richard joseph - headshot_v111

Canada's legalizing marijuana, and I couldn't be happier — it's the first step towards wiping out a ridiculous counterculture.

I don't mind weed in the slightest as an occasional indulgence. Smoke up, have a drink, fetishize My Little Pony, whatever; we're all adults. What I can't stand is so-called "weed culture."

Even the term is an oxymoron — if anything, hyper-commodified weed is the death of culture. Interesting bars, comic book stores, and independent boutiques are closing downtown, but head shops and illegal dispensaries just keep cropping up in obnoxious multitudes. The Cajun restaurant Jambalaya was replaced by London's sixth dispensary, Chronic Hub.

In three blocks along Richmond, there are no fewer than seven head shops: all with inspired names like "Hi-Times" and "Puff Time" and "Your Highness." And my God, are they ever tacky.

Garish storefronts emblazoned with vomit-green cannabis leaves, signs that were apparently drawn up in Microsoft WordArt, a general aesthetic that not only catches your eye but pummels it into submission afterwards. Don't forget the cashier, always a patchouli-scented white guy with dreadlocks and an attitude of practiced apathy; let's not even get started on the bastardized Rastafarianism.

You never look at a head shop and go, "yeah, that's a tasteful and legitimate business." But then these are fundamentally shady establishments, though they technically operate above the law: it's painfully obvious that those "tobacco pipes" are meant for pot. Check out the ganja-covered merchandise, the clothing, hats, tote bags, loud markers of your identity. Who's buying this crap?

Plenty of people have a normal relationship with cannabis. But for some, weed culture just becomes a substitute for having a personality. I've met quite a few "career stoners": weed socks, weed t-shirts, conversations revolving solely around marijuana, exhortations to blaze it, legalize it, etc.

Really, this isn't acceptable behaviour for anyone. Compare it with booze: if your whole identity was based on whiskey, with whiskey themed clothing and a whiskey-based lifestyle, you're not a quirky enthusiast — you're an alcoholic.

Come on, people. It's a leaf. You going to get this excited about lettuce? The fact that this commodity culture around weed even exists is absurd, especially given the range of negative effects it's been shown to have. I'm not saying it's a life-ending drug, but neither is it a panacea (and no, it doesn't cure cancer).

Let's be honest here: cannabis isn't a political statement in Canada today, and it hasn't been for quite some time. I look forward to weed being normalized, a treat like any other to be enjoyed in moderation. Hopefully, it'll mean the end of pot fanatics and result in professional, tasteful retailers instead of the current multicoloured travesties on Dundas.

So, by all means — 4/20 blaze it. Just add your stupid marijuana leaf socks to the fire.

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Opinions Editor

Richard is the Opinions Editor for Volume 111. Previously, he was Culture Editor-At-Large for Volume 110, Arts & Lifestyle Editor for Volume 109, and staff writer for Volume 108. Email him at richard.joseph@westerngazette.ca

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