Tag Archives: hemp

Hemp Hoodlamb

T.H.Seeds is based at Hemp Works, Europe’s first hemp store, which opened its doors in 1993. Back then founders Adam Dunn & Douglas Mignola were known as the CIA (Cannabis In Amsterdam), an early seed company that aimed to present the best American genetics to the world. They had just successfully organised the Cannabis Cup and turned their attention to creating stylish clothing people would want to wear regardless of the fact it’s made of hemp.

“When we first started there was not much hemp clothing,” says Doug. “A little bit from Germany and mostly from the States. It was really rough itchy stuff – we call it the potato sack look!”

They wanted to offer people an alternative for mass-produced and synthetic clothing. First up was the HoodLamb jacket, which was designed to warm you up quick after chilly sessions in the surf or snow. With it’s plush ‘Satifur’ fake fur lining made partly from hemp, it is “like taking the ugg boot and making it into a jacket,” said Doug.

Before moving production to China, where the hemp is grown, Doug wanted to check out their working conditions and environmental standards.

“I choose the factory by saying could I come and see it, and the ones that said it was OK, then I would go and see it,” said Doug. “I found at the factories I went to, that child labour was not an issue. I actually found that the working conditions were better than they are in Europe. I have been to Romania, Portugal, Italy, Holland and seen productions and China had the best, cleanest machines and the best working conditions.”

Doug says business has “grown organically, like the hemp plant!” As with T.H.Seeds, a key to the success of Hemp HoodLamb has been an absolute focus on quality.

“The jacket is super comfortable. As soon as someone tries it on they want to buy it. One of the things that is different is this is one of the few jackets that has fur in the arms. And of course we have secret pockets and paper dispensers.”

HoodLamb’s range now includes summer jackets, hoodies, skirts, pants, shirts, and hats, all made from ecofriendly, comfortable hemp, soy and bamboo. They sell tens of thousands of jackets around the world, sponsor a team of surfers, and are worn by a distinctly smokey selection of celebrities including Snoop Dogg, Flava Flav, UB40, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Chong.

“We sell a lot to Scandinavia, Italy, Canada, Japan and America. And now New Zealand too!”

The Hemp HoodLamb range is available in NZ at The Hempstore or check out www.hoodlamb.com

[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]

Germany: Uber Hanf

By Chris Fowlie

Germany was once thought to be on its way to becoming the next Netherlands, but it is now considered one of the harshest countries in Europe, with its citizens living in fear of roadside sweat tests and police sniffer dogs.

Having said that, it is rare to be prosecuted for possession, let alone go to jail for it, and there is a thriving German ganja culture with huge Hanf celebrations and parades all over the country.

In the northern cities of Hamburg and Berlin you can smoke reasonably openly and there are quasi-coffeeshops that keep really quiet in order to stay open. Hamburg police will tolerate up to 30 grams as a personal amount – it will be confiscated but no charges laid. The further south you go in Germany, the less tolerance there is, but even in Bavaria it would still be unusual to be arrested for possessing a small amount.

Pipes and bongs are legal even for cannabis use, and the stores selling them all appear to be doing a brisk trade. The Germans are also on the forefront of developing great vaporisers, with two excellent models, personally tried and tested by myself, called the Aromed and the Volcano. Both use electricity to heat the air which is drawn through the finely chopped herb. The Volcano fills a balloon, which is handy for medical users who may not always be able to use delicate nozzles and buttons.

The hemp industry is also big, but unlike in Switzerland, the German hemp is low-THC. Most of it is grown in the south and used to make nutritious food products. Hemp businesses have invested in processing plant and can now manufacture their own hemp clothing, insulation and building materials as well as hempseed foods and cosmetics.

Cannabis seeds were legal in Germany up to a couple of years ago, but they remain legal almost everywhere else in Europe so they are easy for Germans to get. Grow lights are sold next to bongs with no illusion about what they are for. Hash seems the most common form of cannabis, with the black hashes of India and Nepal preferred to the Moroccan. Marijuana seemed harder to come by, and much of it originates from the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The fact that Germany shares open borders with so many countries with liberal drug policies has a lot to do with their tolerance for possessing small amounts. They have no hope of stemming the flow of cannabis from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Czech, Poland, Denmark – all countries that have long stopped chasing cannabis smokers, so by tolerating cannabis smokers the police can concentrate on hard drugs.

