Can you tell which of these people smoke pot?
On Wednesday, at exactly 4:20 p.m., a blanket of smoke covered Yonge-Dundas Square as thousands of people erupted in cheers—and coughs. It was Toronto’s tenth-annual 4/20 smoke-out. This year, with the federal government on the verge of legalizing pot, the event was buzzier than usual. In an unscientific attempt to gauge how normal marijuana use already is, we tried to figure out, judging by looks alone, who in the vicinity was a pot smoker and who wasn’t. Then we spoke to them to see if we were right. Take a look at the portraits below and see if you can ID the smokers, without cheating.
Caplin Grey, 33, cannabis advocate from Scarborough
Does he smoke? Yes, for 10 years.
“When I turned 22, I was diagnosed with something that was supposed to be managed with pills—until they got taken off the market for killing people. I smoke to help with pain relief so I can get a full night’s sleep. If I need to get my little sister to school in the morning, I have to get rest. I can’t tell her that she can’t go because I’m in pain.”
Joe Luongo, 32, teacher from the Beaches
Does he smoke? No.
“I’ve tried it, but it’s not something I do. It’s something that I associate with younger age groups. If kids start using super-potent strains of marijuana, it’s going to affect their brain cells and hurt their development. If it gets legalized, people won’t know how to handle it.”
Melissa McClelland, 28, stay-at-home mom from Oshawa
Does she smoke? Yes, for 12 years.
“I first started smoking pot because everybody else was doing it. But then in 2008, I was hit by a car. The accident caused me to have severe back pain, so now I smoke because it helps with the pain. My children don’t know I smoke, but everyone else does.”
Roxana M., 21, server from Etobicoke
Does she smoke? Yes, for three years.
“I smoke pot because it helps me sleep if I can’t sleep, and it helps me eat if I can’t eat. I’ve been smoking every day since I was 18. I don’t hide it, except for professional reasons. Even my mother knows.”
David Preszler, 37, Lawyer from North York
Does he smoke? No.
“I prefer alcohol. Of course I have tried pot. I think everyone has. But as I grew up, started working and had kids, it wasn’t in the cards. But I think people should be able to choose what they put in their own bodies. It’s a matter of freedom.”
Luc LaRocque, 41, sales worker from Burlington
Does he smoke? Yes, for 15 years.
“I have arthritis, so it helps with pain, and I suffer from high anxiety, so it helps to calm me down. For me, smoking every day has given me a quality of life that conventional medicine never could.”
Janice Liu, 30-something digital strategist from Parkdale
Does she smoke? No.
“Since I’m originally from Vancouver, you’d think I would smoke. But I don’t. I’m a big proponent of pot being legalized, though, because I think it would be great for our economy from a taxation perspective.”
Brian McKinnon, 62, mental health worker from Toronto
Does he smoke? Yes, for 46 years.
“I started smoking recreationally in 1970. I was kid, I wanted to get high. Now I smoke for pleasure, consciousness raising and mood altering.”
Stacy Gareau, 44, stay-at-home mom from downtown Toronto
Does she smoke? Yes, for 25 years.
“I’ve been smoking since I was 19, but I only got a prescription this year. The judge said, ‘You’d better get a card or you can’t smoke no more.’ So I got a card. I smoke every day because I have chronic back pain. It’s a plant and it’s grown by God.”
Raija Heikkila, 41, clothing store manager from Sault Ste. Marie
Does she smoke? No.
“Smoking pot is just not something that ever took. I have the occasional glass of wine and that’s about it. But I think people should be allowed to smoke. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If it’s regulated and the government can make tax money off of it, I don’t see any problem with that. My father had cancer and I would have loved for him to partake.”
Karen Habib, 18, film student from downtown Toronto
Does she smoke? Yes.
“I smoke pot because it’s relaxing and opens you up to seeing things differently. If you’re blocked while doing homework or an assignment, it can really open up your imagination and inspiration. I didn’t smoke for 4/20, though, because I have work at five, and it’s a new job.”
Raquel James, 24, coffee server from Regent Park
Does she smoke? Yes, for 10 years.
“I started smoking because of friends and seeing people doing it. But then I realized that it made me feel calm and relaxed when I was super tired and that it could help during days when I couldn’t eat. I smoke maybe once a month when I’m kicking it with some friends.”