Tag Archives: Interviews

Spannabis Hemp Expo

WITH ITS warm, sunny climate and relaxed laws, Spain produces some of the world’s best weed and is now the biggest market for legal cannabis seed sales. The world’s largest cannabis and hemp trade fair, known as Spannabis, is held in Barcelona every February.

Spannabis features over 200 stalls and exhibitors of everything to do with cannabis, including hemp products, the latest hydro systems and grow gear, nutrients, marijuana magazines and law reform organisations, a huge number of seed companies, as well as bong merchants, grinder developers and more marijuana-related stuff than you could shake a spliff at. Spannabis is a great place to check out the latest developments, compare heaps of seed strains all in one place with the low down from the company owners and breeders, meet fellow potheads from throughout the world, and generally enjoy the laid back Spanish pot scene. It truly is an extravaganja!

I had arrived after a marathon series of flights and trains via Dubai and Paris. The expo hall was located in the depths of an industrial zone on the outskirts of the city and finding it was quite a mission. Eventually, the freaks began to outnumber the straights and I knew it must be near. A long line twisted out the front door for all of the three days the expo ran – organisers estimated the head count at 18,000 people. The interior had already filled with a sweet marijuana haze, and it was only for the first few hours that a lone security guard kept up the pretence of telling people to stub out their fat euro-style spliffs.

Over at the T.H.Seeds booth Adam had samples of Dark Star, the newest addition to their range. It’s a full indica that tested at 23 per cent THC at the last Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. It was so strong, he said it sedated the judges too much to vote for it. This required verification of course!

Doug from HempHoodLamb showed off their new artic-canno range of jackets and said they had supplied Paul Watson of the Sea Shepard a custom bullet-proof version to help in their fight against the Japanese whaling in the Southern ocean.

Horticultural lighting company Lumatek ran a super-sweet VIP booth, up high over the crowds. It was a great place to chill out, share a laugh and uh, “network” with booth holders.

SPANNABIS 2010 AWARDS

BEST SEEDS – PYRAMID SEEDS
BEST STAND – LUMATEK GOLD LABEL
BEST PARAPHERNALIA PRODUCT – 00BOX
BEST HYDROPONIC PRODUCT – GENERAL
HYDROPONICS
BEST GROW PRODUCT – HUMBOLDT
NUTRIENTS, LÍNEA ORGÁNIC

The grow scene was heavily represented, with a massive variety of nutrients, grow tents, digital ballasts, infra-red proof wall linings, blade-less fans, as well as dozens of local cannabis seed
companies.

The guys at Humboldt Nutrients had a great range of specialisd products, while Dutch nutrient co Canna didn’t have anything for sale – their massive booth was actually a free bar as well as a THC testing service. Unlike the pee-in-a-cup kind we get here, they tested people’s favourite herb samples for THC and terpene content with a mobile GCMS machine and laboratory, the idea being to build up a database of cannabis strains to assist their development of even better products.

“Curro Knnabinoide” of the popular Spanish cannabis forum cannabiscafe.net told me that over the past twenty years there had been a big change to local home grown over imported Moroccan hash. Most Spanish smokers abide by a “homegrown” ethos meaning they grow their own and they neither buy nor sell it. I had noticed that this means there is plenty of excellent herb to share but comparatively little for sale, and for tourists (like me) scoring is surprisingly difficult. Still, that was not necessary when there were so many kind herby folk about, only too willing to show off their latest homegrown effort, or a seed company promoter trying to tempt you with their latest strain…

GROWING IN SPAIN

Spaniards have the luxury of being able to grow outdoors all year round. The feminised and autoflowering strains that have revolutionised growing around the world have had an even bigger impact on Spain, where seeds are legal. Spanish growers can just pop a feminised auto-flowering seed in the ground any time of the year, and come back in a certain number of days. The most popular local strain is Critical from Dinafem while Eva, Pyramid and Sweet Seeds are also huge. The relaxed legal environment means growing at home is really easy and safe for anyone to do, and it is not unusual to see healthy plants on people’s balconies. Hola!

See spannabis.com

[Originally published in NORML News Winter/Spring 2010]

Note: importing or possessing cannabis seed, or cultivating cannabis, is illegal in New Zealand.

Dutch Coffeeshop Pioneer – Interview with Wernard Bruining

The Dutch policy of tolerating the sale of cannabis to adults is well known. Their separation of cannabis consumers from those who sell other drugs led to one of the lowest rates of hard drug use in the world. Still controversial and subject to constant tweaking, the lowland nation remains resolutely determined their policy is the best in the world. It all began with one man in 1973.