Germany may be considered harsh by European standards, but it is still more tolerant than New Zealand. As the European Union becomes more of a united state, the German drug laws will move toward the rest of Europe – and even further ahead of New Zealand.

Switzerland: at home on the hemp farm

By Chris Fowlie

Swiss law says that smoking cannabis is illegal, but does not mention growing or selling it. This creates a unique situation where everything is kept hush-hush but right out in the open.

I had the pleasure of visiting a Swiss hemp farm near Bern. Ten thousand plants of Dutch and Swiss origin lay unfenced near a main road. The farmer told me he started by planting cuttings directly into the ground. This had two problems: getting enough cuttings ready all at the same time meant creating a large grow-room, and if you’re going to do that then you may as well continue growing under lights; and secondly the unseeded nature of the crop attracted thieves who stole substantial numbers of plants. He now just throws seeds over the ground and rips out the male plants as they appear. He can’t keep up with all the males, so the buds get seeded but only lightly. This is enough to deter any thieves, but it also means he can’t sell the seeded buds as they are.

Instead, he designed and built a hash-making machine, which is basically a rotating silk-screen drum about 1.5m diameter by 2.5m length. Inside the drum are fins to carry the plant material to the top of the drum as it tumbles. The silk screen is just the right size to let the THC-laden trichomes (or “crystals”) through, leaving the plant material behind. The machine will turn 40kg of cannabis plant into 2-4kg of hash in under an hour. This is completely legal as long as none of it is smoked, so to satisfy the authorities that his hemp is not actually for smoking, he also built a seed cleaning machine and an essential oil extractor.

This year’s European summer has been very wet, and when we visited it was following yet more rain, which had a disastrous effect on the hemp crop. Many of the plants were infected with a mould which was quickly spreading in the damp conditions. The weather was forecast to clear for the next week so a decision was made to wait for the sunshine then harvest the crop early, remove the mouldy parts and make hash from what was available.

I was told that the past three summers have been similar, with conditions too wet for the hemp blossoms to mature without getting mould or fungus. If this weather continues, Swiss hemp farming could be forced indoors and out of the mountains.

Switzerland: hemp and hash

In 2002 Chris Fowlie toured Europe where he researched cannabis policies and cultural practices. This article examines Switzerland, which is set to become the country with the world’s most progressive drug policy.

PUBLISHED IN NORML NEWS SUMMER 2003

While Switzerland leads Europe in reforming its drug laws and rolling back prohibition, back in New Zealand the new government has said it will maintain the same failed policy for at least another three years. Europeans can walk into stores and purchase their cannabis, but New Zealanders are considered by their government to be too stupid or inferior to have this level of freedom.

There are now well over 400 stores selling high-THC cannabis in Switzerland, officially for any reason other than smoking it, plus another 300-odd hemp farmers, processors and hash makers. Their fine produce keeps not only the locals happy, but also thousands of hemp enthusiasts from neighbouring Germany, France and Italy who cross the border in search of the legendary Swiss mountain high.

To get the low-down on how this situation came about, I visited the industry lobby group, Swiss Hemp Coordination (SHK), which also conveniently shares offices with CannaTrade and Swiss Hemp Times in Bern.

Roman of SHK told me there had been a long tradition of growing hemp in the Alps, but by the beginning of the 20th century there was little market for hemp and farming it there had largely stopped. In 1951 the Swiss introduced their first anti-drug laws following substantial post-war pressure from America. Smoking cannabis was forbidden just like in the rest of the world, although it was not made a punishable offence until 1971.

