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Marijuana in Canada - Opinion

With cannabis legalization imminent, 4/20 offers opportunity to reflect on the impending death of stoner culture

420 culture dead featured - With cannabis legalization imminent, 4/20 offers opportunity to reflect on the impending death of stoner culture

Walk into any Tokyo Smoke location – the Canadian cannabis lifestyle retailer that has been compared to coffee giant Starbucks and minimalist Japanese housewares retailer Muji — and you’ll find all manner of sleek, aerodynamic pipes, gemstone pips, bamboo-and-glass bubblers, discrete grinders and ceramic pipes vaguely resembling the obelisk from 2001. You might also discover a $335 bong that, following the excuses of generations of busted teens, actually doubles as a vase (“put flowers in the porcelain vessel when company is coming over, put *flower* in the bong on other occasions,” reads the catalogue copy).

Watch – The Origin Story of 420

As pot legalization looms over Canada like a pale green miasma, shops like Tokyo Smoke reek of a new model: cultured retail experiences where classes of smokers from the unexperienced to the design-savvy and sophisticated can shop for marijuana conveyances and accessories without the bad puns and corny psychedelic upholstery that hitherto defined the head shop experience. It’s a place where you’re more likely to be called “sir” than “man.” It’s all very classy and tasteful as hell. Still, this sleekness and streamlining of cannabis retail speaks to a deeper lament: the impending legalization, and subsequent normalization, of pot, effectively marks the death of stoner culture.

Perhaps it’s just as well. For many smokers, stoner culture has been the worst part about enjoying marijuana. You know all the clichés: the white guy in a Cat in the Hat hat and “Take Me To Your Dealer” t-shirt who retrofits a Canadian flag with a pot leaf to wear as a cape as he hackey-sacks down to the annual 4/20 parade; who can recite The Big Lebowski and Dude, Where’s My Car?by rote; who calls snack food “munchies” and refers to Phish concerts by Month/Day/Year/Location notation; who owns, and has maybe even read, a book by Terrance McKenna, author of The Invisible Landscape, Dynamics of Hyperspace, Shamanology, and coiner of the phrase “self-transforming machine elves.”

Such caricatures, however innocent, render weed alienating, and even straight-up annoying. Those wary about cannabis culture have endured a peculiar paradox: “How can I be a person who smokes weed without being a Weed-Smoking Person?” Or, even more pointedly, the question may be: “What adult wants to smoke drugs out of a ceramic sculpture shaped like the Ninja Turtles?” For better or worse, this is the stuff of weed culture. The stoners and skids and half-baked freaks, hands filthy with Dorito dust, are precisely the ones who laid the groundwork for the drug’s normalization, and legalization. (Well, them and the mom-and-pop street dealers who are still in jail, for some reason; but that’s the subject of another, considerably less frivolous column.)

Maybe it’s the corrupting Catholic school education, and the resulting guilt matrix through which everything in my worldly experience is accursedly filtered, but there was a time when having to identify as a stoner was the tax you paid for entering into the world of light, but still illicit, drugs. It was a wiggly, paisley Scarlet Letter that had to be suffered. The legalization of pot demands that these stock images and archetypes be softened, in some respect. But it would be a shame if even the stupidest stereotypes of the once-unlawful stoner lifestyle went the way of the prohibition-era speakeasy and Weimar cabaret.

Which is why this year’s annual 4/20 celebrations – the last in Canada that can be savoured with anything like illicitness and the whiff of danger – should be celebrated in the full thrall of pothead cliché. It won’t be long before weed and the whole culture around it has been boringly normalized – when you find yourself splitting a government joint with your schoolteacher aunt who has never lost half a day to a single Phish jam, or idled away the wee hours mulling over the Wikipedia entry for time-travel paradoxes.

The “Good Buds Stick Together” cartoon blacklight flags will have been folded and stacked in the linen closet, soon to be beset by moths. Dave won’t be here either, man. He’ll have a job and a wife, two kids and a dog. Looking to sync Dark Side of the Moon up to The Wizard of Oz? There will probably be a special edition Blu-Ray release that does it for you. The strings of Grateful Dead bears will have danced off into the tie-due sunset. The ceramic skull bongs will have all been interred.

Then again, culture’s all a matter of action and reaction. And as soon as Prime Minister Trudeau coyly lifts the hemline of his slacks to reveal some tasteful pot leaf socks come July 1, 2018 – and so drains any lingering threat of coolness associated with the smoking of drugs – I’m sure even newly minted smokers will be raiding the remaining old school embarrassing head shops to load up on beaded curtains, rasta-caps, patchouli incense cones and sculpted ceramic bongs so unembarrassingly bongy they’d never, ever, pass for a vase.

Original Article – National Post

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