I bet most people reading this are aware of the controversy around kids buying pot at 4/20 -- events related to the annual day of advocacy for the legalization of marijuana -- but don't think twice about the minors buying booze every single day in liquor stores, nightclubs, restaurants and pubs all across the country.
Yes, it's true that some minors do manage to score some bud at 4/20 celebrations, rallies and other gatherings. Despite our best efforts, a determined minor can usually acquire cannabis or alcohol if they set their mind to it.
A man smokes marijuana in a pipe as thousands of people gathered at 4/20 celebrations on April 20, 2016 at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
But the way the media and government treats the idea of minors and cannabis or minors and alcohol is very different. When a dispensary is alleged to have sold some cannabis to a minor, they face a police raid and harsh commentary in the media. But the daily sales to minors from liquor outlets is not treated like a big deal at all.
The hypocrisy here runs deep, because while the government is beating us up over teens buying cannabis at 4/20, their own liquor stores are pouring drinks for minors on a regular basis.
Many parents are well aware that their 16- or 17-year-old kids use cannabis, and allow it because they consider cannabis to be relatively harmless.
In 2012, it was found that about 30 per cent of all retail liquor outlets would sell booze to a minor. The B.C. Liberal government's response to this problem was simply to have less inspections! With less inspections comes less compliance, so that by 2015, 40 per cent of outlets tested failed to stop sales to minors. But because there were less inspections happening, the total value of fines given out dropped from over $800,000 in 2012 to just $262,500 in 2015.
To get your "serving it right" license is ridiculously easy. It's literally an online multiple choice quiz with no time limit that you can do from home. No wonder licensed restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs all had a failure rate of 45 per cent or more when it comes to stopping minors buying alcohol.
Compared to this utter failure of government-licensed and regulated liquor outlets to keep booze out of the hands of minors, I'd say marijuana advocates like us do a very good job in self-policing 4/20, despite a lack of cooperation from the Park Board.
(Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
We work with all our vendors to ensure they ask for ID and prohibit sales to minors. I expect that minors who get cannabis at 4/20 probably get an older friend or even their parents to buy it for them. Many parents are well aware that their 16- or 17-year-old kids use cannabis, and allow it because they consider cannabis to be relatively harmless, especially in comparison to alcohol and tobacco.
Also, let's not forget some minors can be medical cannabis users who smoke or eat cannabis to treat ailments ranging from epilepsy to cancer to attention deficit disorder. These young patients enjoy celebrating 4/20 because they directly experience the healing benefits of the cannabis plant.
In 2002, Canada's Senate put out a massive and comprehensive report on cannabis use in Canada. They recommended full legalization for all Canadians over the age of 16. "Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol," said the report, and the Senators were right. It's time for the paranoia and exaggerations around teenagers and cannabis to come to an end.
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