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The Middle: Cooler cops should cool it

Why are we still freaking out about responsible citizens having a beer in public?

One week from now, recreational marijuana will be legal. There is great debate as to whether it’s going to be an issue for employees to go for a “smoke break” at work. As some point out, a business lunch often includes alcohol…so why not weed?

Today on The Middle, we ponder an age-old question in BC: why is it illegal to responsibly consume alcohol in public spaces?

Since what feels like the beginning of time, Vancouver (and B.C. – and Canada) has been rather behind on loosening the laws around drinking responsibly.  My Middle on this is: those who drink irresponsibly are doing it with or without laws limiting booze – so who’s really being punished by these laws?

Put another way: is it so wrong to want to bring a Strongbow from home to enjoy at a beach picnic? If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. Yet year upon year, police officers spend countless hours searching coolers that might contain (gasp!) a six-pack.

Recently, my family was at Jericho Beach on a gorgeous Saturday evening, enjoying delicious food – and yes, wine in coffee cups.

It was the perfect Vancouver postcard.  And we were breaking the law.

Enter the three motorized quads cruising the shoreline, searching for outlaws like us.

To our left, the maybe-20-somethings had just finished up their joints. We didn’t care much, except for the wind blowing towards our collective of five kids under 13. Those pot smokers were in no way causing any trouble; they were just smoking at the beach. A punishable, albeit extinguishable, offence.

To our right, a beautiful family of four, sitting comfortably and relaxed with their lovely outdoor dinner – about to be disrupted. The motorized mounted police pulled up, asked them to stop supper and open the cooler.

Time to, once again, note that there was ZERO disruption happening on this hot and lazy summer evening. NO one causing any hint of trouble; no reason for this random check. but check officers did. It was revealed that YES, the family had beer in that cooler (GASP!) therefore they were given two options:

1) dump it; or

2) depart.

On principle I guess, with massive eye-rolls from both our crew and the 20-somethings, they packed up and left, missing the season’s best sunset.

I was mad on their behalf. Not at the police officers – they don’t make the laws – but in frustration that in 2018, responsible adults are not allowed to responsibly consume alcohol in public places. We pay for those public places.

Does law enforcement really need to care about responsible citizens with a couple of beers in a cooler?

A couple of years ago our family took a trip to Spain. It was a master-class in responsible drinking.  You could get an inexpensive, frosty cold cerveza everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE – even a playground! You could BYOB without bother. Not once did I encounter yahoos or booze-fuelled chaos.

Not. Once.

Pictured: dangerous scofflaws, apparently

Head to downtown Vancouver’s Granville Entertainment District and you will find stumbling and agitated drunk folks. You know the ones; bingers who want to get as much in them before they make their way to transit or the epic challenge of finding a taxi.

Because they couldn’t just walk the strip with a cup of draft and slip it, they needed to front-load.

While the province still ponders how we could possibly sell wine in grocery stores (we need a wall between food and booze or we’ll fall into an alcoholic void!) a few fine folks at Vancouver Park Board have been working diligently on baby steps forward.

In a pilot project, concession stands at two major Vancouver beaches, English Bay and Kitsilano, will sell craft beer and wine (at a premium, of course) to test the waters on public drinking…in roped-off areas, of course.

So frustrating! What do the ropes do? How do they protect the public?

Some say “it’s a start.” Sure, for 1985. But in 2018, pot is about to be legalized to the point where you can fly with up to 30 grams – but you better not bring a case of wine from Alberta.

Yes, big events should still need liquor licenses, and associated insurance. And hooligans and disruptors should be penalized for public drunkenness and mischief.

But in 2018, where recreational pot is seconds away from full legalization, it’s well beyond time to trust adults to drink responsibly.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who has spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.