Pubdate: Thu, 03 Feb 2011
Source: FFWD (CN AB)
Column: Your Face Here
Copyright: 2011 FFWD
Author: Trevor Scott Howell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


'I prefer the natural herb that I know where it has been grown'

Several Calgary stores were busted last week for selling synthetic 
marijuana, but the owners aren't talking. What do you know about it?

The situation is that it's not synthetic marijuana; it is incense. It 
says right on the package, "Not for human consumption." Some people 
are consuming it, but I know the majority of the people out there who 
do consume cannabis and other drugs aren't consuming it to smoke, 
they're using it as incense. Some of those storeowners are good 
friends of mine.

Were they surprised that they got busted?

Shocked. We were all completely shocked. Last we heard was that in 
early June 2010, Health Canada was going to look into synthetic 
marijuana. I know that Health Canada goes through the local 
warehouses and distributors here a couple times a year to make sure 
they're in compliance with tobacco laws. They're really strict with 
these people. I know they go into the retail shops at least twice 
inspecting them.

Have you ever tried smoking synthetic marijuana?

No. I prefer the natural herb that I know where it has been grown and 
how it has been grown.

Does this stuff look like or smell like weed?

It looks a little bit greenish. Some of it comes in bright packages. 
My biggest concern with what's going on right now is what I've heard 
in the media. Global specifically had on their broadcast: "These 
shops are enticing our children into their stores." But they can't; 
it's 18 and over. You have to be an adult.

How are they enticing them?

Colourful packaging. But again, an under-18 can't get in the store so 
it's kind of being blown out of proportion. They wouldn't sell the 
stuff if there were even a grey area. I noticed they had some sativa 
stuff, which I know for a fact is legal.

That's the hallucinogenic, right?

Oh yeah. That stuff will set you on your butt and send you somewhere 
else, that's for sure.

Have you tried that?

I have tried that once and I won't try it again. I didn't really get 
a lot of hallucinations but it was enough for me to say, "No, that's 
not what I like." I like my cannabis.

Are you high right now?

Oh absolutely. I vapourize it. I eat cookies. I stopped smoking it a 
long time ago. I consume it every day. I still refuse to get a Health 
Canada exemption. I'm not legal to do that. But I could get it tossed 
out in court because of medical reasons, for arthritis and other 
medical issues I have.

And no problems keeping a day job?

Ha! I've got the exact same employer I've had for over 24 years. I 
pay my mortgage. As a matter of fact, I've done the best out of my 
family. I've never been charged with any violent offences. When I was 
a kid I got in a little trouble with a pipe they caught me with when 
I was 16. Back then they treated me like an adult. I got caught with 
a pipe with a little bit of resin in it.

Did they throw the book at you?

No. I was given a fine or time in jail. I couldn't pay the fine so I 
ended up in jail for three weeks up at the old Spy Hill way back 
when. In March I'll be 52, man, so when I say 16 that's a long time ago.

Do the police harass you because of your activism?

No. I actually have a really good relationship with the Calgary 
Police Service. I've worked with the old chief, city hall, the old 
mayor -- he wasn't too interested in talking to me about trying to be 
more cannabis-friendly in this city. But at least they realize that I 
have scientific proof. I'm not out there saying, "We're high, we're 
here, get used to it." I'm not out there advocating for people to 
consume cannabis. Our public events are not your usual smoke out. I'm 
onstage telling the young folk and old folk, "Please don't consume 
cannabis in public. Please be responsible adults and consume cannabis 
at home. Don't consume in front of kids."

So you're not Calgary's version of the Prince of Pot, Marc Emery.

No. Marc and I are friends and we've done a lot of work together over 
the years, but that's where we differ. He likes to do the puff outs, 
whereas I don't.

Reviews are pretty mixed about Canada's government-grown medicinal 
marijuana. What's your take?

They still only grow one strain and there are hundreds of strains and 
different ones will do different things. Like a plant high in CBDs 
will give more pain relief.

What are CBDs?

It's part of the chemical makeup of the plant. There is THC, CBDs, 
there's like 60-odd cannabinoid compounds that will do different 
things. That's where the problem is when they try to make synthetic 
THC; they're not putting in CBDs and all the other chemicals, and 
they're just putting in raw THC.

When you say synethetic, you're talking about pharmaceuticals?


What's happening with compassion clubs in Calgary?

With compassion clubs, and we don't really have an official one in 
Calgary, but there are a few underground ones in town that are doing 
it very, very low-key and discrete because of the negative attention 
that has come to other clubs in the past, like Grant Krieger and Grant Cluff.

And Calgary police shut down Grant Cluff a couple years ago.

His Health Canada licence, he actually failed to renew it quick 
enough and it expired so the southern Alberta drug squad, the Green 
Team, came in and cut down his plants. They saw that he was running 
the compassion club and they warned him to shut it down because 
they're going to be watching him and they will have to take action 
once they get a complaint. So he didn't get charged or arrested that 
day but he did lose his crop, his medicine was cut down. He shut down 
the compassion club right after that. Officially there hasn't been a 
club since then.

I talked to a member of that drug squad who said it wasn't really 
something they wanted to do, but they have to follow orders.

Once they get a complaint, my man, they're stuck. I've talked to the 
drug squad and the police and, unofficially, they really don't want 
to touch it. Unofficially the drug squad has swept up people in 
street raids who have shown they have epilepsy, have a prescription 
and need cannabis and have said, "Go to a compassion club; don't buy 
it off the street." But that was totally unofficial and they'll never 
admit to it and I understand why.

Have you had any problems at public rallies?

Many years ago the City of Calgary's parks and recreation said that 
they were going to stop me at all costs -- ticket me, arrest me, they 
were going to do all sorts of stuff. One of our very first rallies 
many years ago, on eighth Street and 17th Avenue S.W. in that little 
park, we had a rally and there were a whole bunch of police there 
that tried to intimidate us. It was actually the day after Tommy 
Chong was in town promoting his movie a/k/a Tommy Chong, when he got 
out of jail. We showed them that we're not going away. We have the 
right to freedom of speech, we're peaceful, we're not blocking 
traffic, but we are going to be out with our scientific information 
and freely give it out. All the studies say that cannabis is less 
harmful than, say, cigarettes or alcohol. It should be legal.

A senate committee in 2002 went so far as to say it should be legal 
for 16-year-olds and older. The government funds these and the 
government is ignoring these studies.

You don't see Harper's government changing things.

No. Harper is going the wrong way. He has Bill S-10 going on with 
mandatory sentencing. It started out as Bill C-26 then it failed when 
he called an election. So it went from Bill C-26 to Bill C-15. We had 
a protest right in Harper's office last year. We occupied his office 
and there were people there with legal Health Canada exemptions 
rolling joints on Harper's desk. They tried to throw us out and the 
police there said we had to leave. But because Harper's office, 
during official hours, is actually a public location, they couldn't 
throw us out as long as we were peaceful and not disrupting daily 
business. And we left at 5 p.m. when the office closed.
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