420 reasons to stop worrying

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Photo by Colin Huggard

Judging by the panicked reaction of some opponents of federal plans to legalize marijuana possession for Canadian adults by next summer, you’d think that the Trudeau Liberals were about to start selling a drug that no one had ever heard of until now.

Take, for instance, the reaction of the Quebec association of landlords.  They say they’re afraid that they’ll no longer be able to control tenants who smoke pot in their apartments.

Where did they think their tenants were smoking before? In fact, the legalization of dope should make it easier for landlords to resolve problems without resorting to the overkill of calling police to deal with a little pot smell from apartment 2-B. And as nuisances go, is a little ganja in the air really more of an irritant than the drunken bellowing from 2-C every time the Habs score a goal? Legalizing marijuana brings the behaviour out in the open and allows for a rational discussion about how to resolve any problems. Windows, ventilators, vaporizers, voila!

Same goes for this fear that legalization will turn all their tenants into pot farmers with massive hydroponic operations running off of frayed dollar-store extension cords. People who grow pot in their apartments now do so for a variety of reasons, many of which should disappear once it’s possible to buy decent quality marijuana at a reasonable price.

It’s legal now to make wine at home, but how many tenants have started up a bottling plant? Growing pot will become a craft, appealing more to the artisan and amateur horticulturist than the guy looking for a cheap high. Sure, a poorly set-up hydroponic operation can cause damage to the apartment, but so can a cracked demi-jeanne of homemade red wine. Or a deep-fryer left cooking while a drunk lies blacked-out on the couch.

Legalizing the possession of a few plants won’t turn everyone into ganja growers, especially once they figure out that effort won’t necessarily reap many rewards that they can’t get with a simple visit to the local pot store.

Any other problems that crop up for landlords can be dealt with via the same procedures that exist for any other complaint: talk, registered letter, rental board. The only thing that will change is that calling the police will no longer be an option. Excuse me while I fight back the tears.

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The Trudeau Liberals have cleverly left it up to the provinces to decide how they are going to sell pot and whether to increase the age restriction beyond the 18 minimum proposed by Ottawa.

That will lead to some interesting debates in the coming months, with politicians like Montreal mayor Denis Coderre already insisting that municipalities should get their fair cut of the pot proceeds.

No matter what laws are adopted, however, we know that kids will have no more problem getting access to reefer next summer than they do today. Like booze or cigarettes, making it illegal to sell to minors won’t stop kids from getting their hands on it. They’ll continue to raid their parents’ supply, buy it through a sympathetic adult, or simply buy it on the black market.

But whatever penalties are being considered, they should be no more onerous than the ones governing the sale of tobacco or alcohol to minors. Of the three products, pot poses the least risk to either the individual or society. There’s no justification for continuing to treat it as something worse. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.

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