Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, 12.01 a.m., seemed like any other Wednesday night on Rumsey Rd. Yet that date and time will go down in history as the day recreational cannabis became legal in Canada.
There was no revelry in Trace Manes Park, no hazy clouds of smoke, no wafting breezes carrying the unmistakable aroma, no police officers on patrol and no one walking, cycling or driving erratically. Perhaps the internet service providers were busy as over 12,000 orders were placed within the first hour of legalization on the TOCS (The Ontario Cannabis Store) website, and investors may have been checking their portfolios to see if their cannabis stocks had gone up along with their spirits. And perhaps the local pizza joints had a higher volume of takeout orders than usual. But there was no reefer madness in our little corner of Leaside that I could see.
Even before recreational cannabis became legal, people were certainly consuming, both medicinally and recreationally, in public spaces, even here in Leaside. I spoke with a man in the Home Depot parking lot one day who was consuming medicinal cannabis in the passenger seat of a car. He explained that 30 years of construction had worn out his body and for pain relief he preferred cannabis to opioids as it didn’t bother his stomach and was more effective. And on my park cleanups I would sometimes find the signs of recreational use, including homemade water bottle bongs, pipes, grinders, rolling papers, lighters, roaches and folded pieces of paper with cannabis shred.
Had litter changed in the park since recreational legalization? On the first Friday morning I set off to find out.
There are over a dozen sitting benches around the sports field, community centre, tennis courts, library and children’s park. The benches in the darkest most secluded spots seem to have the most clandestine activities going on at night, as does the picnic table in the playground area. Hmm…other than a few roaches mixed in with a medley of cigarette butts there was nothing to indicate this brave new world of legal recreational cannabis was going to be a problem. Not even a discarded chip bag or chocolate bar wrapper. Were people consuming at home, or was the cold weather making park bench sitting uncomfortable, or perhaps people were waiting for their first legal order to arrive via Canada Post? I went out again Saturday morning…nothing. And again Sunday morning…nothing.
So, what effect will legalized recreational cannabis have on Leaside life? As far as park litter, will the homemade water bottle bong become the new beer can, and will the roach become the new cigarette butt? For gardeners, will we see cannabis plants on the Magical Gardens of Leaside Tour? And how many legal dispensaries will pop up along Bayview on April 1, 2019? Time will tell. But for now, I think Bob Marley said it best: “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”