Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four-Twenty on the Hill

One of the many things that makes me feel proud to be a Canadian is the fact that I can sit in front of my nation's legislative building (as well as one of its prominent landmarks) and peacefully smoke marijuana without anyone bothering me.

Marijuana enjoys a degree of bad PR, being associated with stoners and potheads who spend so much time getting and being high that they are incapable of basic responsibilities like paying rent, or more benignly, hippies who enjoy their pot with dreadlocks, organic food, hackey-sack and clothing of questionable cleanliness. However, a surprisingly large number of "normal people" enjoy smoking the wacky tabacky as well, as the Reefer Madness stigma gradually wears off. Marijuana is smoked by students, young professionals, and celebrated Canadian author and journalist, the late Pierre Berton.

Every year on 4/20, Parliament Hill is crowded with a greater-than-usual RCMP presence, to bust up those who get out of line. The thing is, I have never seen anyone making trouble at 4/20. Sure, they do produce a lot of litter (mostly food wrappers and discarded Green Party literature), but the stoners aren't there to cause ruckus. They blow bubbles, play guitar and hackey-sack, throw frisbees, and sunbathe. They crowd (patronize) all food-serving establishments within about 1.5km of Parliament Hill. They are too mellow to get into fights or deface public property. And the RCMP, apparently, understands this, and leaves them alone, providing they are not openly consuming alcohol.

(Another possible explanation is that it's really not plausible to arrest a thousand 15-to-35-year-olds, no matter how obvious it is that they are all smoking dope.)

The cheer that goes up from the crowd on Parliament Hill when the Peace Tower clock strikes 4:20, followed by profuse coughing, is more than a demonstration to legalize marijuana. It's symbolic of what a great country we live in -- a country that is reasonable, a country that does not let baseless morality prevent its citizens from engaging in harmless recreation.


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