The occasion was a birthday party for Stephen Harper's son Ben, and the official response was that the Harpers were just a normal family. Yes, apparently all normal families ply teenagers with enough alcohol, that they have to be rushed to hospital, apparently suffering from alcohol poisoning.
(The image above is our Justice Minister Peter MacKay and his beer bong)
However, rather than using this as an opportunity to address the growing problem of teen drinking, Harper attacked Justin Trudeau for wanting to legalize marijuana.
Double standard or plain ignorance? Tough call, but one thing that history has taught us, is that prohibition only increases criminal activity, while creating new social norms.
Bathtub Gin and the Devil's Music
In November of 1933, on the eve of the end of Prohibition in the U.S., Fortune Magazine ran an article, summing up the era since 1919, when the Draconian Volstead Act was put in place.
"Moonshiners" "bootleggers", "speak easies" and "bathtub gin"; defined the period, as did Al Capone and others who protected their prohibition empires with violence, that included shoot outs with police.
The Fortune article focused not on the history, which was well known, but on prohibition's impact on American culture. Noting that before the ban, Americans drank 140 million gallons of liquor a year, and during the ban, that increased to 200 million gallons a year, they spoke of a "rebirth" in the industry that manufacturers of spirits had to address.
Bathtub chemists had not only made gin the new drink of choice, but had created a new class of drinkers.
... the bootleg industry, discovered that the one thing prohibition prohibited was the manufacture of the native U.S. drink, rye and bourbon whiskey, and so it gave the thirsty citizens something else and changed the taste of a generation.Gin flowed freely at parties and in the Speak Easies and Jazz Clubs, throughout the 1920s, where dancing and "wild" music helped to define the era. But something else was becoming popular. Marijuana.
The calculation of the taste factor now baffles everyone in the business. Before prohibition, gin went into Martinis and Negroes. The alcohol industry of the 1920s made it a drink. The younger drinking generation was weaned on it and an entirely new body of drinkers, women, preferred it to whiskey .....
Throughout the Jazz and Swing eras, pot was consumed by both musicians and their fans. Louis Armstrong called it a "cheap drunk" and preferred it to alcohol, as did many others, including Dizzy Gillespie. Pot not only improved their stamina, but provided a new element to their music. A wild abandon that was also seen in the jitterbugging of the patrons.
This raised concern among law makers, not because of the health impact of the drug, but the influence of non-whites on pop culture. Says journalist Maia Szalvitz:
Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (an early predecessor of the DEA), was one of the driving forces behind pot prohibition. He pushed it for explicitly racist reasons, saying, “Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men,” and:
"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."
Hustlers, Beats and Others
By the 1950s the "Beat Movement" created a new pot user. According to the 1972 Report of the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs: "... the accompanying growth of a white middle class audience for jazz music also played a role in the diffusion of cannabis-smoking."
By the 1960s, the craze had spread. Wrote Ned Polsky in Hustlers, Beats and Others:
The "beats... most enduring imprint on American culture appears, in retrospect, to have been precisely this diffusion of marijuana use to many circles of middle-and upper-class whites ....Anslinger's ban had not reduced the use of pot, any more than the Volstead Act had reduced the use of alcohol.
In Canada, Marijuana prohibition was enacted in 1923, and while its use was mostly clandestine, a 1967 study in Toronto, revealed that its popularity was widespread enough to warrant user categories.
"The Beats", who were usually under twenty-five and inhabited "the Village" section of downtown Toronto; "The Swingers", who were mainly criminals, members of the criminal fringe and entertainers between the ages of thirty and forty-five; and "The Squares", who were upper-middle class, well-educated professionals between thirty-five and fifty years of age."So was music the gateway to marijuajna?
According to that 1972 report speaking to the "cannabis-using population "There is almost universal consumption of tobacco and most drink alcohol (usually beer or wine)"
So is tobacco and alcohol the gateway to marijuajna?
Of course not. It's society. And society determines what is socially acceptable.
I don't smoke pot and could actually get it legally because of my MS, but choose not to. I tried it once as a teenager, and never liked it. But then I have never smoked cigarettes and the number of times that I have been drunk, I could count with the fingers on one hand.
However, none of these decisions were moral issues, but rather an aversion to chemicals.
When Justin Trudeau announced that he would legalize pot, not just decriminalize it, it triggered a storm of debate. Canadians began to question the sensibility of pot "laws", and now an overwhelming majority agree with Trudeau. He has forced the other parties to create a policy on the subject.
With the Conservative attack ads suggesting that Justin Trudeau wants to force your children to smoke pot; backfiring; they have decided to use a different approach. Spending our money to create anti-pot ads, to improve their chances for re-election.
In the meantime, they are offering an olive branch by promising to perhaps soften the laws. However, any punitive actions are long past their prime. We need to treat alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, the same, by making all of them controlled substances, rather than illegal ones.
After all, roads were not paved with good intentions but with vices.
The results in Colorado have been overwhelming, and the revenue better than expected. Add the savings in court and police costs, and it seems a no-brainer.
Stephen Harper's allowance of serving alcohol at a teen's party was not only illegal, but proved to be dangerous. He needs to get off his high horse.
If taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for yet more of his Party's political ads, than those ads need to include the dangers of alcohol and tobacco. Despite a well publicized hoax, it's almost impossible to OD on pot, yet alcohol poisoning is real and growing.
And pot does not cause cancer, but cigarettes do.
Canada has always been a progressive country, but under this government, we we are regressing, and I'm sick of it. Given the latest poll results, I'm not alone.
Harper's new (un)fair Elections Act, and gerrymandering redrawing of the electoral map, are transparent attempts at stealing yet another election. He can't win unless he cheats and he knows that.
But given this important issue, will it all go up in smoke? Let's hope so.