Being There: Pot Tourism

Being There: Pot Tourism
Posted by CN Staff on October 01, 2003 at 18:38:26 PT
By Deborah Campbell
Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian
While Canada debates decriminalizing marijuana possession and America's drug czar, John Walters, worries that such a move may lead to "the crack equivalent of marijuana" – potent bioengineered strains known as "B.C. bud" – finding its way south, the city of Vancouver has quietly become a travel destination for American "pot tourists" taking a break from prohibition. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Jolene and Horst (not their real names) are celebrating their honeymoon at Blunt Bros., one of two cannabis cafés on the 300 block of West Hastings Street, a short walk from Vancouver's toniest shopping district.
The young couple from Washington were overjoyed when they learned that Horst's parents, both practicing Seventh-Day Adventists, were sending them to Vancouver as a wedding present. Jolene smiles while Horst hunches over a low table to roll a joint (the cafés furnish refreshments, but it's strictly BYOM). Their activity may be illegal, "but here, it's tolerated," Jolene says. Vancouver, a two-hour drive north of Seattle, has been labeled "Vansterdam" for its liberal attitude and ease of access to the local greenery. Observers note an upsurge in alternative tourism ever since last year when Vancouver was voted the best "pot spot" travel destination by New York-based High Times magazine, beating out the perennial winner, Amsterdam. (Executive editor Dan Skye, who travels to Vancouver several times a year, says B.C. bud is "very good" but maintains that California's Humboldt County grows the world's finest.) Annual marijuana harvest festivals here lure large numbers of visitors – 80 percent American, according to organizers – who will pay as much as $500 for a multi-day marijuana buffet. Jim, a rasta-looking staffer at the B.C. Marijuana Party headquarters ensconced between Blunt Bros. and the New Amsterdam Café, describes patrons flying in from across the United States, pulling up in limousines, and demanding to know "Where's the weed?" Jolene and Horst leave their plate of nachos to join more than a dozen people in the standing-room-only smoking room in back of the café. More than half of the assembled are American; the rest are split between locals and other nationalities (ESL students from Japan and France say they come to practice English in the sociable atmosphere). Christine from Dallas drove here with Beth, who wears a Holly Hobby hat and says she's from "Podunk, Wyoming." They are vacationing university students. In fact, many of the pot tourists one finds in Vancouver are university-educated members of the middle- to upper-middle class who defy the stoner stereotype. Four lawyers from Manhattan are just leaving. Meanwhile, Christine is discussing 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal with a middle-aged man who says he's a nurse. Christine is a history major, recently returned from a year at the University of London. She almost didn't make it there. Shortly before she was to leave, she and her sister were caught smoking a joint in her sister's car by Texas police (the smoke billowing forth when her sister rolled down the window might have tipped them off). Her sister spent the night in prison and the past year on parole. As joints make their way around the room and still more are rolled on a table, two champion skiers are relaxing after filming ESPN's X-Games at nearby Whistler Mountain. "We're representing the United States," one of them announces through a cloud of smoke. He turns to another young guy, someone he's just met, who is expounding to all who will listen on the benefits of marijuana smoking. "Weed brings people together," the guy observes. "Weed smokers are probably the friendliest of all people." "Word up," says the skier, arms crossed. "Word up." A local is unimpressed. "This place is a tourist trap," he says. If You Go:Sip organic coffee or herbal tea in the smoke-friendly, brick-and-beam New Amsterdam Café - 301 West Hastings, 604-682-8955 - Or head next door to Blunt Bros. - 317 West Hastings, 604-682-5868 - Budget travelers shack up at the very central Cambie Hostel, a renovated heritage building in scenic Gastown - 300 Cambie, 1-877-395-5335 - -- dorm rooms run $15 a day, a private room $36, including light breakfast. Bonus: a burger and beer at the very happening on-site pub the Cambie, Vancouver's oldest drinking establishment, comes in under $5. Another smart option is the Sandman - 180 West Georgia, 604-681-2211 - at $60 a night. Air travel is typically hassle free, but it's probably wise to leave the Bob Marley shirt in the luggage until after you've passed through customs. Round-trip flights leaving Friday and returning Sunday are $290 (tax included) with Alaska, Northwest, United Airlines, and Air Canada. Reserve through - - or call 1-888-895-2870. Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian, The (CA)Author: Deborah CampbellPublished: October 1, 2003Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Bay GuardianContact: letters sfbg.comWebsite: -- Canada Archives
