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Contrary to conservative fears, cannabis has not sparked a Canadian communist revolution

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Dear American Cousins, literal and metaphorical:

The day before yesterday, medical and recreational cannabis became legal in Canada.

The Canada correspondent for the New York Times reported excitedly that we Canadians were calling this C-Day. We were? Beats the hell outta me where she got that idea. I'm pretty sure none of us actual C-dawgs were calling it that -- except this guy, who was just trying to be helpful. (If you don't get the jokes, well … you're probably not a Canadian.)

Actually, most Canadians called it "Wednesday." (A significant portion also called it "Mercredi.") Plus, you'll be disappointed to note, basically nothing happened other than the publication of a load of excited news stories that suggested their authors were over-caffeinated, if any substance was involved.

Over-caffeination is serious concern among Conservatives here in Alberta, the richest state in Canada, possibly because of the number of LDS (not to be confused with LSD) members in their ranks in the deep southern part of the province. For the rest us, Wednesday was actually sort of … meh.  

Conservatives used to be very concerned about legal marijuana in Canada. They could be heard to be muttering "too soon, too soon" as they wandered through the smoky pre-legality streets.

Not that long ago, many of us were making fun of United Conservative Party Rep. Ron Orr (quaintly known locally as an MLA) for worrying aloud that legalizing pot would turn us all into communists.

This was a two-step process, explained Orr, who represents an electoral district called Lacombe-Ponoka (I'm not making that up). First, we would all be turned into dope fiends. Then, presumably disgusted with ourselves, we would invite in some tough minded commies to clean up the mess and march our pushers off for re-education or worse.

This happened in China, and they had a Cultural Revolution, which turned out to be a real mess, Orr famously said. "I, for one, am not really willing to go down this road," he exclaimed. "The human tragedy of what’s going to happen with this has yet to be revealed."

Well, that was then and this is now. Canadian Conservatives may have figured out by now that there are very huge fortunes to be made in the legal marijuana business, so … like, cool! (That said, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, the squarest guy in Canada, still seems to have his doubts.) Orr is the UCP’s Tourism Critic in the Legislature, so before we know it, I expect he'll be pitching the healthful benefits of Alberta Bud & Breakfast tours to you Americans.

Anyway, apparently a few people -- all men by the look of the pictures, and probably some of them Conservative voters -- lined up in the wee hours at a legal pot store in St. John's, Newfoundland. But what else is there to do in St. John's, other than drink to excess on George Street? Yawn. George Street is mostly closed by that hour of the morning.

I walk through downtown Edmonton every weekday that weather permits. Wednesday was the first such day in about, oh, four years that I couldn’t smell skunky fumes blowing down the street.

Normally there's almost as much as I smelled on the streets of Washington D.C. when I was there in August. Yes! Gusts of it drifting past the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I kid you not. (Special agents contemplating what the White House occupants think about their former boss, maybe? Who knows?)

Getting back to E-town, maybe that was one of those dogs-that-didn’t-bark-in-the-night-time mysteries. Maybe it was just a stumble in the legal supply pipeline after the city's many dope smokers fired their illegal suppliers in anticipation of finally being able to obey the law. Maybe it was just a nice day (almost 25 degrees Celsius, that’s 77 Fahrenheit to you) and no one felt like polluting their lungs. (I didn't smell any tobacco either, also unusual.)

The big news yesterday, Day 1 of the Post-Pot-Prohibition Era in Canada? The hospital Emergency Rooms that were supposed to be packed with people overdosing on pot brownies … weren't. (No news yet from the vets, who were also supposed to be knee deep in stoned household pets as well.)

Through the whole day, Alberta Health Services' Health Link emergency what-do-I do phone line took … brace yourselves … eight calls asking about cannabis. This is out of a jurisdiction with a population of more than four million souls. The daily province-wide average is 10.

Plus, basically no one, anywhere, turned up in the ER complaining about the effects of too much weed. And remember, this is Alberta, which nowadays is essentially the most hysterical part of Canada. (See over-caffeination, communism, above.)

On my morning commute, there didn't seem to be any more intoxicated drivers than usual, either. Which is to say, at that time of day, none.

This won't stop municipalities from claiming noisily that they really, really need more money from senior governments to enforce their own pot bylaws than they did to have their police departments enforce federal criminal prohibitions, but how is that different from any other day?

It's early days yet, of course. Plenty of time for Civilization as We Know it to crumble like a pot-infused cookie. But even so, I don’t think anyone here is trying to gin up a Communist Revolution just yet, even if we did elect a social democratic government three years ago. And if we do all join the local soviet, probably the reason won't have anything to do with legal pot sales.

So stay calm, Cousins! It wasn't C-Day. It isn't C-Week. And everything's really, really mellow up here right now.

Never mind what Leonard Cohen said. (Everyone here knows he was a Canadian. I’m just mentioning this for your sake.) No one here wants to take Manhattan -- Kansas or New York, take your pick -- or even Berlin. If we're coming for you, it'll just be to bring you gummy bears.

We're, like, copacetic!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca. With files from Dave Cournoyer.

Image: flickr/cagrimmett

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