Legalize it? Don’t mind if I do.

As I was rolling a joint yesterday, something donned on me that I hadn’t fully thought through. I feel that many people are also in the same boat when it comes to this realization. Legalization of recreational cannabis use is on the doorstep, and it is going to change the entire world.

Say what you will about Justin Trudeau, who he is and what he’s done or maybe hasn’t done, but at the end of the day, it is in his first term as Prime Minister that he is setting in place a global revolution. Cannabis legalization is two days away and as the initial first world nation to follow through with this long overdue change, Canada is about to lead the world to the next step in our evolution. Yes, it may sound corny or overstated, but the truth is that we have been sold a bill of lies for decades and we are finally waking up to this realization, and perhaps a number of other mistruths.

Over the next few years, more countries will begin to make sane legal changes, following Canada’s lead. Those countries will gain a profitable industry, including exports and healthy economic circulation, and drastically cut down on the expenses of court back-logging and over-policing a harmless substance when compared to that of alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs. All of which will lead to a more prosperous population.

As citizens of Canada, we have a duty to make sure that we set a positive example for the rest of the world. We must act responsibly by treating cannabis and the newly legal industry with respect, and opening the eyes of world leaders to the undeniable fact that the War on Drugs has been lost and the benefits of this move outweighs any perceived drawbacks.

Let’s take the next step together and be the positive role model and change that the world so desperately needs.

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Left and Right of Centre

For most of my life I didn’t really care about politics. I just assumed, as many do, that none of it mattered since the people in power would do what they wanted regardless of how their constituents think or feel. I decided a few years ago that I would begin to follow what was happening mainly in American politics, as Canadian politics seemed boring and not as appealing or entertaining.

I would speak to different individuals and listen to their viewpoints. Sometimes we ran around in circles, sometimes we would agree, and many other times we would simply agree to disagree. Either way, it never changed anything to do with policy or politics itself, but these conversations did help me to understand the basics regarding the political spectrum and the positions of others.

About two years ago, I was swayed to the far left in my mindset, and began, or so I thought, to care about the so-called “little guy”, being the disenfranchised and/or “helpless”. I followed the entire campaign of Bernie Sanders, finding myself agreeing with much of what he had to say. While everyone within the political spectrum attacked him, I felt that he was the most genuine of the presidential candidates. I was inundated with the opinions of progressive shows like The Young Turks, and found myself falling victim to the exact reactionary thinking that guys like Ben Shapiro and any scholar of logic and reasoning are telling their followers to be cautious of. This far left school of thought governed my decisions and how I voted when it came to the last Canadian Federal election.

About a year ago I started working alongside a young, intelligent guy from Florida. He was a Trump voter, but not really a supporter, as he was more anti-Hillary Clinton than he was pro-Trump. He also made a strong argument for the true definition of libertarianism, and how it differs from the fringe beliefs of anarchism. We agreed on some policies, disagreed on others, but always managed to keep our conversations civil, and showed enough respect to one another to at least listen to the other side. While these interactions didn’t necessarily change my mind, it assisted in an evolution of my thinking. I began to blame crony capitalism, lobbyists, and the allowed manipulation of the system, rather than capitalists and the super rich themselves, for the current social state of the US, and how it both contrasts with and mirrors that of the Canadian government and system at large.

Recently, I have been absorbing more centrist and right leaning content, in which I have found some truths, but don’t fully agree with everything that they have to say. It has fed the analytical portion of my brain, the same way that the progressive-liberal side fed my feelings. I found myself agreeing with capitalists and their right to pursue financial success without having to give up most of it to taxes, which tied back to earlier discussions about the essence of libertarianism.

As I continue to learn and shape my thought process and what I, as an individual, deem as to be successful strategies for creating a functioning and inclusive society, I have become increasingly more confused with where my loyalties lie. What I can say is that being more fluid in my thinking creates opportunity to see the good and bad of all sides’ policies, as well as landing me in the position of being both left and right of centre.

All things considered, I don’t believe that mankind has seen a perfect government, nor will they ever. But I do believe that somewhere buried in the policies of all of the parties and perhaps parties still to come, there is a healthy balance of social progression and fiscal responsibility.

Don’t Defend a Lead

Far too often sports teams will play their butts off to get a healthy lead in the game, only to lose that lead, and often the game itself. This leaves spectators baffled and wondering, “How could something like this happen?”

