My friend’s mea culpa in this space last week got me to thinking about the good old (bad old?) days when many people thought it acceptable to trot off to Sumas, get happily snockered, and drive home.
Many was the time when a crew of us, after having “put the paper to bed” on deadline day, would pile into a car and roll up to the border crossing. In those simpler days all US customs wanted to know was where you were going.
“Sumas for a beer” got you a nod and “go ahead.”
Sumas was then “the place.” The little village rocked every weekend, and most weeknights too. It was also the place for wet lunches, and few considered the implications of drinking and driving, particularly when you were often sharing the bar and a snootful with Matsqui’s chief of police.
Not only did Sumas offer up vast jugs of cheap beer, but you could find forgotten songs on the juke box, shoot a game of pool, dance your feet off or, as many Abbotsford seniors did, drop the monthly pension cheque gambling on pull tabs.
Then, of course, came the B.C. revolution of neighbourhood pubs, lottery tickets, scratch-and-wins and Keno at our corner stores, casinos and nearly comparable gas prices.
Sumas went into severe decline with the loss of Canadian customers; most of its gas stations closed along with nearly every bar, restaurant and honky-tonk.
The now-onerous trial of border crossings with passports and detailed descriptions of the reasons for your desire to make a brief sojourn into the “home of the free” has meant that for well over a decade Sumas has been little more than a pass-through on the way to I-5 outlet stores.
That community condition, however, may soon change.
Not that there is renewed interest in cheap beer or foot-stompin’ country music bands … Whatcom County is this July allowing the opening of legal marijuana shops. Fifteen in total, and you can bet that Sumas’ previously enterprising spirits will ensure a couple of stores open there to take advantage of free-spending pot-toking Canadians.
By the way, I wouldn’t be telling U.S. immigration officials you’re going down for dope, and despite it being legal in Washington State to have up to an ounce in your possession, it’s against the law to smoke it in public.
Furthermore, after watching a few episodes of Border Security featuring Canada’s Border Services Agency, I offer this warning: returning to our fair country could become a lot more difficult than going south if the essence of marijuana wafts from your car window as you roll up to the crossing booth.
According to the TV show, our guardians of the line take a dim view of cannabis use, because despite all the pot smoking that takes place openly up here, it is still illegal in Canada.
Thus some possible advice: adopt the old “hippie” trick of dousing yourself in patchouli oil, and perhaps pack a change of clothes in the trunk. Likely won’t help, but at least you’ll be “in the groove” as you try to explain your possible impairment to our vigilant border guards.
As for me, until they reintroduce $3 jugs of beer and a free ride home, I’m staying out of Sumas, or anywhere else up here for that matter without a designated driver.
As my friend pointed out last week, the consequence to doing otherwise is simply too severe to risk it!