Pubdate: Fri, 03 Nov 2000
Source: West Kootenay Weekender (CN BC)
Copyright: {2000} The Nelson Daily News
Contact:  266 Baker St., Nelson, BC, Canada, V1L 4H3
Fax: (250) 352-2418
Author: Darren Davidson


Author Drew Edwards takes the lid off the West Kootenay's infamous
underground economy in his book West Coast Smoke: The inside story of the
B.C. Pot Boom

Respa Is Loquitor: Let the thing speak for itself.

It's clearly fitting that author Drew Edwards would choose the prose of
drug-fueled, gonzo journalism legend Hunter S. Thompson to open his
first-ever book, considering its content.

Entitled West Coast Smoke: The Inside Story of the B.C Pot Boom (Warwick
Publishing, Inc) the 221-page read is an overview of the marijuana
industry, based on actual events and characters Edwards has reported on and
encountered as managing editor of the Nelson Daily News and West Kootenay
Weekender for the past three-and-a-half years.

West Coast Smoke is a historical, political and scientific pot
play-by-play. It is also a real-life-drama snap shot of marijuana culture
in small communities- Nelson and the Slocan Valley to be exact.

Edwards is the first to admit that the book may very well ruffle the ranks
and rolling papers of local law enforcement officials and pot proponents

Over two years, the 28-year-old author investigated and found what most
West Kootenayers already know, but are either too straight-laced or too
stoned to say: Pot-its cultivation, sale and consumption-is a large part of
the local economy.

"I think it's larger than a lot of people realize, and larger than a lot of
people want to admit," Edwards says.

While he is quick to note the area is not the national Mary Jane Mecca it
is occasionally portrayed as, Edwards says Nelson is undeniably a cannabis
culture anomaly.

"It affects so many people in this community, in one way or another."

Over 24 months, the Cariton Journalism School grad sourced and interviewed
more than 100 people-cops, couriers, growers, lawyers, tokers and jokers.

Sniffing out the more clandestine characters the book records was by no
means difficult.

While it "took a long time" to gain the trust of the law-dodging sources he
eventually located- "tape recorders make criminals uncomfortable" he
laughs- Edwards says a number of key players simply fell into his lap.

"You talk to people who know a guy, who knows a guy who knows a guy. I had
my share of dumb luck."

The remainder of West Coast Smoke is built around two riveting drug sagas
that made Nelson Daily News headlines throughout 1998 and '99.

The book is based on the Nelson City Police Department's failed persecution
and closure of the Holy Smoke Culture Shop and the twisted narcotic-related
tale of Slocan Valley murderer Ken Hammond.

The Holy Smoke scenario, says Edwards, allows readers to see both side of
the pot culture coin, by delving into the personalities of the shop's
owners and the police officers involved in the ensuing trial.

"It's a chance to look at people who immersed themselves in this culture,
and to realize that they are not necessarily Tommy Chong," says Edwards of
the Holy Smoke crew.

"I also went a long way to try and explain the thinking and mentality
behind why the police think the way they do."

The book details the careers of some of the RCMP and NCP officers involved,
and the countless drug-related tragedies they've witnessed throughout
lengthy careers on mean streets of major Canadian cities.

The Holy Smoke saga, Edwards says, is a microcosm of the Great Marijuana

"It's a real reflection of the law and the tension between those two
elements of society."

To ensure anonymity, a few of the story's identities have been changed "in
order to protect people who might want it" and for narrative license.

The story however, isn't without a moral.

After writing and transcribing more than 100,000 words (60,000 of which
ended up in the final transcript) Edwards says he came away from the
project being "more in favour of decriminalization" than he was before he

West Coast Smoke includes a quick-fact summary of marijuana's global
history, the shady political big business pressures that led to hemp's
criminalization and hard scientific evidence regarding the plant's
medicinal characteristics and health threats.

"It's hard to look at it and really feel that marijuana is the kind of evil
that Nancy Reagan thinks it is," says Edwards.

Despite West Coast Smoke's scenario of mountain maverick couriers, James
Bond-style grow-ops and jackpot pay-outs, Edwards is adamant the book is
not a call to arms for pot smokers nor a personal campaign to become a
decriminalization poster child.

"That's not what the book was intended for. And that's certainly not my
personal opinion."

His motivation from the start, he insists, was to write a book and tell
both sides of good story.

"If there's a message in the book," says Edwards, "it's get all the
necessary information you need to make an appropriate decision, then make

Burnt offerings.