Things stayed much this way until 1993, when a legal advocate examined the drug laws and discovered that the prohibition on cannabis only applied to smoking it, and not to cultivating or possessing it. He advertised in some farmer’s journals seeking people to grow hemp for him. Eighty-five contacted him and in 1994 they grew 0.5-1 hectare each. The police looked at these fields of cannabis with interest, but they did not know what to do with it. Unfortunately, the legal advocate and the farmers also did not know what to do with it, and when harvest time came the advocate left the farmers to deal with it alone. About 60% of the crop rotted in the field, and many farmers lost money.

In 1995 some farmers continued to grow hemp and learnt how to process it. The first hemp stores also opened in this year, selling high-THC hemp flowers (buds) for example in aroma bags to put near your undies to make them smell nice, or to put in the bath, or just to look at. By 1997 there were hundreds of hemp stores all over Switzerland and some were so busy there were queues out the door.

Like everywhere else in the world, there is a huge demand for cannabis in Switzerland, but the difference here is that the government understands that punitive sanctions and harsh laws are pointless. This current trade is not considered problematic by anyone, other than that it is not technically legal, so the government decided to change the drug laws, not to try to get rid of the hemp outlets, but in order to control them.

The current situation is one of virtually no rules other than the prohibition on smoking cannabis. Outlets do not have clear rules and regulations to follow, and could be raided at any time. Shortly before I visited in early August, police had closed six stores in Zürich and another two in Bern. The police raids are more for show than effect, as other stores will soon open to replace them.

Every store I visited was full of customers and doing a brisk trade. The quality of the Swiss hemp was generally very good, with many Dutch strains available as well as lots of exciting local ones to sample. The prices were the cheapest I found in Europe, with a gram retailing for about 3-4 euros or half what you would pay in Amsterdam. In contrast to the Netherlands, most of the Swiss cannabis is grown outdoors, which made a really nice change for me as I prefer soaring outdoor Sativas to the heavy indica stone. A substantial amount is also grown in greenhouses, with the smallest proportion grown under lights.

There are other differences with the Dutch approach. Although there are many outlets to buy your hemp, there are very few places to smoke it, because it is the act of smoking that is the illegal part. Space cakes and cookies are still illegal, and it is also hard to find hash in the stores. Even the stores themselves can be hard to find, with many having no signage or just a hemp leaf sticker in the window.

In Bern I purchased an 8 gram greenhouse-grown Mango Bud that was sold just for sniffing, and then went across the road to buy some White Widow which was labelled that it was only to be put in the bath. I thought that would be a waste of a fine bud and smoked it instead, and it was only at that point that any law was broken.

The Swiss border towns have the busiest stores as many customers are from other countries. For instance, hemp stores in Geneva are frequented by the French, while the southern region of Ticino has many Italian visitors who have absolutely no interest in the mountains. The northern city of Basel straddles the German border and has about 70 stores selling hemp. It would be physically impossible for the German authorities to stop the flow of Swiss cannabis into their borders, as all people have to do is jump on the tram or even walk over the border.

The Swiss Government would like to make cannabis legal but that is against the 1961 international drug control treaty which they had signed, so they have come up with a solution that looks set to take them even further than the Netherlands. The Dutch tolerance policy came from the judicial system who did not want to prosecute people, but in Switzerland the tolerance policy is coming from the government and parliament. If we can say that the Netherlands turns a blind eye to their coffeeshops, the Swiss will be keeping their eyes open.

The new law will comply with international treaties by banning the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis and cannabis seeds. Certainly on the face of it, this does sound much worse, however the regulations attached to the deliberately vague federal law will allow each canton to not punish people if they follow certain rules, for example, no exporting, no sales to minors and no advertising. This so-called “principle of opportunity” is a core part of the Swiss constitution which allows each local canton to interpret and apply federal regulations as it sees fit. Cantons have their own rights and substantial space to interpret the law. More conservative areas could decide to not allow even low-THC hemp sales, while areas with more liberal attitudes could license high-THC hemp sales subject to their own regulations. For instance, cantons could specify that hemp farms must be below a certain size, or not within 10km of a school, or whatever else they decided. Biel (near Bern) and Basel (near the German border) already have coffeeshops and these will probably be licensed legally.

