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Cannabis, Canada and Culture

Cannabis became legal while I was in Canada. At the stroke of midnight, we heard whooping and hollering outside our Montreal hotel. On television, we saw queues of Canadians lined up at the carefully-selected legal cannabis dealers.

A reporter interviewed an emergency room doctor at a local hospital. “We’re trying to learn from Colorado,” he said, "about what to expect." Apparently, most emergency room visits result from “edible” cannabis, in the form of brownies and even candy.

It seems one doesn’t receive an immediate high from an altered brownie, so the unsuspecting user thinks, “I’d better have another one.” They may even have a third before, suddenly, the marijuana kicks in. Then they wind up in the emergency room with uncontrolled vomiting.

This is why Canada is going slow on the whole “edibles” legalization. That will not happen for another two years. Still, a lot of people were excited about smoking cannabis.

We older people on the bus tour observed it all with wonder, but none of us admitted to going “shopping for herbs." Our visit to Canada was coordinated by the YMCA Active Older Adults group and Krug Tours of Medford, WI. It included the Canadian Niagara Falls in Ontario, Montreal and Quebec City in the province of Quebec, and then back to Ontario to visit Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. All the cities were beautiful and clean, connected by modern highways.

I learned a lot about Canada and came away with a desire to know more. Some of the things I learned: French-Canadians are 97% Roman Catholic and 99% French-speaking. The Quebecquois move every twenty-seven years. That is, they are born in the province of Quebec and they stay there. In Quebec City, population 600,000 (similar to Milwaukee, Wisconsin) there had been one murder in the first ten months of 2018.

They pay $100.00 annually to renew their driver’s license, and if they have any “points” they have to pay more. Our guide joked she has to pay $200.00 each year, due to infractions. No ten-year licenses for them. They pay $500.00 per year to register their cars. On the other hand, they pay $10.00 per day for childcare. I believe it is not uncommon to pay $80.00 per day in the U.S.

In Montreal, they go to school for eleven years, then two years of “pre-college,” followed by three years at a university. That “pre-college” sounds like a good idea to me.

In Ottawa, at our four-star hotel, I asked our waitress whether I could pose a personal question. She agreed, so I inquired if she had another job besides waitressing. She said, no, she works full time as a server. I told her in the United States many people waitress part-time as a second job to make ends meet. She said she felt sad to hear that. For example, I know teachers here in Wausau, WI, who waitress or bartend because they don’t make enough money teaching.

I had heard Canadians embrace their diversity. This became apparent to me when I learned they refer to their native Canadians as “First Nation” people. In Quebec, license plates have the slogan, “Je me souviens,” or “I remember.” This refers to remembering their heritage and where they have come from. I thought it was lovely. And it stretched my mind to hear large numbers of Chinese Quebequois speaking French to each other. Chinese people have been in Quebec since the 1800s. It was fun to practice my rusty French. I liked saying, “Il fait cinquant ans que je ne parle Francais,” or “It’s been fifty years since I have spoken French.”

Of course, there can be misunderstandings when trying to communicate in a second language. One night, my traveling companion Mary ordered a carafe of Pinot Grigio. It was so large, there were at least three glasses and maybe four in the container. Mary was a good sport and forced it all down. But the next night she was careful to just order one glass of the Pinot. Imagine her surprise when the waiter returned and asked her “Two litre? Two litre?”

“Oh my gosh, no,” she replied. “I just want one glass!” Turns out he was asking if she was the “Tour leader.”

If you are over fifty and would like to emigrate to Canada you would be very welcome—you just have to prove you have $500,000 or more in assets. They don’t want older people coming in and being a drain on their national health care system.

In a few years, I will probably be thinking I remember that wonderful trip to Canada, but when did I go? Then I will remind myself, Oh yes it was October 2018 when Canada legalized cannabis. I’ll be curious to see how that works out.

How about you? Have you been to Canada lately? What were your impressions?

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