It Happened Last Night: Can That Be Cannabis?


I am in Vancouver today because it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This morning, I was awakened by a strange odor and a lot of noise. I looked out the window at a growing crowd with signs celebrating 4/20 and the unmistakable smell of marijuana strong enough to reach me in my hotel room on the 28th floor. And then I remembered that America and Canada gather in groups wherever possible to petition governments to legalize cannabis on April 20 – at exactly 4:20 pm. There are lots of theories, but the most popular one is that the time was set at San Rafael High School in California in 1971. The teens would meet after school let out at 4:20 to smoke cannabis at the Louis Pasteur statue.

Canada supposedly grows a particularly strong variety of cannabis. I can vouch for it because John Calley and I once went to a dinner party where we were served carrot cake for dessert – no one at the party knew it had been made with cannabis; in fact, maybe cannabis plus something more. Driving home from the party, one after the other, the drivers felt funny and then not so funny and then terrified enough so that each had to pull over and stop driving. And pass out cold. Some of us dieters ate so little cake that we managed to get home. John had eaten all of his cake and blacked out – the man driving our car helped me get him up the stairs and onto his bed. I had never smoked marijuana and had eaten little of the cake so it took a while before I realized something powerful was happening to me. I now know what being stoned means. I could not move a finger. I lay there thinking that if the house burned down, I could not save us. If John had a heart attack, I could not save him. I had never been so wildly angry as my mind blackened and whitened and zoomed in and out. It took a couple of days before we were up and okay. I never got over my anger at the idea of feeding people a drug without their knowledge. There were a number of older people at that dinner party who did not make it home that night – and just might never have made it home had they tried.

Today’s hundreds of smokers in Vancouver up by the art gallery are a happy lot and the older smokers seem in fine control making me suspect we were fed more than mere marijuana in that carrot cake.

We talked to the smokers; they are joined here to attract the attention of the government in an annual plea. There are a few police around but no troublemakers tangling with them. There are some fancy costumes – ladies with nothing on top except marijuana leaves – and it is cold today; 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I would guess, which is strangely cold for April in Vancouver. Weather here is rarely extreme any time of the year.

Walking around and through this merry crowd gives you a buzz and the clouds of smoke are now drifting all through what they call “downtown,” in other words, the smart area where Tiffany & Co. is. With clouds like these, by 4:20 Vancouver will really be swinging. I think I am going back to the hotel and up to my room to lay down just in case.

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