The government’s bill will be voted on by the National Council, and if approved it will take effect in March 2003. It has already passed the more conservative Canton’s Council so the chances of it passing the bigger chamber are good. However if any changes are made to the draft bill by the National Council in September, the law will have to go back to the other two chambers and will not take effect in March.

This could be a real problem, because even more important for the government than the hemp laws are the heroin laws. The Swiss have a very progressive policy for opiate users which includes pure heroin on prescription, methadone programmes and clean injecting rooms, but this policy is only legal under an emergency temporary law that runs out in 2004. Because of this, there is substantial pressure to not make any changes to the draft law so that it can take effect before the temporary law runs out.

If that does happen the Swiss will be the only country in the world where cannabis sales will be regulated and controlled by law, and from that we could undoubtedly learn a lot.

Haarlem Coffeeshop College, Netherlands

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand, 2002

Just ten minutes by train from Amsterdam, the quiet town of Haarlem is providing a model example to the rest of the world of how coffeeshops can best be run.

Nol van Schaik runs Haarlem’s three Willie Wortel coffeeshops and Maruska der Blaauw the Global Hemp Museum. Together with Wernard Brunning, who opened the very first coffeeshop in 1972, they have started a coffeeshop training course. As soon as I heard, I knew I had to go.

Haarlem Cannabizness

Chris Fowlie with Nol van SchaikThe Coffeeshop College “cannabizness” course aims to export the successful Dutch coffeeshop model around the world. It was started after Nol co-founded the Dutch Experience coffeeshop in Stockport UK with medical marijuana advocate Colin Davies and sparked huge interest all around the world.

Courses are scheduled for the last week of each month, but this time I was the only student to turn up which meant I had personal one-on-one tuition and the opportunity to structure classes to teach me exactly what I needed to know.

First came the theory and the development of the Dutch policy. There is a common perception that the Dutch Government must have thought of the idea but actually the first moves were from brave and principled people acting in defiance of the law.

The Lowland Seed Company started it all in 1969 when they sold and gave away thousands of cannabis seedlings from a barge near the centre of Amsterdam, in order to convince people to grow their own.

Then in 1972, Wernard and his friends opened the Mellow Yellow, with one house dealer sitting in front of the bar like a customer. Less than ten grams in pre-bagged deals was kept in an old jacket hanging on the wall and nearby a sign read “The management is not responsible for people’s belongings left on the premises”. If the jacket was ever found it had nothing to do with the cafe and there was nothing the police could do.

After five attempts the police gave up raiding the Mellow Yellow and it was followed by the Bulldog, the Milkyweg and others. Eventually the government, police and health authorities all agreed that the coffeeshops were a good thing, and formalised the tolerance policy with licenses, regulations and regular inspections. The point is that if the Dutch pot pioneers had waited for coffeeshops to happen, they may still have been waiting.

Dutch cannabis policy was designed primarily to separate the markets for pot and hard drugs and best protect young people. The Mayor sets the rules and so they vary slightly in each municipality. Haarlem’s 16 cannabis cafes have worked closely with the council and the police and their AHOYG rules have since been widely copied by other municipalities: The A is for no Alcohol, H for no Hard drugs, O means no Overlast or nuisance, Y is no Youth, meaning those under 18 (it used to be 16, and now those youth who are potentially the most vulnerable in society go to criminals to get their cannabis), and the G is for the Gram limit. Coffeeshops are supposed to hold no more than 500 grams in total and limit individual sales to less than 5 grams.

Dealer at Willie Wortels Vending machine at Willie Wortels

Amsterdam gives coffeeshops the option of selling alcohol if they want, while Haarlem, like most towns, does not. Amsterdam also has a policy of wanting to reduce the number of coffeeshops over time by revoking their permits for even the tiniest infraction. This certainly keeps the coffeeshops on their toes and following the rules. If the rules are not followed, the coffeeshops are given yellow cards like in football. Finding an underage person on the premises brings one card, and possibly being forced to close for a week, while hard drugs will attract three cards and instant closure.