Chris: You opened the first coffee shop in Amsterdam, the Mellow Yellow. How did it all start?

Wernard: In the old days in Holland, everybody who was smoking was a bit of a dealer. So when you had ten smokers there was always a couple of guys that knew where to get the dope from and who were the guys that were buying it and sold part of it to their friends. The whole trick was to have at the end of the day a piece for yourself that was free to smoke. Like everywhere is even today, we have the same kind of situation.

In those days there were places where there were a lot of smokers, vegetarian restaurants, foodstores, coffeeshops, cafes, things like that and that meant that were also a lot of dealers – sometimes in the coffee shops there were like twenty dealers at various stages and prices. Our idea was to end that all and to have a coffee shop with just one dealer, who is one of us of course, who is sitting in front of the bar pretending to be just a customer. In those days police couldn’t shut a shop down just because somebody was found in there dealing. So that was the big lie let’s say.

The other thing that we did was we treated hash and grass the same like you treat Bountys or Mars Bars. You go to a big store and you buy a big box and then you sell them one by one. So we brought a kilo of this, a kilo that, and then cut it up into pieces of ten and 25 gilders, put it in plastic bags and then thought that the problem was solved, and that that was the golden coffee shop formula because that made it accessible to everybody.

Now suddenly everybody could go to a coffee shop and buy hash and grass and you did not need to know a lot about hash and grass itself. You could just go to the one guy who is sitting at the bar and ask what have you got, and he mentions all these words “I’ve got Nepalese and afghan and this and that” and so on. Then you just reply just give me ten gilders of that Nepalese and then you got ten gilders of the Nepalese. Before that you needed to know what it was, what the variety was, what the price was what a good price was, you had to bargain the price, things like that – that was all over. Now suddenly everyone could come and score.

So within a couple of months we had a lot of customers. Sometimes customers lined up outside on the pavement and of course that attracted attention from a lot of our visitors and friends who saw us doing that and thought this is a good trick that these guys found we can do it also and we can do it better. So that is when coffee shops like Restaurant and The Bulldog started and they did it better, you know, because they were much more efficient than we were. We were just interesting in having a free smoke for ourselves.

Like a social club. What was the authorities reaction when you first started?

Well, in the beginning we kept a low profile.

Even with the line of customers out the door?

Yes. Because tolerance only functions when you voluntarily restrict yourselves. That is why we called our shop not a coffee shop but a tea house, so that the outside world knew that is was not just a regular shop, but that there was something fishy going on in there. Better not know! That worked fine. It was about four or five years before we had our first bust. I opened up the shop in 1973 and the first bust we had in 1976 or so.

We were prepared. We had our stash hidden and we had certain systems to prevent them from finding the stash or the motherload and things like that, and that worked. We had about 3 or 4 busts and they never found our stash. The dealer they just arrested him and kept him for a couple of hours but then he had to appear in court or whatever 6 months or a year later and we didn’t care about that.

Were you ever the dealer?

Yes sometimes. I didn’t like it that much! It always had somebody who was doing it for me. I preferred to be the bar man so I had lots more communication possibilities and more time to play football – I like table football! Whenever it was quiet, I would rush downstairs and play table football and table football is one of the things that go better when you smoke! Because you need to focus completely on the game and forget about everyone else. When you’re high it goes very well, it increases your pleasure.

What was it about the time or place that allowed the tolerance to occur?

First because nobody knew we existed, and the place was named Mellow Yellow and Mellow Yellow was the title of a song by Donavon. It was about when you had nothing to smoke you could fry banana peel and smoke those and only the insiders know what the title meant. So we figured that when we called our shop Mellow Yellow outsiders would think “its just that Donavon song” and insiders would know “oh that’s something to do with smoking”. So we kept a low profile for the first couple of years – nobody knew we existed. The phenomena of police busting coffee shops started after they busted us a couple of times. After that [busting people] became an industry.

How long did that continue and what made them stop?

Well, they busted us three of four times and then in 1978 we had a fire in our shop and I was looking for other things to do because I was getting bored. I had a friend in America who said come and see me and after the fire I suddenly had a lot of time. I booked a flight and went to the States and saw my American friend and I noticed something totally new. I saw Americans who were smoking and dealing marijuana that was grown in America. Then we realised that the marijuana the Americans were growing was better than the third world country grass. They were getting like $10,000 per kilo. If you would get maybe a dollar a gram for Dutch grass that was fantastic, and nobody was even willing to even pay that and imported grass wasn’t much better.

