are Sundays and Mondays, limited hours the rest of the week. Adulting as always gets in the way of the fun!