The Bad Craziness of Couriers- Steve Roberts doesn't really want to talk
about this. Well, he sort of doesn't. He doesn't want make trouble for
himself or his friends. And the people he's been dealing with are not the
type of folks you screw around with, you know what I'm saying? It's not
that they'd kill him, or even break his legs- well probably not-but it is
just unwise to be telling stories about stuff that nobody talks about out
of school.

Roberts has been hemming and haaaing about this for weeks. He moves around
quite a bit and, uh, he travels a lot. so he's hard to pin down. Finally,
he's on the phone "Are you sure this thing's secure?" and ready to talk.

Roberts came to the Nelson area in 1994 from points east to try out the
legendary powder. He had a few years of university under his belt, but no
real focus, so he simply dropped out, packed up what he could and hitched
to B.C. Soon he fell into a crowd that was doing exactly what he wanted to
do: making enough money to live a recreational-oriented, party-dominated

Most of his new friends- 20-somethings with a crazy streak-were involved in
the dope trade in some way. They either grew it, moved it across the border
or drove it from the U.S. side to its final destination anywhere in the
continental U.S.

The money was absolutely ridiculous-it paid for killer sleds and kick-ass
dirt bikes- and the adrenaline rush was unreal. Image a Mountain Dew
commercial with cops and bud strapped to the bikes.

Spring 1997, Front St.. Nelson: The roust- Paul DeFelice. Alan Middlemiss
and Dustin Sunflower" Cantwell opened the Holy Smoke Culture Shop in a
little 180-square foot shop on Front Street with a small amount of paper
and pipes. In an ironic twist, that location was right across the hall from
where Narcotics Anonymous held their meetings.

Some of their first visitors were Det. Ernie Miller and Sgt. Kirk Evans of
the NCP. They wandered around the tinv store, peering at the shelves, the
pot posters and the lone glass case. The police saw the store as an
affront, something that didn't belong in their quiet, law-abiding town.

"Good afternoon, officers," said Middlemiss with a big smile. He wasn't
overly concerned by the cops' presence-it was to be expected.

"You guys selling dope in here?" Evans asked gruffly.

"No sir," said Middlemiss politely. "Just what you see."

"Sure smells like it."

"That's incense, officer."

"Right. Incense." Evans leaned his burly frame across the counter and stuck
his reddened face as close to Middlemiss as he could get it. Alan didn't

"Let me tell you something. You and your shitty store are going down,
sooner rather than later. I'm going to see to it."

Dope 101- Contained within cannabis are more than 460 known compounds, of
which 60 plus are known as cannabinoids and the cannabinoid that we've all
come to know and love is 3,4 trans-delta-l-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known
as delta-l-THC, delta-9-THC, or simply THC. This THC is good stuff, the
highly pyschoactive agent that gives marijuana its punch. It's what makes
the high.

Cannabis has a long and storied history. It first pops up in central Asia,
perhaps as long as 10,000 years ago. The first recorded cultivation occurs
in China by 4000 BC and it first appears in Chinese medical texts around
2000 BC. From there, cannabis is used by societies all across Asia. India,
the Middle East and Africa. It is prescribed for a litany of illnesses
including malaria, dysentery, headaches, insomnia. It was used to improve
digestion, cure nausea, and as an anesthetic. It was the Aspirin of its

Then in 1930, right around the time Henry Ford is building a car to run on
hemp fuel, the U.S. gets caught up in prohibition and race hysteria.
Marijuana becomes stigmatized as the drug of Asians, Mexicans and
African-Americans-hardly surprising considering those cultures had embraced
cannabis long before. The FBI, under a fellow by the name of Henry
Anslinger, puts together an intensive propaganda campaign against marijuana.
It portrays
dope-smoking Mexican banditos as a menace to society. Anslinger goes before
Congress and testifies that marijuana leads to violent, psychotic behavior
despite the fact that no scientifically accepted study had ever said that.

Not coincidentally, around this time DuPont chemicals is experimenting with
and patenting the process by which plastics are made. Things like nylon are
now possible- a tough durable fiber that has limitless potential and only
one major competitor: hemp. Though a
collusionary effort between chemical, forestry and pharmaceutical companies
has never been proven, it is often alluded to by those inclined to believe
in conspiracy theories. Companies in bed with government: who would have
thunk it?

West Coast Smoke will be available at West Kootenay book stores in
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MAP posted-by: Eric Ernst