Our hippy idea was that marijuana growing would be successful and cannabis would never go away.

So in the beginning we just brought a couple of kilos in our bags to Holland. Nobody suspected anybody to take drugs from America to Holland so there was not chance for anybody to check. In the beginning we would smoke that and sell whatever excess we had. Now we had this huge group of expanding coffee shops now and the product needs to be smuggled in to Holland and it would be a good idea if we teach the Dutch to grow their own. So we asked an old man who was 65 at that time [“Old Ed”] who was a grower just busted in America – why don’t you come over to Holland and help us grow this marijuana? We will do two things – we will sell it to the coffee shops and then I’ll talk to the Dutch and say you can grow it yourself and if you don’t believe it you can go to the coffee shop and pay a lot of money. So that is how I convinced the Dutch that it was worthwhile to grow marijuana in Holland using the special seeds we have. We call ourselves the green team and it took us five years to convince the Dutch people – from 1980 to 1985.

In 1985 my green team was expanding constantly with foreigners who also wanted to try this successful thing that we were doing. In ‘85 we were growing 200 kilos per year and I was selling it in the coffee shops.

If the police had caught you what would have happened?

Our first bust was in 1983 – that was a policeman that came up with his bike. We had a farm in Freisland and in the front of the farm we had small fake vegetable gardens, and in the back we had a lot of tall trees, and behind the tress there was huge plants growing. We had 1000 kilo of plants that year and this policeman came up in his bicycle while we were doing our fake vegetable garden, and says “Hi guys what are you doing here?” and we said “we are just growing vegetables and enjoying the outside country life”. And he said “well, I don’t know what you are doing here and I don’t want to know it either. But I want to tell you one thing – whatever you did last year you shouldn’t try to do it again this year”. And we were like “oh what are you taking about?” and then he left. It took him maybe ten minutes, this whole conversations, but in a way he busted us because we moved maybe 1000 females that we had in the back – that weren’t that big maybe fifty centimetres – but we could never harvest at this place. So we had to find other locations and we found 10, 20, 30 different locations. We put our plants over there, we made deals with the local growers: You take care of the plants, harvest them and sell them and we’ll give them a cut of the profit. That is how we really started to expand.

Then in 1985, when we were 200 kilos a year, the green team was joined by other Americans who said we need to grow in greenhouses and the greenhouse need to be at least 5000 square metres and another voice said we need to grow in 5 greenhouse, and I thought well it’s not my cup of tea – I’m not into making money and I’m also not into becoming a criminal. It’s better these guys go out on their own and I go onto something else – I want to build the perfect football table and in order to that I needed to make money, so I started to make lights.

I was already importing lights from America. Then I got so much I decided to make my own reflectors and light systems. I had to employ a friend of mine to install these light systems, and that really was the beginning of Positronics, the first grow shop in Europe. Within seven years I had 60 people working for me, a newspaper, a restaurant. A big demand and lots of money but I wasn’t interested in money, I was interested in selling the idea of enriching your life by selling a few plants.

People came to our shop from all over Holland and all over Europe. Journalists came to our shop and it was fine for me, because I knew if I talked to a journalist for an hour they would go home and broadcast this thing and people would read about what I wanted to tell them. My record was one session with 60 minutes and it was 30 million viewers. Successful. And that is how the idea of growing your own marijuana spread really fast all around the world. Nederweit is now Euro weed. And our idea – our hippy idea – was that marijuana growing would be successful and cannabis would never go away. And that cannabis was an improvement of modern lifestyle.

I will say that cannabis is a entheogen drug which means it is a drug that enables people to sense god in themselves and in others, so instead of old fashioned religion it is a new religious kind of lifestyle in a way, and such a product should never be commercialised. It should always be accessible to society, only accessible for 10 15 percent of the population who is interested and able to confront themselves with themselves, because that is what cannabis does: it confronts you with yourself.

What are the key changes that have happened since then?