The answer to this question is quite simple. The team that once had that healthy lead decided at some point that they would defend it, which couldn’t possibly be more wrong.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is this wrong?” The answer to this question is also quite simple. What got the team to this point was not a defensive attitude, but rather a hungry offensive one. In order to then win the game, the smart thing to do is stay hungry.

Hunger is what keeps successful people at the top of their game/industry. If Steve Jobs had decided that the Apple computer was enough of a success to coast on for the life of the company, then all of the successors in the Apple lineup would cease to exist and Apple itself would not be the global powerhouse that it is.

Do yourself a favour, stay hungry, or that lead will disappear before you know it.

The Ultimate Tourist Trap

As a family, one of our favourite places to go on vacations was Cancun, Mexico, which we visited four times. I have been back twice since that last family vacation and has it ever changed.

The first time we went to Cancun was over New Year’s week in 1996/97. I was 14 years old and it was my first time to an all-inclusive resort. I remember that I only left the resort one night with it was my oldest sister, who was 18, and a group of people around her age that she had met earlier that week. We jumped on a bus packed shoulder to shoulder, and headed toward the club district with our “travellers” (drinks for the bus ride).

The bar we went to that night was Dady Rock; a pretty well known place in the heart of the club district. I could barely move through the sea of tourists. This was a time when the only locals in the bars were the staff. We had an amazing night, some drinks and some laughs and headed back to the hotel around three or four A.M. This was my first time really partying and I loved it.

Over the next four years, we went back three more times and the partying just got more wild each time. Cancun was a safe, exciting place for tourists to just let go.

Fast forward to my most recent visit in 2011, which was a sales incentive trip, consisting of approximately 30 people. Only a couple of us had been to Cancun before and knew what we were in for. On my prior trip, I had noticed some shady police activity, and questionable practices of the staff in the clubs but shrugged it off. This trip was to be a major eye opener.

The first night that we went out it was very apparent how the area had changed. While walking from the bus stop to the club, we noticed a group of seemingly very unsuspicious young tourists handcuffed in the back of a police pickup truck. My co-worker and I were offered drugs and prostitutes more than a dozen times in the three-minute walk and it didn’t end there.

Once in the club, the most dangerous thing you could do was go to the bathroom. That’s right. Each time I went, a guy at the door would rudely cut me off. He would ask me if I wanted to buy cocaine, and each time I said “NO.” He would then follow me into the bathroom and offer it again while standing beside me as I did my business. Once again, I would dismiss his offer.

After a couple of hours of that garbage we decided to leave. We walked back to our hotel, this time making sure not to look anyone in the eye. During that walk, we began to put the pieces together about how Cancun works these days, recalling horror stories that we had heard from friends, and through our own observations.

We came up with how we believe the trap works.

Everyone knows that the Cartels run Mexico and that many of the police are on their payroll. But the intricacies are quite clever.

Bouncers let in drug dealers to attempt to sell you the drugs. If a dealer is successful, he’ll give you space to think that you’ve gotten away with it. The bouncers are then tipped off by the dealers and bust you. You have two options at this point; leave with, or without the drugs. If you leave without the drugs, they go back to the dealers and they repeat the cycle and split the cash. Should you be able to leave with the drugs, chances are, police will stop you once you exit the building. The police will then confiscate the drugs, and what they do with them at this point is anyone’s guess. However, this should be the last of your worries. At this point you once again have two options; give up whatever amount of money they are extorting from you, or go for a ride to the police station, where you’ll still have to pay them. This happens once they are done with their strip search in a room full of other police officers and whomever they decide to invite in. You will leave the station feeling degraded and extremely embarrassed, which is something you should never experience when away on vacation.

I have since been asked by some friends to go back to Cancun, and my answer to them was, “I hear Jamaica and Cuba are both nice this time of year.”

Chicken: The Cluck Stops Here!

I remember when I was a kid, running around outside, playing with my sisters and neighbours, a warm summer evening and the smell of the barbecue filling our noses, making our mouths water. My dad would be manning the grill as he always did, flipping the chicken breast an unnecessary number of times. He would start out with the gigantic pieces of chicken that had to be 6-7 ounces each. By the time he finished overcooking them (he was very old school and thought that everything had to be cooked to death) they would be around 3-4 ounces. I’ve always wondered why this would happen but never bothered to ask about it. I just assumed this was a characteristic of chicken.

