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Margaret Wente

How the heck do we legalize marijuana? Add to ...

I’m the only person I know who flunked a medical marijuana test. Now all my friends are laughing at me.

A while back, I tried some pot in Colorado, for therapeutic purposes. I liked the result. It did wonders for my disposition, and also for my sleep. So I decided to apply for a medical prescription in Canada. I thought it would be pretty easy. You even get one via Skype.

My family doctor was happy to help me. (She doesn’t think I’m the dope fiend type.) She sent me to one of those referral clinics that are springing up like weeds. They screen you, give you a prescription and hook you up with a licensed grow-op, which sends you your medicine in the mail.

Soon I was in a waiting room filling out a bunch of forms. There were lots of boxes you could tick off – stress, anxiety, sleeping problems, aches and pains, frequent feelings of utter and complete inadequacy. That was me! I noticed I was 35 years older than everybody else in the room. The other patients looked like stoners.

Sadly, the middle-aged female psychiatrist who interviewed me was not convinced. “I’m probably feeling lousier than you are right now,” she groused. It didn’t help that I’d signed my real name on the forms. “Globe and Mail columnist plans pot clinic exposé,” was probably the headline running through her head. She told me to take up meditation.

When my friend Bernie heard this humiliating story, he burst into laughter. “Here, try some of this,” he said. He offered me some pot he’d bought at a “dispensary” that opened a block or two away from the referral clinic. You walk in there and show them your prescription for high blood pressure (or whatever), and they’ll sell you anything you want.

Canada is going to show the world how to legalize marijuana in an orderly, rational and responsible way. That’s what Justin said! Meanwhile, the pot entrepreneurs aren’t waiting. They are rushing to establish facts on the ground. Illegal storefront operations that are ironically often municipally licensed are sprouting everywhere, selling anything they want to whoever wants to buy it. For all we know, they buy their stuff from illegal grow-ops, black-market gangs, and some unauthorized home growers who were approved under the previous federal pot regime. The cops leave them alone because no level of government has any policies about any of this and soon it will be legal anyway, so what the hell.

Don Briere, who runs a string of retail stores in the West, will give you a franchise to sell illegal products in Toronto for only $50,000. He wants to be the Tim Hortons of cannabis, and who wouldn’t? Pot is cheap to grow, and the margins are beyond belief.

Good luck to Bill Blair, Justin Trudeau’s new Pot Czar. The barn door is wide open and the horses are galloping off in all directions.

The medical pot people hate the retail storefront people, who are undermining their credibility. The storefront people push some incredibly potent products designed to get you more blasted than you have ever been in your entire life. The medical people want an industry that is highly regulated, quality controlled and doctor-directed. “The federal government needs to step in and tell everybody what are the freaking rules,” said a spokesman for the association of legal growers .

“Patients, who are often very ill, need to buy something that’s safe and is the same every time,” Danial Schecter told me. Dr. Schecter is co-founder of the Cannabinoid Medical Clinic, which now has four branches and 4,150 patients. He says unregulated pot could be full of pesticides, bacteria, fungi and other nasty stuff. “You never know what the ‘dispensaries’ are selling,” he warned.

They’re also stealing potential business from the medical clinics. Millions of Canadians suffer chronic pain from conditions that cannabis could ease. Why bother going to a doctor when they can get the over-the-counter stuff just down the street?

Mr. Blair promises that all of this is going to get sorted out – just as soon as a federal-provincial task force is assembled to examine all the facts, new legislation is passed, a regulatory and inspection framework is put in place, and someone figures out who gets to own and operate the industry, how the prices will be set, what the taxes will be, where and how the stuff is sold, and whether there is any way to minimize the number of young people who will become dysfunctional and brain-damaged from consuming too much THC.

But hey. It’s the vision that matters! And while the government sorts out the details, the industry has a vision of its own. Its vision is to develop yummy, delicious and health-giving pot products for each and every one of us. It’s already working on legal edibles – cookies, candies, brownies, gummi candy, you name it. In case you can’t wait, you can already get all that stuff online. You can even get your illegal pot by mail – no need to lurk around some shady dispensary. It comes vacuum-sealed, bubble-wrapped, triple-bagged and delivered to your doorstep by Canada Post.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of Bud Buddy,” one of my friends said pityingly. “You really are a bunny.” Now I know. Who needs medical marijuana when there’s that?

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