Look at me, a mature man, I don’t wear a suit and tie. When I started growing marijuana and when I started coffeeshops it was impossible for old males to go around without a suit and tie, all males have the same leather shoe. Now days everyone is clothed differently and that is one of the achievements of marijuana because marijuana was smoked by a lot of people who functioned as a role model like filmmakers, artists, famous people were all into smoking marijuana. Marijuana changed the world without most of the world knowing about it. It is much more free, liberal, much more fantasy, colour than ever before and that is due to marijuana.

Speaking of changes, the Dutch government has said it will close a lot of coffee shops in Amsterdam. Are the coffee shops a scapegoat or are there really problems?

A lot of coffee shop owners are not pioneers anymore, so they don’t know how to present their case in such a way so the public laughs and thinks “oh well let those guys go along with their thing as long as they don’t bother me”. Modern coffeeshop does bother everybody because it is a public place. Anybody can just walk into a coffee shop. That’s a scary thing for people who don’t like change, and the thing is that coffee shop owners don’t understand that they can only be tolerated when they present their business in such fashion that it is acceptable for the non smoker. That’s what they neglected to do. Because tolerance only works when you voluntarily limit yourself in presenting yourself.

Thanks Wernard! More information is at www.wernard.nl & www.cannabisconnections.nl

Sweet, Irie sounds of the South Pacific

Leading a new wave of “sunshine” reggae music from the South Pacific is Sweet & Irie, who will be performing at Raggamuffin, Australasia’s biggest reggae festival.

The creation of singersongwriter Edward Ru. Sweet & Irie puts out an “irie sound”. Irie, of course, being Jamaican parlance for nice, or a positive feeling following a blazing spliff of collie weed, although Ru claims “we never really thought of it that way.” Whatever!

Born in South Auckland and raised in Otara, Ru was witness to a tough upbringing that later fuelled his song writing. “We grew up the hard way, and I thought I didn’t want the same things for my kids,” explains Ed.

Sweet & Irie first gained attention in 2006 after releasing “Ban the Burn”, an anti methamphetamine song “for my people”, which was picked up by the Maori Party. Soon afterwards Ru bumped into Dawn Raid’s Brotha D who invited them into the studio. The result of that effort is an album called Localize It – a play on Peter Tosh’s landmark recording Legalize It – that debuted at No 16 on the NZ album charts. “I was shocked!”

At Raggamuffin in Rotorua on January 23rd they will share the stage with reggae legends Sly & Robbie, Wyclef Jean and Shaggy, but he’s most looking forward to seeing Lauryn Hill and Julian Marley.

“I still can’t believe it. I haven’t been in music for that long, and I look at the poster and see me on it! Last year I went to Raggamuffin with Ali Campbell [of UB40] and now I’m playing there!”

NORML will also be there, with this year’s stall aimed especially at encouraging Maori to participate in the Law Commission’s review of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

It’s an issue Ed is keen to discuss. “I think it’s crazy, but I’m not the government or the law, I’m just Sweet and Irie. That’s the way I live my life and everyone else lives their lives they way they want to live,” he says. “What’s happening out in the world is a bit sad. I just come back to the Bible which says no man should judge no man. “

Amen to that!

Sweet & irie’s new album ‘Localize It’ is available now, and catch them at Raggamuffin in Rototua on Sat 23 January 2010. Look out for NORML’s stall there too!

[Originally published in NORML News Summer 2010]

DNA Genetics: the best of California in Amsterdam

DNA Genetics has taken the cannabis world by storm, winning 32 prestigious prizes in their first six  years of business. Originally from California, Don and Aaron (DNA, get it?) moved to Amsterdam with the aim of presenting the best American cannabis genetics to the world.

The DNA store in the heart of Amsterdam stocks high-quality bongs, clothing, and of course regular and feminised seeds including their cup-winning strains LA Confidential and Martian Mean Green.

DNA’s philosophy is to “circulate and preserve the pool of cannabis genetics” which is carried over to their new sub-label Reserva Privada, which showcases heirloom strains from a West Coast (USA) collective of breeders who, although protected by medicinal cannabis laws, wanted to remain nameless.

INTERVIEW BY CHRIS FOWLIE

So Don and Aaron, tell us how you got started.

Aaron: Don and I had been really good friends for a long time. I guess our relationship was based around cannabis from the very get go. Don had just moved into the neighbourhood, somebody he knew through me needed some medicine and it started there – around 94 or 95. We were selling weed in the alley. It was basically the USC, University of Street Cannabis! When we moved out here Prop 215 had just started.