One of the oddest aspects of the Dutch tolerance policy is that it does not apply to commercial growers. Coffeeshops can sell out the front door, but there is no lawful way for them to get supplies in the back door. Seeds are legal, and so the coffeeshops work with the grow stores to develop ’grow circles’, where home growers share tips and expertise and coordinate their grow cycles and varieties so the coffeeshop is kept in a constant supply. All this must be done in secret just like in New Zealand, although the grow stores are very social places and there’s no pretending that all the gear is for tomatoes.

Chris at the microscope Hash by Nol

After the theory we got on with the practical. Lessons in judging and inspecting cannabis were done with the help of a loupé and digital microscope, and a smoke or two. It was fascinating to compare Nepalese temple balls with Maroccan hash and local keif, and to see the increased trichome density in a sativa haze compared to an indica skunk. I was taught a battery of tests for judging the quality of hash, none of which involved actually smoking it.

Then we covered the practical aspects of running a cafe and bar, with job schedules, storage control, hygiene, and guidelines for staff and management. I did two practical shifts, one behind the coffee bar and the other in the dealer’s booth.

Chris Dealing Chris making coffee

It was a wonderful experience to legally sell the world’s finest marijuana and hash to more than fifty consenting adults. Willie Wortels sells 13 types of grass (most popular: Power Plant and Sage), 10 types of hash and 9 types of machine-rolled joints. The grass is mostly locally grown Nederweit while the hash is mostly imported from the far corners of the world, although locals are increasingly making water hash and compressed “polm” from their crystal-coated bud trimmings.

Dutch coffeeshops have protected the health of their customers by ensuring only quality (mostly organic) produce are sold. All coffeeshops want a good reputation and they cannot get away with selling inferior hash or marijuana because their customers will come back and complain, unlike with an illegal dealer.

Mediweed PotchocWillie Wortel’s participates in the Medi Weit programme that offers half price cannabis to medical users. Growers are also encouraged to donate 10% of their crop or even just the leaves to be pollinated or made into canna-chocolate. About 400 Dutch pharmacies also sell medical marijuana provided by the company Maripharm.

On a field trip to the Interpolm grow store in Haarlem we found a group of growers sharing stories around a Pollinator machine. This Dutch invention is a silk-screen drum that you fill with marijuana and as it spins the THC-containing trichomes fall through the screen to be collected underneath. A thick layer lined the tray and to my delight I was given a big bag to try. It doesn’t get much better – or healthier – than smoking pure trichomes with absolutely no plant matter. They can even be added to your bedtime cocoa or sprinkled on your cornflakes.

Trichome hot chocolate Close up of some trichomes

I had earlier met the inventor of the Pollinator, Mila, in Amsterdam. She showed me a ten foot-long model called the Pollinator Forever (“you shovel, it tumbles”) which some German researchers had ordered. The German government allowed them to work with THC for the medical research they were conducting, but would not let them import it or grow any plants to get it. They had worked out a way of turning CBD, which still occurs in low-THC hemp, into THC. They needed a lot, so they had ordered the biggest Pollinator in order to process a field of hemp into the THC they wanted. Just like the pot smokers, scientists too must find devious ways to get around the absurd prohibition on cannabis.

Our field trip continued to Amsterdam, where I put my new knowledge to use evaluating the coffeeshops. We also happened to meet the inventor of the joint rolling machine, which churns out 120 conical joints in 20 minutes with no saliva, a minimum of paper and the option of your store logo printed on them. It’s just so civilised here.

Chris takes the test Trying out the ROOR bong

Finally the end of the week came and it was time to sit the test. I passed with 93% correct, which was the highest score so far and probably makes me the most suitably qualified person to start a coffeeshop in New Zealand.

I decided to celebrate the occasion with a trip to Dordrect for the annual Weed Cup. >>
More Photos of the Wilie Wortel Coffeeshop in Haarlem

Dealer at Willie Wortels Machine at Willie Wortels
Tony the dealer at Willie Wortels Inside Willie Wortels
Jointjars at Willie Wortels Jointjars at Willie Wortels

Dealer at Willie Wortels