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on October 03, 2003 at 08:03:19 PT
News Brief from Reuters UK
Canadian PM Mulls Smoking Marijuana When He Retires Friday, October 3, 2003 OTTAWA (Reuters) - Now Canada can understand why Prime Minister Jean Chretien seems to be in such a hurry to push through a law decriminalizing marijuana.Chretien, 69, said in an interview published on Friday that he might give pot a try once it is no longer a criminal offense -- presumably after he retires in February. Under the new law, pot users would only pay a fine if caught with small amounts."I don't know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," he said in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press.Over the objections of the U.S. administration, Chretien's government has introduced a bill which would end criminal penalties for possession of 15 grams (half an ounce, or 15 to 30 joints) of marijuana. It would remain illegal, however, but only tickets would be handed out.Some members of Chretien's Liberal Party oppose the bill, however, and it was uncertain whether it would pass in time for his retirement.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 02, 2003 at 19:56:23 PT
News Article from Japan
SMOKING GROOVES: Tokyo's Audio Active Stay True To Their Grass Roots 
More than a decade into a career that's earned them critical acclaim and an enthusiastic overseas following, Tokyo-based quartet Audio Active are not about to turn over a new leaf-not when they're happy with the pointy, bright green one that's long been their symbol. ``Back to the Stoned Age,'' a Beat Records release that hits stores on Saturday, sees Japan's most outspokenly pro-marijuana band staying true to both their sonic vision and their commitment to encouraging a re-evaluation of the nation's strict drug laws. ``We're not encouraging people to commit crimes, though it pains me to hear people talk as if there's something inherently criminal about marijuana,'' vocalist Masa said in an interview ahead of an upcoming tour. ``The police, the media and the government perpetuate the notion that it's bad. We want people to make up their own minds.'' Fans will have a chance to better evaluate Audio Active's musical achievements on Dec. 4, when Beat Records re-releases four of the group's discs from the mid-1990s. Their dub-inspired sound was shaped in part by their long association with influential British reggae producer Adrian Sherwood, an early champion of the band. ``The reason we're still around is that he encouraged us to be original,'' Masa says. There really is no one quite like them. Using a mix of programming and live instrumentation, Masa, keyboardist 2DD (pronounced ``nee dee dee''), drummer Nanao and guitarist Kasai create a dense, dub-inspired world of sound. References to outer space and time travel-interests fostered by sci-fi films and animated TV shows like ``Taimu Bokan''-abound in their English lyrics. But it's their enthusiasm for Cannabis sativa that really sets them apart on the Japanese music scene, where controversy is anathema. Pot leaves and joints are displayed prominently on their records, which feature songs with names like ``Kick the Bong Around,'' ``Weed Specialist'' and ``Free the Marijuana,'' a 1994 single that was embraced by decriminalization advocates elsewhere in the world. Other references are more obscure, in part because they involve wordplay with Japanese street slang. The new disc's release date-Oct. 4-was chosen because it can be rendered as jushi no hi, which means ``hashish day.'' But even when the references are blatant, the band members say writers tend to tiptoe around the issue. ``People know where we stand, and I want journalists to ask about it. But the topic seldom comes up,'' says Masa. ``I don't know if they're just afraid to ask, or whether it's just too troublesome.'' When the subject is broached, it becomes clear that the stance is not a sales gimmick. Nor is it outlaw posturing. ``We really like marijuana, and we want to make others aware of its positive aspects,'' says Nanao, who also drums for the reggae band Dry and Heavy. ``Of course, I don't think people should be getting high morning, noon and night. It's a bit worrying because our fans sometimes get the wrong idea.'' ``Young people enjoy it because they get a thrill out of doing something illegal. That's not right,'' Masa says. ``The mentality has to be changed to the point where people accept it as a part of normal, everyday life-like something you'd find at a grocery store.'' Though their commitment to their convictions is obvious, don't get the idea that they have one-track minds. ``It's a lifestyle choice and a political statement, but it's just one aspect of who we are as a band,'' says 2DD. ``Singing love songs just isn't us.'' Like all of Audio Active's records, ``Back to the Stoned Age'' has a theme. ``It's about traveling through time, going back to the beginning and looking at who you were,'' 2DD says. United by a shared love of dub, Masa and 2DD, who got their start in a 10-piece ska band, formed Audio Active with Nanao in 1987, naming themselves after an album by Jamaican reggae star