Don: It passed in 96 but didn’t get rolling till 2002. Those years in between, it wasn’t like you could go to a dispensary or be a vendor. Back then it had to be like cancer or AIDS or glaucoma, it was so hard core. I didn’t want to take anything away from the true medical patients, so we moved and it blossomed while we were over here.

A: We’ve been smoking since almost 13. Don’s mom is sitting right here. How long have you been smoking weed for mom?

Don’s Mom: 1974 was my first year of smoking weed.

D: I remember as a kid that mom would be smoking a bong and we didn’t know it was bad. She used to bong out in the bedroom! We went to the DARE program where they try to brainwash a kid to snitch your family or something. I remember my parents sit me down and they were like “listen their program is good but weed isn’t a drug and they are going to try and make you think it is a drug and you just know that we are telling the truth.” And I knew right then as a kid that the whole system is shit. For years I came out here to Amsterdam on vacations, smoking weed out here and I was like, we got better weed in LA. We came out to Denmark and we ended up on a couch in this little town in Belgium at some dudes house that we didn’t even know, and three weeks had gone by so we were like ‘lets go to Amsterdam and we can party for a couple of weeks and bounce out’. We ended up getting a job at a hostel, and in the end it manifested itself into this. He had seeds saved in his vault from forever, I had seeds saved from my vault forever, family members and this and that, and it all came together into this smorgasbord in Holland.

How do you come up with your new strains?

D: You have two and they have babies and you see what comes out of it. We’re real strict about our selection.

A: The bottom line is you want the best and whether you select from 100, 2000, or 10,000 finding that one that is special to you is really something. You are playing God, saying this one is going to stay alive, this one is going to die.

So what are you looking for?

A: You gotta look for the total package, you want it to put off a phenomenal smell, you want it to taste very well, put off the same kind of flavours, and hash if you can have that it is a plus. We are not so worried about yield or strength, because all of the cannabis these days has been so hybridised that everything is going to get you medicated. It really comes down to enjoying the cannabis. You don’t want to smoke it just to smoke it, you want to enjoy it. You want to savour the flavour.

D: DNA Genetics is based on two guy’s opinions. We feel that this – whatever product we’re talking about – has reached it’s level. Doesn’t mean it will be your favourite or even our favourite. We do selections and we have a taste test of whoever’s around and we’ll take a popular opinion, and maybe it’s not what we wanted but the popular opinion says we should select it.

Which are your favourites?

D: The LA Confidential we will sacrifice yield for the flavour every day of the week, and we will always have some growing indoors, because we love the flavour, and it is strong. Shark’s Breath or Cannalope Haze, we like it, it will get you high and we grew it for years but we are over it. Now it is deemed commercial in our mind. It is still really good pot but for us it is kinda like really good mediocre pot.

A: LA Confidential, I’ll never get sick of it. Yield is not the best, but who gives a fuck about yield when you are looking at your personal stash. We can grow the Cannalope Haze and it comes out phenomenal, but it is like I could grow my best crop, I’m still not saving it. I will sell it all cos I would rather smoke the LA or the Martian. Sweet Haze, originally came from Neville as a Super Silver Haze or Silver Haze grown by another really big activist in the cannabis community Todd McCormick. I had purchased some weed from Todd and I found some seeds and brought those seeds back with me to Amsterdam and grew them out. It was like a Skunk Haze, a sweet tasty hazy strain. We took that female and crossed it with our Cannaloupe and brought out the Sweet Haze.

What should the outdoor grower in NZ be growing?

D&A: Sour Cream, Connie Chong, C13 because these are sativas and perfect for outdoors.

Are any particularly resistant to mould?

A: LA Confidential is pretty resistant to the powdery white mildews you get outside. Chocoloupe and Cannaloupe does well. I would stay away from the bigger buds like the Sharks Breath, the Recon. Most of them can and will do good, depending on where you live.

Tell us about the Cannabis Cup.

A: We always put in 150% towards the Cup, seeing as how all these people travel from throughout the world to sample the best weed in Amsterdam. We smoke out over a kilo and a half of grass with people and it’s a good time for us.

The most successful winners?

D: Chocoloupe, LA Confidential, Lemon Skunk, Martian Mean Green, Cole Train, Kush Berry has won a couple. Connie Chong just won the Slovakian 10th Annual Cannabis Harvest Cup!

Are you concerned about feminised seeds?

