No, Thank You (Vancouver Sun)


Confessions of a Straight Man

No, Thank You

Guy MacPherson doesn't smoke pot – and he's not afraid to admit it

Vancouver Sun, July 1, 2000

Today, while the rest of the country is busy celebrating the Maple Leaf, many a Vancouverite will be worshipping their own leaf, rolling it up and toking it to Cannabis Day. Aren’t we a patriotic bunch? I myself will mark the occasion just as I have the rest of the 13,817 days I’ve spent on the cold side of the womb – by not smoking pot.

Here in Lotus Land, we have some of the best marijuana in the world. Or so I keep reading in the papers. In our own city of Vansterdam, where cannabis cafes and hemp shops give new meaning to the word “drugstore,” hardly a day goes by without a newspaper running some pro- or anti-stoner article. Yet here I am, drug-free for close to 38 years. What went wrong?

Born and reared in British Columbia, I’ve spent all but one year of my life here. I’ve even visited the real Amsterdam. And I’m still a drug virgin. What can I say? I’m a maverick. I remember with absolute clarity and precision the first time I never tried pot. I was in the back seat of a car while two of my classmates from my Grade 11 law class were up front. Recognizing that timing is everything, my friends pulled out a big fatty on the way to the courthouse for our field trip. That’s some major league cajones, my friends. But what did you expect? It was the ‘70s, after all. Smoking up before the law was almost expected. My friends made the perfunctory offer my way, more out of courtesy, I’m guessing, than their desire to share. “No, thanks,” I stammered, trying to maintain my cool, stumbling on to what should be the Canadian version of the U.S. national drug campaign (“Just Say No, Thanks!”).

My buddies had caught me off guard in the car and I just wasn’t ready. Twenty-one years later I can’t really use that excuse anymore. Thank goodness I’m at an age where I don’t need excuses – and I get more and more offers to indulge. I can only guess why I’ve turned out the way I have. My personal credo is never look too deeply, so my best guess is that children naturally rebel against their parents. (We’ll leave it at that.)

Thanks to my high-school buddies’ easy-going attitude to their squaresville friend, I’ve never felt uncomfortable again in turning down the evil weed. Still, pot almost got me thrown out of the Greater Vancouver Open golf tournament. Sports Illustrated, that radical journal, had asked me to get some quotes from golfers about our “sin city” and the cannabis cafes for which we are so famous. At the mere mention of marijuana, Paul Stankowski grabbed the credentials hanging around my neck and held them up to his face. “Who are you writing for?” he demanded. “That’s kind of a weird question. Why are you asking me that?” I decided it probably wasn’t wise to continue. Like almost everyone else who knows I’m from Vancouver, he probably wouldn’t have believed I didn’t smoke pot. And I never found out if he did.

You may think I’m making this all up, perhaps to throw the heat off my trail. But I’m here to say it’s all true and I’m not alone. There are five more that I know personally who are in the same boat. Count ‘em. There may be more out there in the general populace who have never tired marijuana but as of press time, this rumour was unconfirmed. There’s no reason to fear us. We’re just like you, only without the constant case of the munchies. But the stigma attached to our sobriety is so strong here in B.C. that I won’t use the fringe five’s real names for fear of getting them shoved into the locker of life. As “Mary Jane,” a 28-year-old from Calgary says, “I don’t want to be labeled a nerdy, born-again right winger or something like that.”

As it turns out, none of us is born again, or even religious, so there is no churchly excuse for us not to smoke weed. My pal “Rocky” can’t even answer why he’s never tried it. After all, he did smoke half a cigarette – once. And on the question of whether marijuana should be legalized, we split right down the middle. Mary Jane thinks it should be accessible to those who want it, safely and without persecution; she maintains that legalizing weed won’t increase or decrease the number of irresponsible users. It will just eliminate shady distribution and production. She was always the radical among us. On the other side, “Dirk,” 31, who works in retail, thinks there are more useful political debates, while my bud “Geraldo,” a 38-year-old in the entertainment industry, thinks we should keep pot illegal just to “piss off Woody Harrelson.”

The most common question posed to all of us who have preserved our drug chastity is, of course: “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?”

For me, it’s not a case of liking it, but not wanting to like it. Monkey brain or cow tongue may indeed be delicious, but I’m not particularly anxious to try them, either. It’s kind of like religious zealots who challenge you to ask Jesus into your life: If you ask Jesus into your life, you’ve pretty well accepted Him already. In other words, if you’re willing to try it, you’re probably predisposed to liking it.

My friend Dirk cherishes presence of mind, a reliable memory, responsibility and motivation. Would one toke change this for any of us? Probably not. But it also means we’re completely unmotivated to try it. For Geraldo, the temporary high would not be worth losing the right to say, “I’ve never smoked pot.” As the years go by, I feel the same perverse sense of pride at this Ripken-like iron-man streak. It’s not easy, either. We’re a prime target for pot smokers. They all want to be the first to pop our drug cherry.

And living in Vancouver, we can’t get away from the stuff. Whether we’re at a party, a concert or just walking down the street, the stench of pot is as prevalent as skunk in the West End. Hell, the new Marijuana Party of Canada plans on running 50 candidates in the next federal election. It’s everywhere we look.

Still, I can’t see myself ever succumbing. Not the most motivated at the best of times, I can’t imagine how I’d be under the influence. I barely get off the couch as it is.