Rolling into the Coutry Fair mall parking lot in New Minas on the first National Cannabis Day, I had no way to tell if the joint was hopping. Sobey’s was busy but, maybe it always is on an overcast Wednesday around lunchtime.
But I wasn’t at the mall for a Sobey’s stop. I was here for the weed and with storefront sales launching a few hours earlier at select liquor stores across the province, I decided to be part of Canadian history.
If you don’t know why weed was illegal in the first place, you likely don’t know why today was such a big deal. I recommend reading Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, a book written by Eric Schlosser, published in 2003. In simple terms, prohibiting pot had everything to do with controlling “undesirable populations,” and nothing to do with the properties or perceived dangers of the drug that once grew wild, like a weed across the US.
So today was about righting a wrong and kicking our racist history in the pants. At least that was what it meant to me. For those waiting in a long line at the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission in New Minas, Nova Scotia, it was also about getting high.
The liquor store in New Minas is pretty big. It has a nice walk-in beer cooler and lots of selection of local Valley wines and craft brews. But today, no one was buying booze, except for one senior lady who kept telling the shop assistant that she was sure the wine she needed was called “foreskin.” I wasn’t high but I still found this hilarious. Turns out, it’s a red and it’s labelled as “Four Skin.”
At the back of the liquor store is the cannabis boutique and as people came out with their legal stash, there were cheers and cries of “left you a gram, buddy!”
As the line snaked slowly through the store everyone chatted politely. Maritimers are friendly by nature but Maritimers lining-up for legal weed is about the cheeriest thing I have ever experienced. This was a team of people who were standing proud, mostly, and feeling good about the purchase they were about to make.
The line was 70 per cent men. And although I expected to see more younger faces in the line, at 45, I was likely sitting at the low end of the average age of shoppers. The crowd was totally white but then again, it’s New Minas so that might just be normal.
My line buddy was a cop. We got talking right away and he quickly shared that he had not smoked weed in 17 years. He was in great shape, friendly as heck and he explained that there was a 12-hour sober-up period for his team. He did say that for some roles on his force that people needed to abstain for longer periods. I didn’t ask for any more details than that. While weed is now legal, there’s still stigma attached that will take a long time to shift. He was excited though about predictable things – like shifting revenue away from organized crime and generating more tax revenue. When you think about the nightmarish stuff that police officers have to deal with, no doubt his energy is going to be better directed to bigger things than busting university students for sharing a spliff.
After about 2o minutes of chatting in the line his partner joined him, handing over a big jug of milk and a six pack of Kleenex. She’d been at Sobey’s.
This couple had a vape, they were thinking about getting a grinder and while they had some knowledge about pot, they really didn’t know what they were going to buy when they got to the counter. They were pretty adorable and both really friendly.
The closer to the boutique entrance we got, the more the excitement grew. The NSLC staff were walking the line, answering questions, offering advice and over and over again – “start low, take it slow,” was their mantra. Today’s shoppers were predominately new to weed and the educational, normalizing welcome was so well done.
The young woman working for the NSLC who chatted with me was having a great time with customers as she shared product information and answered questions. She’s been through days of online training and while she openly admitted to smoking before legalization, her new knowledge added a ton of legitimacy. From the history to the chemistry of the plant, she’d paid attention in her recently completed training sessions. She said the best of her training was meeting the actual producers and getting information from them. Her ability to work with a curious and giddy public was commendable.
Staff were delightful. Bright-eyed, patient, engaged but also happy when a big tray of Timmies was delivered to get them through the green rush. This team knew that they were living the story that they would share for years to come. This was actual history in the making.
When I finally got the, “I can help who’s next,” it was special; without a doubt. I grabbed some sativa pre-rolls and a selfie and took a brief moment to reflect on how as a nation we wrapped our heads around a big issue, researched, studied, consulted, pushed politically and finally, provided access to a very special plant.
Even if you never get high, it’s a big deal to offer people legal, safe choice. In New Minas, we all stood in line to buy weed but also to give a very Canadian push-back to the war on drugs. A bit of Canadian peacekeeping in the context of cannabis.
As for my line buddies, they grabbed some hybrid green and while buddy cop thought they might wait until the weekend to give it a try, his sweetheart had a twinkle in her eye when she said, “maybe we should try some tonight.”