LEGALIZATION MY ASS
By Christopher Mennillo
Before I get into this, allow me to remind you, we have been in business for 30+ years. Thriving and successful all while, cannabis has been completely illegal and innocent
civilians have been sentenced for negligible amounts of cannabis possession.
Countless criminal records issued, fines disbursed, and lives ruined all over a plant that the government has now monopolized…
During these ambiguous times, we flew under the radar. Toeing the line between legal and not and existing in an area filled with gray. Avoiding prosecution by advertising that our products were for the consumption of tobacco. In stores, we would substitute terms like “weed” with flower, “hash” with chocolate, and “stoned” with baked. It was weird and not everyone caught on to the subtleties. I can still recall a number of puzzled reactions and weird gazes when having to respond “no” with a wink to questions like “this is to smoke weed with right?”.
I’ll admit, it was and is weird. How can we be expected to properly serve clients when we are forced to operate in such a way? It’s not like we didn’t have a strict I.D. policy in place, and weren’t regularly kicking minors out of our stores. It’s funny how something being deemed illegal paints the way in which society perceives it.
Take for example, “Spice”, better known, misleadingly I might add, as Synthetic Marijuana (Spice is a mix of shredded plant material and laboratory-made chemicals with hallucinogenic effects).
Spice was on the market for about a year before the government made it illegal. In that time, everyone and their mother bought spice. Not because it was safer than actual cannabis. (It has since been scientifically proven to be far more dangerous, and people have died from smoking it. Important to note that no one has died from smoking cannabis) It sold well because society collectively trusted a government that deemed it a “legal” substance. If they say so, then it must be safe enough to consume, it must be harmless.
This is how propaganda works, and Cannabis propaganda has done a number on us. (and still does to this day)
Anyways, all this to say, nothing would get people to reconsider cannabis consumption the way legalization could. Advocacy and education only took us so far. I mean, who are we to say different than the almighty government? We are but a small family-run business trying to survive in a climate filled with stigmatization and pre-conceived notions.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE
Legalization started on a high note (pun intended). For the first time, the entire country was talking about Cannabis. The year was 2015 and part of Justin Trudeau’s election campaign was to legalize cannabis.
We were excited, hopeful, and full of ambition. After decades of representing the counter-culture, were we really about to go mainstream? Prohibition had hope and even a chance to potentially sell cannabis to consumers. Our minds were blown and for years, we lived with a belief that cannabis would soon be freed from its shackles. Allowing it to spread into other industries; textiles, pulp and paper, insulation, bioplastics, medicine, and food. We were excited to change the game with our decades of experience serving the same community.
Trudeau would go on to be elected making legalization a sure bet. The federal government put out a set of guidelines and then it was up to each province to decide their restrictions and regulations. Word on the street in Quebec was that the SAQ would sell it. We were in the dark, with no clue what we were facing.
The real drama came when they decided on an entire other set of rules regarding cannabis and accessories. Laws that made less sense than a 4-year-old’s crayon drawings. That’s when it got scary and then, the real craziness happened.
WHEN WE FOUND OUT WE WERE FUCKED
The closer we got to legalization, the more pressure and media scrutiny started to mount our favorite happy tree. During this time, I heard the craziest stories on the news from some of the most unqualified individuals. It was disheartening, to say the least — to hear government officials and media personalities talking about the industry and the community like they knew it or even understood it. They didn’t...Think about all the myths still circulating about cannabis being laced with fentanyl…
After years of believing that the government would be open to discussions with our community, our dreams quickly turned to dust. We went from thinking we could potentially sell flower, to the government taking over and getting into accessories as well.
The new provincial guidelines — shared by Quebec only weeks before legalization — would completely shift our business and could have possibly bankrupted us. It included a total ban on cannabis references that would touch our inventory across almost all categories. These laws would make even the term “420” illegal.
P.S. it is illegal to sell an education book on cannabis in Quebec, have an
educational cannabis workshop, or advertise any product that we sell.
“VIVE LE QUÉBEC LIBRE!”
The government didn’t give a shit. It was pure confusion around the rules and hard to get the right answers. It created stress for us and our staff, not to mention a crazy amount of work to get compliant with all the new rules and regulations.
As the largest smoking accessories chain in Canada, we sympathized with smaller retailers in the province. We could only imagine if this was hurting us, how it would affect other people and their small businesses.
Legalization was supposed to be a celebration and possibly a step forward, but of course, the provincial government would fuck that up. The laws were very anti-business and it became a stressful time. Years of hope very quickly came tumbling down.
After familiarizing ourselves with the laws, we had to reorient our brand, yet again. It was another stick in the wheels for us and another hill to climb. Today, we still stand strong. Our heads are held high, the fight isn’t over. PROHIBITION isn’t over. Next, let’s take the fight to them for once. The Superior court, watch out, we have you in our sights.