A: Who knows what is going to happen? You might sell a feminised seed, say Chocoloupe, and then the next person down the line might say ‘I’ve got a really good breeding male’ and then they breed that into the feminised line and we don’t know what is going to happen. Whether we agree with it morally has nothing to do with it, we want to do good business and 80% are screaming for this.

D: Right now, feminised seeds go for more than regular seeds, but we’re the opposite: our feminised seeds are cheaper than our regular seeds.

Do you get any heat? Is operating in Amsterdam similar to other countries?

A: We try to keep our mouths shut and we don’t tell anybody anything. Here, it’s hard to be anonymous because people know we’re DNA and they’re smoking our weed at the coffeeshops. They know what we do but we don’t throw it in their faces. We let the guys like Arjan, Derry and Soma put their heads way out there. We like the limelight a little bit, but we’re American and those motherfuckers [Dutch authorities] could come in here and swoop us up any time they want.

DNA Genetics are available at their shop in Amsterdam, or see Attitude Seed Bank (UK)

Note: Although legal in many places, the acquisition, purchase and possession of cannabis seeds is illegal in New Zealand. Cultivation is also illegal. Check your local laws.

[Originally published in NORML News Summer 2010]

Dana Beal: Yippie for drug treatment!

Dana Beal, one of the world’s original pot protesters, was in New Zealand recently promoting Ibogaine, a controversial treatment for drug addiction. By CHRIS FOWLIE.

In the 1960’s Dana Beal helped found the Yippies – the Youth International Party – with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and participated in the first public Smoke-In, held in New York in 1966. Decades later, Beal founded the Global Marijuana March. Known as J Day in New Zealand, this highly anticipated annual event is now held in over 200 cities around the world.

The Yippies were one of the highlights of the 60’s. They tossed money at the stock exchange, tried to levitate the Pentagon and protested at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. In the 1970’s and 80’s they held smoke-ins for marijuana legalisation, marched against Reagan’s secret wars, and took the right to burn the flag all the way to the US Supreme Court. A hard core of Yippie activists continue to this day, working on drug law reform, medical marijuana, promoting Ibogaine for treatment of substance addiction, and protesting the wars of the 21st century. Among them is Dana Beal, who visited Aotearoa in September as part of the Ibogaine Forum held at Otago University on 5 & 6 September.

Over forty people attended the forum organised by former addict Tanea Paterson, with a least 8 having already tried Ibogaine therapy. Among them was Dr Anwa Jeewa who discussed his experience treating about 300 people in his South African clinic.

Ibogaine is a medicinal extract from the inner root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant, which grows in West Africa and has long been used by the people there as a healant and ritual entheogen. It is a powerful tool for introspection, leading patients to an understanding of their addiction and showing them a path out of it. As well as this, in low doses Ibogaine acts like a stimulant, so proponents say it has the potential to be a maintenance tool for methamphetamine (P) addicts in a similar way to how methadone is given to heroin or morphine addicts.

“Ibogaine cancels out withdrawal,” says Dana Beal. “It’s legal here. It’s actually really conventional, because you’re not trying to lead them into taking more Ibogaine. Nobody does this stuff for fun – it’s a real ordeal.”

Yet Ibogaine has a remarkable success rate. “If you have legal access to Ibogaine, we could get it to about 70 or 80 percent, which is far greater than anything else.”

Ibogaine, and the separation of marijuana from hard drugs, are the same issue

Dana says the separation of marijuana from hard drugs has always driven his law reform efforts. “We did a number of Smoke-Ins in the summer of 1967. There was a situation where there was series of violent incidents, like police riots, and we distributed marijuana in order to encourage peace, and it worked: a wave of peace.”

He says that promoting Ibogaine, and the separation of marijuana from hard drugs, are “the same issue”, because if Ibogaine is available “you are able to deal with the problems that may occur because people you know may engage in problematic behaviour that is screwing up the whole scene.

“When you have Ibogaine it’s like having that “break this glass in case of fire” object, that you can deal with someone who has got completely out of control on a heroin problem. The system can’t deal with that. The system here [in New Zealand] has a lot of problems dealing with their P problem.”

It can be hard to understand why people would do such “really lousy drugs”, but Dana has one theory: “I think it’s the absence of good marijuana. Sufficient marijuana would displace the P thing almost completely, if we legalized marijuana, because it’s such a shitty high and any good pot would chase it away. You know how we got rid of speed in the 60’s? Millions of doses of LSD!”

