Manitoba, Canada: Pre-teens Light Up
At Pro-pot Rally
Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba
by Gabrielle Giroday, 21 April 2006
Hundreds Attend Annual Event
WINNIPEG -- DO you know where your 11-year-old was yesterday
afternoon? If not, he or she may have been one of hundreds
of students smoking pot on the front lawn of the
legislature. Approximately 1,000 high-school-aged youth --
and some even younger - -- arrived in droves to toke the
afternoon away in the seventh annual demonstration in
support of marijuana use.
While veterans of the event said they supported the high
turnout of supporters, they said they are increasingly
shocked at the young age of attendees, some of whom openly
puffed from six-foot bongs and rolled joints in front of the
"We're not going to get in trouble," said one 11-year-old,
surrounded by a pack of four of his friends, who said they
were the same age or one year older. Rifling through his
shoulder bag, he pulled out a small clear bag of pot.
Crowds started trickling into the grounds at approximately
noon, and by early afternoon, hundreds of students sat in
circles on the lawns beating bongo drums or chatting on
cellphones. Two Winnipeg police officers and two
Legislative Building security guards watched the crowds from
the top step of the building. No arrests were made.
"Kids are getting younger every year, which is something I
don't like," said Brent McKinney, 23, a veteran of the
McKinney said teens and pre-teens were not involved to
protest legal penalties pot smokers face, unlike
demonstrators initially involved in the pro-pot movement.
"They should be in school right now," he said, pointing out
Manitobans can't try other mild-altering substances like
alcohol until they're 18 years old. "It's turned into a
giant party instead of a political event, which is why I'm
say that ever since the Liberal government announced a
relaxation of certain marijuana laws in 2003, youth are
expressing an increasingly casual attitude to using the
While the Conservative government said in March it
will not be resurrecting Liberal efforts to decriminalize
possession of pot, experts said youth are receiving
confusing messages about the drug.
"We're very concerned... we're seeing a shifting attitude
by youth," said John Borody, CEO of the Addictions
Foundation of Manitoba.
"The messaging by government, when you're talking about
decriminalization, ( youth ) saw that as moving ( marijuana
) away from being an illicit drug, which is not true."
Borody pointed out statistics which indicate approximately
40 per cent of Canadian Grade 12 students use marijuana at
least once a week, and the average age to sample drugs and
alcohol for the first time is around 11 or 12 years old.
"We know kids are substituting smoking and driving, for
drinking and driving, because they think it's safer," he
said. "There are harms associated with the drug."
Worldwide events honour April 20, a legendary reference in
stoner culture to the number 420, which is ( incorrectly )
alleged to be the section of the California penal code that
pertains to a marijuana drug bust. April 20 is the fourth
month and twentieth day of the year.
Yesterday, groups of students identified themselves as
hailing from a range of Winnipeg schools, including Garden
City Collegiate, Kelvin High School, Sturgeon Creek
Collegiate and General Wolfe School.
Old-timers of the event said they were not allowed to
broadcast any speeches as they had in previous years.
"It's become a school holiday somehow," said Walter Lesley,
nicknamed "Big Red."
He called marijuana use an "adult activity," and said he had
been lobbying to see marijuana fully legalized for more than
Some youth said their parents had given them permission to
attend, while others said they had skipped school and snuck
out to the event.
"Parents should support what their kids want to do, and my
parents know I'm here," said a 16-year-old student from John
Taylor Collegiate, whose name is not being published to
protect his identity. "It's no big deal."
Although three minor altercations between demonstrators
broke out, police officers said they witnessed no violence.