Clubbers send happy smoke signals

May 24, 1996

Canadian university clubs have a place for everyone from rifle enthusiasts to until last year, left-handers. If there is a favourite activity or cause, chances are a group of students will start a club.

Noah Gellner has done just that with the McGill Cigar Society, where members should be able to enjoy the fine qualities of what he calls a "sophisticated vice".

According to Mr Gellner, an economics and East Asian studies major, if students are looking for an activity that brings together both the social activist and the industrialist, they should sit back and stick a good stogie in their mouth.

Cigars are the great unifier, he says. In a cloud of cigar smoke, you can feel like a Latin American revolutionary or a Wall Street tycoon.

The Cigar Society is comprised of 15 connoisseurs who know the difference between a Churchill that is chocolatey with some earthy qualities and a less harmonious and more jarring torpedo that is perhaps too young and fresh.

They are organising student versions of the expensive cigar club dinner. Usually costing a prohibitive Can$150 (Pounds 75) and serving drinks, food and four to five cigars, their dinners will probably cost a more reasonable Can$30.

Paul Egri will similarly be celebrating the end of the semester with a puff or two. As the founder of the Carleton Cannabis Club, he just hopes he can keep the law away from his enjoyment.

With an education and activist mandate, the CCC made some recent news when they held a general protest on Ottawa's Parliament Hill against what activists fighting for legalisation of marijuana call Canada's prohibition. Some 350 people, many smoking pot, became media stars as the police stood by and watched.

"We played a small part in pushing the issue into the public eye," said Mr Egri, whose group of 80-plus members has met about a dozen times since its inception last September.

They believe that growing and sharing one's own marijuana should not land anyone in jail. His group would also like to see distribution taken away from the criminal element.

Mr Egri says the administration was originally reluctant when the group applied for club status. Once their mandate was presented, with the club's activities to not include indulging in the herb on campus, the CCC became another legitimate advocacy group.

"I don't want people to see this as a joke," said Mr Egri, who would like to see a network of university cannabis clubs across Canada. "I don't want people to think Carleton has a bunch of pot heads who don't do their work."

The group is not all advocacy and education. Many members get together to smoke dope off campus. Mr Egri believes they are widening the appreciation of art ("Everyone knows Pink Floyd is better listened to stoned.") and they like to use humour in recruiting students. Can$10 t-shirts display the club's name, a big marijuana leaf, and the slogan "Carleton University: an institute of higher learning."

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