After high school I attended a local Culinary Arts school, which focused on technique in gourmet cooking. The chicken we used in our class was always fresh and didn’t shrink down like the chicken of my childhood. There was definitely a reason for this but I didn’t bother to put two and two together until a few years later.

In 2008, I went to work for a local food distribution company, and there, unknowingly, was where I would finally get some answers.

We had weekly sales meetings, which consisted of sales training, vendor presentations of new products, and probably the most important aspect, nutritional information about the food that we were selling, of which, I always found chicken to be the most fascinating. This fascination was somewhat with the bird itself but mostly the processes involved between the slaughter and the finished product.

Most people think that all chicken is just chicken. The processing plants chop the heads off, the bird dies, they pluck it, separate it into the individual parts and they are done. Although this is true in some places, for the most part, however, there are a couple of steps missing.

Let’s go back to the bird itself to examine one of the worst games played in the poultry industry. The Chicken that is available for purchase in North America comes from two main countries, the US and Brazil. Brazilian birds are as close to the natural state of a bird that we are going to get. Their meat protein percentage (a scale on which the quality of chicken is measured) is around 24%. American birds measure around 22%. Why the difference? American birds have been genetically modified to grow larger breasts, and are force fed to fatten them up so that they reach the appropriate slaughter size much faster.

Once the birds are slaughtered, the meat is ready for the next step. Chicken breasts are then “needled”, which is when a small metal pad presses into the meat poking small pinholes into it while slowly injecting it with a minute amount of water, salt and tripolyphosphates (which is a synthetic salt used for preserving food). After needling the meat, it continues down a conveyor belt into a tumbler that looks like a small cement mixer. In the tumbler is more of the mixture that was just needled into the meat. The door is then shut, the tumbler sloshes back and forth until the mixture is completely absorbed by the chicken. At this point the breast has almost doubled in size and weight. Discount, oversized chicken is born.

So what does this mean to consumers?

  1. You should always read that meat protein percentage number on the package. The closer you can get to 22% or 24%, the “cleaner” the chicken is.
  2. If you buy the lower quality chicken, don’t be surprised when it shrinks. And remember, the water is coming out but much of the salt and tripolyphosphates are staying behind for you to consume.
  3. The food industry has a number of major players that get filthy rich off of selling you garbage and the bodies that govern them are well funded by those same companies.

Remember to always read the labels, ignore the buzzwords, and if we are all knowledgeable consumers then the Cluck will truly stop here.

Advice: Take or Leave it!

For years my father has told me that “Advice is free, just listen. After that you can choose to use, or completely ignore it.” For years I told him, “Whatever dad, you don’t know about this”. This statement may have been true, but without giving him a chance to give me the advice I would never have found out.

So, what drove me to not even want to listen to him? Some may say I was stubborn or disobedient, but I feel that this rejection of his words and experience was derived from something far more dangerous. Pride. Not the kind of pride that I felt when I’d win a race or game, or the pride my parents felt when I would achieve something. This is the kind of foolish pride that keeps normal, free thinking individuals from accepting help and ultimately achieving more in life. I would shut myself off from outside opinions because I thought that I knew best and there was nothing that anyone could tell me that would make me see differently.

My foolish pride lasted until the very last day that I spoke to my ex-girlfriend back in early 2005. We were hanging out in my parents’ basement and we were both really into playing the guitar. I was never very good and her skills were a little less than mine but we had some written music that I was able to decipher. There were two parts to the song, rhythm and lead, and I had already figured out the rhythm section and was about to move on when I decided that maybe this would be a good time to teach her the rhythm, then I could learn the lead over top of what she was playing. She wasn’t having any of it. She demanded that she figure out the rhythm section on her own. So I left it alone.

After a half hour of listening to her unsuccessful attempts I decided that I would insist on helping her as this was making for a boring night. I offered to help her once again, and this time she exploded on me, calling me every name in the book, (this was a volatile relationship and the end was nearing, regardless of this fight) she picked up her guitar and stormed out of the house.

Our relationship ended that night and we haven’t spoken since.

What I learned from that night was that if you are too proud to accept advice, you can waste a lot of time running around in circles. If you are open to someone’s words and experiences, it may set you on a straight path to your goal.

Since then, I have always made sure to listen to people’s advice. Once they are finished I can choose whether to Take it or Leave it.