Dennis Bovell. Kasai joined later. Their big break came when Sherwood took the band under his wing in the early 1990s, producing some of their earliest recordings and releasing them in Britain on his On-U Sound label. An occasional musician himself, Sherwood also took Audio Active with him on a tour of the United States. The band has also toured in Europe, as headliners and with Asian Dub Foundation. From the beginning, the band's songs have been in English, in part because Masa stopped listening to Japanese pop while still a teenager. ``I didn't have any feelings for it,'' he says. ``Things were different when we were kids,'' adds 2DD. ``We didn't have MTV, and there wasn't so much J-pop.'' Sticking to English has also helped them build a fan base abroad. ``People in the States and Europe are on the same wavelength as us,'' Masa says. At home, however, Audio Active isn't exactly a household name. Though they say they'd be thrilled to have mainstream success, they're not about to make compromises to achieve it. ``We're only satisfied when we do things our way,'' Nanao adds. ``If we were to be successful copying what others do, it just wouldn't feel right.'' Audio Active appear Oct. 30 (7:30 p.m.) at Nagoya Club Quattro. Call Jail House at 052-936-6041. Oct. 31 (6:30 p.m.) at Shinsaibashi Club Quattro in Osaka. Call Smash West at 06-6535-5569. Nov. 7 (7 p.m.) at Shibuya Ax in Tokyo. Call Beatink at 03-5766-6571. All shows 3,500 yen in advance.(IHT/Asahi: October 3,2003) (10/03)
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Comment #3 posted by Virgil on October 02, 2003 at 07:12:43 PT
Upside down reasoning again
The increased potency of marijuana and the link between its cultivation, sale, and possession, and organized crime are factors to be considered in developing a solution acceptable to all governments.Sounds like organized crime paid for this statement to be made as it is upside down from sensible reasoning.
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on October 02, 2003 at 05:30:45 PT:
This is what drives the antis into foaming rages
*"Weed brings people together," the guy observes. "Weed smokers are probably the friendliest of all people."*I simply cannot count how many times I heard that same statement, in different ways, with different accents, while I was there. It was just like when I went to Holland many years ago. People from all over the world have traveled to Vancouver to visit those places; The BC Marijuana Party HQ's has TWO Mercator maps on the wall, with push-pins from the different cities around the planet the visitors hailed from. Needless to say, on both maps, the US was practically covered with pins...When the stress from fear of arrest and incarceration is low, then cannabists are no different than any bar patrons. Save for one very important difference: no drunken brawls.All...very...NORMAL.The idea that a person could use cannabis responsibly and cause no harm to those around them, and indeed, be FAR MORE RESPONSIBLE to his or her fellow patrons than any sloppy, swearing drunk could be is, literally, anathema to the antis. Showing this kind of thing on The Tube down here, having a camera (wielded by an unbiased observer, mind you) show how downright *civilly* the patrons conduct themselves on any given evening, would blast a dozen holes into the anti positions in a heartbeat. 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 01, 2003 at 19:38:07 PT
CanadaNewsWire: Department of Justice Canada
DRUG RELATED ISSUES:Ministers discussed the Cannabis Reform Bill, part of Canada's National Drug Strategy. The initiative would introduce a ticketing scheme for the possession of small amounts of cannabis, while increasing penalties for marijuana cultivation. There was general agreement on the importance of adopting legislative measures to enable the police to administer new screening tests on drug- impaired drivers. In the near future, Justice Canada will issue a consultation paper developed by a federal-provincial-territorial working group. Attending Ministers endorsed the National Coordinating Committee on Organized Crime Working Group's recommendations on the proliferation of marijuana grow operations across Canada. These include increased coordination among law enforcement agencies, higher penalties for marijuana production, the development of a coordinated strategy for research and increased public awareness. They urged immediate concerted action involving all levels of government and key stakeholders. They instructed their officials to begin implementing the recommendations and directed them to further consider sentencing issues. Ministers acknowledged that the current law has not been effective in discouraging the use of cannabis and its application has not been consistent across the country. The increased potency of marijuana and the link between its cultivation, sale, and possession, and organized crime are factors to be considered in developing a solution acceptable to all governments. There was also a discussion of the growing problem of methamphetamine labs and the need for a concerted response. Complete Article:
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