There is a movie called The Saddest Music in the World, wherein bands from across the globe are invited to come to Winnipeg, Manitoba for a contest of mournful music. It's not everybody's kind of movie, as it's a bit wiggy — for instance, there's a woman with hollow glass prosthetic legs filled with beer. In elimination rounds the losing musicians are swept offstage on a ramp that ends in a giant vat of beer (the contest is sponsored by a brewery). This takes place as Prohibition winds down in the U.S., and there is a scene in which an American listening on the radio says something like, "I can't even get a beer here and they are swimming in it."
Well, get ready to be envious of the Canadians again. Wednesday is the day that recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada.
Maybe this will be instructional. Anyone who is worried about what will happen in Michigan if recreational marijuana is legalized should look southward to Windsor from Detroit.
If you're really, really worried, you'll probably be looking for a plume of smoke floating above the Canadian city, figuring everyone will run out and become a raging marijuana addict.
But that's not going to happen. For one thing, the only sales will be online from the government, just like their medical marijuana system, until April 2019 when private stores will open. Right now marijuana comes via the postal delivery system and it takes two days to arrive. Anyone who orders marijuana on Wednesday won't have it until Friday.
However, there may be a little smoke in the air. Even though public consumption is illegal, the folks at Higher Limits Cannabis Lounge in Windsor are looking to celebrate. But it will only be medical marijuana available.
"What we do typically on, like, a big cannabis dayslike 4/20, we'll open up the doors earlier, we'll stay open later," says Jon Liedtke, co-owner of Higher Limits. "We typically provide some free rentals from our bongs and stuff. But people just will want to get out and congregate and spend times among themselves. So it's just going to be a celebration in here, and just a great time."
Higher Limits has been operating within the law these past few years. It's a place in downtown Windsor where medical marijuana patients can go to medicate safely and hang out in a friendly environment. It's not a dispensary; there aren't any in Windsor. Patrons pay $5 to come in. The entry fee entitles you to use one of the vaporizers in the house to consume your own marijuana. It's strictly BYO, no selling allowed. When recreational marijuana shows up, folks will be welcome to bring their stuff to Higher Limits for a place to indulge downtown.
Getting cannabis from the government in Canada has been a different story from U.S. government product. The 300 joints per month supplied by the U.S. Investigational New Drug's early medical marijuana program that started in 1976 are notoriously bad. There are only four patients from the program left alive. One of them, Irving Rosenfeld, displayed his tin can of crappy government joints when he visited Michigan several years back. Canada does it better.
As we consider legalizing recreational use in Michigan, Detroiters will face an issue with that in April when the Canada's private stores open. The age to imbibe in Ontario is 19. So just as 19- and 20-year-olds like to cross the border in order to legally drink alcohol, they'll probably do the same thing for marijuana, even if it's legal here for those 21 and older.
"We absolutely expect to see Americans below the age of 21, but above 19 come over," Liedtke says. "They'll be celebrating their birthday parties here. We've seen it with what's happened forever here with the drinking age. And there's no reason for us to believe that it won't happen as well with cannabis, and we welcome them. We will roll out the green carpet, if you will. We love to be good neighbors."
Liedtke strongly advises not to try to take anything back home across a federal border. There definitely will not be any of those duty free shops for marijuana at the bridge or tunnel.
However, this does bring legal marijuana to our doorstep. It's not something that's happening out there in California or Colorado or some faraway abstract place. It's a five-minute drive from downtown Detroit. The entire Upper Midwest is next to a cannabis-producing and using place. And even if nothing slips across to our side of the border, there will be plenty of Americans willing to slip over there for a bit of fun, just as we did during alcohol Prohibition and before we allowed casinos on this side of the river.
There is some cannabis that travels from Canada to the United States. We import a lot of industrial hemp and hemp products from Canada because hemp farming is mostly illegal here and not at all there.
I'm not mad at the Canadians, and I hope Michigan does the same thing and legalizes recreational use of marijuana on Nov. 6. Marijuana is normal. In the thousands of years that people have used the plant, it has been prohibited for only the last 81 years. That's the unusual part.
Cannabis price drop?
Marijuana's high price has always been driven by the fact that it was illegal and anyone selling it took a great legal risk. And legalization has brought a slew of regulations and taxes that keep the price high. However, there has been a downward trend in costs for marijuana flower, recently noted by the finance organization the Motley Fool.
"Within the U.S., pot prices have plunged in each and every legal state a few years following adult-use legalization as marijuana has become commoditized," a Motley Fool article points out. "The same thing will likely happen in Canada."
The story says that higher profits made from products such as oils and extracts will drive the industry's economic outlook. That mean the future of marijuana is not old hippies smoking their bud. However, the bud smokers will be getting off cheap as the industry moves forward.
Dave's not here
I pulled the old Cheech and Chong "Dave's not here" routine out recently on some folks who had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. That shows that old Cheech and Chong routines are a generational thing. In fact, once marijuana is legalized, "Dave's not here" will make no sense at all to future generations who don't have to worry about getting arrested for marijuana use.
In the meantime, know that the Cheech and Chong comedy team was groundbreaking in their open discussion of marijuana. Tommy Chong has been a soldier in the legalization effort, visiting Michigan many times and even receiving the key to the city of Hazel Park. The duo performs Dec. 1 at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant. It could become a very funny legalization celebration.
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