Listen Up! Buck a beer and legal weed overshadow more important issues



Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

I was chatting with a good friend recently and as is usually the inevitable case, our discussion wandered in to politics. “Well,” he quipped, “buck a beer and legal weed. What more can you ask of our politicians?” Funny yes, cynical certainly, but as I later thought about it, also somewhat disturbing. It made me stop and think about how much our political landscape has changed in the last few years and to wonder whether we are better or worse off because of it.

Let’s start with cheap beer and legal weed, although I see them only as symptoms of a larger problem. The buck-a-beer strategy by the newly minted Ford Government in Ontario was little more than political gamesmanship; a signal from the Premier, to his grass roots support, that ‘hey, I have your back.’ It was a populist move and for the audience he intended, a successful one, even though most people knew that except in very rare instances, there is no such thing as beer for only a buck.

The more serious issue is the legalization of marijuana by the Trudeau Government. Now, before someone asks if I have ever smoked pot, the answer is yes….sort of! It happened a long time ago as I sat cross legged on the bare floor of an apartment, not yet furnished, that my friend had just moved into. She handed me a fag and I thought this was a big moment. I took several puffs, choked until it hurt and otherwise didn’t feel a thing. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I never touched it again! The date didn’t turn out so well either.

There is little doubt there was some public support for legalizing marijuana, but one has to wonder what the incentive was for the government to make this a public policy issue that almost overshadowed more important initiatives such as Free Trade and pipelines. Certainly, in recent months it has dominated the news cycle.  Again, it seems to have worked. Although my guess is that the vast majority of Canadians have never touched the stuff, there has been a surprisingly small backlash to the legalizing of pot.

It will take some time before we know whether legal weed will have a negative effect on society, with more intoxication, more vehicle accidents and stepped-up drug abuse. But it is difficult to comprehend how this initiative is in the general public interest. There does not seem to be an upside to it, other than to cater to a wave of populism, where people should have whatever they want. It also seems a bit hypocritical to me, that the federal government is going to pardon those previously convicted of smoking weed when it was illegal. Hey guys, I have several convictions for speeding on Highway 11 before the speed  limit was increased. Can I get a pardon and more importantly, my money back?

Less than a decade ago it would have been hard to imagine that diluting the price of alcohol or legalizing Marijuana would be top of mind for any government agenda. It would also have been hard to imagine the political culture that seems so prevalent today, where populism, giving people whatever they want, trumps informed and respectful debate on matters of national and provincial importance.

As well, civility in politics has now been replaced with acrimony and divisionism. The bottom line for many politicians these days appears to be the advancement of any cause that appeals to their particular core supporters and damn the consequences and to hell with everyone else.  The result is that no one really speaks to each other any more. There is no cooperation and no collaboration between people and political parties with different views. Consequently, there is no way in which to find a middle ground on many important public policy issues and much too often, this leads to bad legislation or total dysfunction.

While surfing the internet today, I ran across this quote from Henry Yates. Now I have no idea who he is, but I like what he said. “People have always had differences of opinion What happens lately is that people have stopped intelligent, productive debates. Instead we shout and we shut each other down.”

In my view it is high time to once again, have intelligent, productive and civil debates on important, life-altering issues facing Canada. They are sadly lacking in today’s political environment. Cheap beer and legal weed may satisfy some of the masses but they do not measure up to sound or enlightened governance. We desperately need more of that.

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  1. Karen Wehrstein on

    The big benefit to legalizing weed, if you ask me, is that parents no longer have to attempt to explain to kids why the government will throw you in jail for indulging in one mood-altering and long-term-health-risking vice, but sell you, in all sorts of slick, attractive-looking brands, the substance for indulging another. And kids won’t have this odd legal dichotomy making them wonder what governments and grown-ups are smoking, or drinking, to make them so illogical. The only other way to fix this is a return to Prohibition, and we know how that turned out last time it was attempted. Any good source on parenting will tell you that consistency is important, and kids respect authority figures who are consistent. Thus bringing consistency to the law will increase their respect for the law. That’s important.

    • Well argued, Karen, as usual. More’s the pity that you haven’t the time nor inclination to seek office. Outside of two, acclaimed candidates (coincidental, I think not); you have the most rational, linear thinking, which I have encountered in this publication.
      The former hypocrisy of criminalizing marijuana, while turning a blind eye toward a far more dangerous drug, was indeed ludicrous. And before someone responds by trumpeting weed as a gateway drug; to extrapolate that argument to a ridiculous endpoint, perhaps mother’s milk should be similarly denigrated.

      • Karen Wehrstein on

        Gosh! That’s high praise. Thank you.

        One thing about weed as a gateway drug: it will no longer be the gateway to illegal drugs it was before, because people won’t have to make the leap into doing something illegal to use it.

  2. I totally agree with Hugh, who gave a true picture of our Political Views as we shut each other down without debating the issues that should be important. Let’s hope that our new laws on drinking/smoking serve well and people still accept that Alcohol/ Cannabis are still drugs that affect our lives in one way or another. Only time well tell !!!

  3. Don’t we oldies all wonder were this world is headed, when pot and beer are the main topics of conversation, if there is any conversation, given that everyone is always on their electronic devices.

    • I agree, June and Al. Seems to be the call of the day for politicians to initiate their own agendas by weakening the population with somewhat dangerous diversions both internally and externally. Are our lives really that sad??

  4. I actually think the two issues are very different and should not be conflated. The cheap beer ploy appealed to a very different demographic than the legalization of marijuana. And if the author has not experienced (nor researched, apparently) the benefits of marijuana, such as anti-nausea, support with restriction-based eating disorders, relief from anxiety and chronic pain to name a few, I wonder why he sweeps it away so easily? I am looking forward to seeing the prison industrial complex claim fewer months and years from the lives of, usually, already marginalized people. And even if you are right to say that the vast majority of Canadians haven’t ‘touched the stuff’ (which I doubt), even those who haven’t mostly support legalization because they know someone that marijuana has helped, or they know someone who criminalization has harmed. However, where we agree is that good faith debate is overdue for a revival, and that there are many political ploys being used to distract the populace from major issues like the climate crisis, abuses of power, and poverty.

  5. Buck a Beer I really don’t know as that will happen, apart from a neat, tidy slogan as Hugh points out ain’t really going to happen.
    As for legalizing weed, it was getting closer and closer to being an ‘ease-all’ as opposed to a ‘cure-all’ for many people with ongoing pain.
    The use of cannabis is prevalent, and a lot of time (read money) is spent by law enforcement agencies and the courts trying to enforce the weed-is-illegal laws.
    It’s all about who is going to profit from the sale of illegal cannabis. So far it’s the Mafia. Speaking of the Mafia, prostitution should be made legal in Canada as it is in Europe. It makes it safer for those in the ‘trade’ and protects them from dark goings on – something that only those in law enforcement see on a regular basis.
    When the public doesn’t like something, it shields its eyes and pretends it will go away.
    Also if someone wants to indulge in serious discussion, why not discuss the Aboriginals and their no tax on us because we say so, and the politicians who let them get away with it. We spend a lot of tax dollars on what? 3% of the population? and we are enablers for doing so. Nuff said!

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