CANNABIS CULTURE – It was like any other spring afternoon on Parliament Hill. Tulips were pushing through their beds, people admired the eternal flame, an electric guitar wailed on the rounded steps to Parliament, ten thousand plus citizens smoked weed on the lawn. The children? Everyone is somebody’s child and they were all safely guarded by Hill security. Was this the last 4/20, was this a new 4/20?
Respect started this year, three days earlier with a 20 minute press conference from the auspicious location of the Charles Lynch Room on Parliament Hill hosted by Shawn McAlesse and Ming Saad where wordsmiths were chided for portraying weed consumers as demons and pot-head stereotypes.
Ottawa residents Ming Saad, Shawn McAlesse, Wayne Robillard, Steve Arbour, Russell Barth, Nathanael Newton, Alex Newcombe and Stew Sparks from Mississauga formed the 2018, 4/20 Ottawa planning committee.
Alex Newcombe, MC for the afternoon, opened by telling the crowd, “ We respect you. We have revolutionary speakers coming up. Welcome to pseudo-legalization.”
Meagan McLeod, listening to the speakers and band said, “I’ve been using medically for years and the fact that it’s going to be legalized soon in Canada will be great.”
The West lawn was pressed with the weight of people in formal lotus positions while the East lawn was ready for the mud wrestling better reserved for inner most members of Parliament.
Promoted throughout social media and memory, 2018 Ottawa 4/20 was a spectacular success. Unlike other marijuana demonstrations on Parliament Hill there were plenty of paramedics and volunteer marshalls for the event. Many RCMP yellow vests cordoned the public gathering with several very big, complicated looking rifles extended with large magazines.
Mr. Benoit of Montreal said, “I was here last year. This is my first year with a prescription. I get my meds from Tweed. I have to pay for it in full. I find the product quality varies considerably at the dispensaries.”
Alex Newcombe said, “Don’t let anyone in that first government dispensary,” and was not alone in shaming You Tube from censoring marijuana advocates.
Speaker Tim Barnhart from Legacy 420 and the Tyendinaga Territory came to say, “We’re facing the same extinction as the other dispensaries. Government over regulation and government burden being pushed on the First Nations. So, we’ve created the National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association.”
The pot stock market traded in low volumes on Friday. Terry, both a cannabis investor and a consumer viewing the events several keystrokes away wrote, “The grey market is growing and responding quickly to public demand. They offer more choices in the concentrate, vaping, edibles and beverages. If LP’s can’t give me what I want, I will still buy grey. I invest in publicly traded companies. The grey market is in it for the money too. I wish my favourite holding could offer all those products, year one! Unfortunately you have to be willing to break the law to profit or purchase in the grey market. In future there will be two types of 4/20 celebrations and it will continue as long as the police maintain the hands off approach to these kinds of festivities and open cannabis markets. But when a hundred thousand people show up to participate and buy products. How are they going to stop it?” Terry continued, “As long as the government gives opportunity for the grey market to transition they can’t accuse LP’s and government of hijacking. To fully implement legalization they will have to expand the resources to enforce the new laws. I don’t see that happening. Ultimately it will be the customers who decide. As long as the grey market can provide products the LP’s can’t, they get my recreational dollars.”
Greg a busker from Ottawa said, “I never saw so many happy people smoking, chatting, lots of dogs and musicians. With all the big flags and hats it was pretty obvious what was going on.”
“This is my fifth one,” said Tie-dye from Cornwall, “The crowds are getting larger. There must be twelve thousand here. It’s not legalization in any way, shape or form. My wife and I are both patients and have been licensed for three years. We’ve been users for ten to fifteen years. Next year’s event will be even bigger.”
Speaker, Martha Chaves otherwise a Just For Laughs, comedian addressed the crowd, “Thank you to all the RCMP in plain clothes. I am a political refugee from Nicaragua and now that I’m in Canadian show business, the government of Nicaragua will never be able to find me. (laughter) I’m a CBD user and when you’re out of pain you giggle.” At the very moment, while Chaves was talking, the government of Nicaragua was killing over 25 protestors who were taking part in demonstrations in that country.
Redefining what it means to be a stoner, speaker Heather D’Alessio took the mike and asked, “Why are you here today? The simple answer might be because you like to smoke weed. Sure, this is Canada, most of us do. You could be smoking weed at home but instead you’re here. Here you are at the foot of Parliament on a Friday afternoon for a civil protest and I don’t blame you if you didn’t realize that that’s what this is because this is probably the most relaxed protest I’ve ever been to. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about pot heads. The politicians and the media and the general public – they mistake our relaxed attitudes for indifference. They think if we’re quiet we’re lazy. When we do interject we are probably a little hazy and if we’re really outspoken, well then, we’re just crazy. Reefer madness! They got one thing right. I’m mad that there are people like you and me rotting in jails over pot.”
Emma, a woman in her late 50’s listening to the speakers said, “We wanted to make a difference 3-4-5 years ago. The most interesting thing to see will be the ripple effects to follow. This isn’t going to be legalized. Trudeau is going to drag his feet.”
Dan from Ottawa said, “We’re not done fighting yet. We need more. This is a stepping stone. It’s another demonstration that shows sitting outside smoking pot does no one any harm.”
They wore protest on their clothes. They played bongos non-stop. They didn’t stop playing bongos.
The final speaker, fourteen-year old Emma Boniface with her mother’s hand on her back said, “I wanted to speak today on behalf of all the teens and minors who need and want cannabis. We want to legalize it so everyone who wants it can get it.” With that and a bit more, Boniface led the crowd in an enthusiastic ten second count-down to 4:20 PM.
After the hazing of the Hill, Stew Sparks, acoustic guitar player for The Yappers commented, “The set up on the Hill is always an adventure! The Hill security people have always been really great to work with as well. The 4/20 gathering in Ottawa is always the best for me. I spent every summer in Fitzroy Harbour at my grandparent’s home. They took us to Parliament when I was five to watch the changing of the guard. Now I am an adult and get to perform in that same place with the band and thousands of people imbibing their medicine, in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. Laney and I have taken our daughter out of school to bring her with us to see how people can come together to make the world a better place. So seeing my daughter become a 4/20 marshall this year, helping clean up the lawn, is awesome as a parent! I didn’t have any nerves this year, as a Band we were really looking forward to play. Ottawa has been really good to the Yappers!”
Next year’s permit has been applied for. In a follow up press release the 4/20 committee pointed out, “The people came out in droves on the afternoon of April 20th to make 2018 the biggest and best 4/20 yet. Thanks also to the RCMP, PPS, and OPS for their help wrangling a crowd that the RCMP estimated to be approximately 17,000 stoners strong. Not only was there no hassle or lawn damage, the crowd did a fantastic job of picking up their litter as they left.
“There was, is and still will be a lot to protest, however. Whether these new cannabis legislations actually become the law of land or not, 4/20 will continue to be a protest/celebration on the front lawn of Parliament until we get the sensible cannabis regulation we have been fighting for,” was the committee’s final comment.
Thousands crammed the West lawn of Parliament Hill massaged by bubbles, bongos, bongs, and speakers in indictable delight. The National Press and public are learning to not demonize, and shame cannabis consumers so the government needs to follow and lead the charge with less reluctance.
It’s not a matter of mirroring or catering to a mob on the doorsteps. The government has already taken some shy steps towards legalization and the laborious pregnancy is overdue.
The questions raised in and by gatherings like this won’t go unheard by the Senate as they prepare for their continued discussions on June 7th. Jazz cabbage will continue to be played in the Pong games of debate pressed by the reality of endless demand and cash that grows hydroponically.