“There was a thing involving the Vietnam War where they were importing heroin in the body bags. Me and Tom Forcade the founder of High Times did a demonstration against the CIA conspiracy to flood the marijuana scene with heroin. They had Operation Intercept and they cut off all the pot and heroin was everywhere. They were out to get us because they believed they could cripple the anti-war movement using heroin. They’d already done it to the black community.

Ed Rosenthal in 1973 introduced me to Howard Lotsoff. Over a period of time he told me the whole thing. I was very deeply impressed, but we didn’t develop [Ibogaine] right away and it was a big mistake.

“A couple of years later I’m talking to the drug czar under Jimmy Carter, Peter Borne, hanging out at the NORML party that he got in trouble for being at. I saw everything, man. They were being very discreet, you wouldn’t have really seen coke being snorted. They had these snifters there, but you could tell. He was basically a good guy, but you know, he had problems. And they ended up pulling a serious of dirty tricks and the entire movement to legalise pot crashed. And that was when we realized the agreement not to talk about psychedelics didn’t mean anything, because if these guys were going to flirt with legalising coke, all that was out the window.

“We started developing Ibogaine and the problem was it was intermittent money, it would start and stop but Howard started doing the research. The first thing he did was read through all the literature and he started finding out a lot of the places heroin is active, Ibogaine is active but in a different way.“

Dana says there is even emerging evidence Ibogaine helps with Hepatitis C. “There’s a lot of skepticism about this claim, but there were three people at the [Dunedin] conference, all of
them took Ibogaine, and all of them the Hepatitis is fine. This is with one heroic dose like what you give for heroin.”

Although Ibogaine is legal in New Zealand, in order to be marketed as a treatment it would need to be approved by MedSafe, an agency of the Ministry of Health. Even if it is not approved by MedSafe, it is still legal to use.*

Treatments are available in the Netherlands, Britain, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and some have already been done in Dunedin (“for opiates”). After a comprehensive medical check up, patients are given an oral dose of Ibogaine of up to 20mg per kg of body weight, with effects lasting for 24 to 48 hours, during which the patient lies down and experiences a vivid dream state while awake. This can be an extremely intense experience; aspects can be arduous as well as deeply emotional. During the treatment, symptoms of narcotic withdrawal virtually disappear, while patients afterward report almost none of the insatiable cravings associated with methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol or nicotine withdrawal.

Ibogaine has also been found to switch on a growth hormone called GDNF that not only regenerates dopamine neurons fried by substance abuse, but also back-signals to cell nuclei to express even more GDNF.

“Ibogaine turns on the growth factor that rebuilds the dopamine neurons. That’s specifically what’s involved with methamphetamine, because it’s a big dopamine releaser. That’s the reason people are completely burned out after they quit doing it. Their dopamine receptors are all wilted. So what we’re thinking is a low dose product where we give really low doses to methamphetamine addicts as a kind of replacement. It should still turn on the growth factor.”

An Ibogaine trip is not fun, so there is little potential for abuse. Undesirable side-effects include ataxia, nausea and (rarely) bradycardia (dangerous slowing of the breathing and heart rate), which is why patients must be screened for existing health conditions. Ibogaine can be risky, but in a controlled setting such as a clinic it has been shown to be a safe treatment for addiction, with some patients undergoing profound transformation. “Think of it like pulling a tooth. It really hurts but you’ll feel so much better later.”

“Everyone says there should be a clinical trial. I was thinking we should do the P here in Auckland, because it’s the biggest place where P is, and do the heroin down in Christchurch. We should go to the main places where the problem is.”

Sufficient marijuana would displace P almost completely… You know how we got rid of speed in the 60’s? Millions of doses of LSD!

“You’ve got to judge society by how it treats the most vulnerable people. The people who are sick and dying, the people in terrible pain. One of the things about the prohibitionist paradigm is that they like to inflict pain on people a lot.”

When asked how the medical marijuana movement is progressing in the US, Beal replies “it’s spreading like an inexorable tide.” The New York resident is pushing for a citizen’s initiated referendum, which unlike other states, New York doesn’t have – “or we’d have had legal medical marijuana twenty years ago.”

In the mean time, this tireless campaigner is concentrating on organizing the 2010 Global Marijuana March, which continues to grow. “We got Kathmandu and Istanbul this year – the more the merrier. We’ve got to go to India, and find the activist Sadhu’s or something. Just explain to them we finally see what they were talking about, and we need them to have processions through the streets on a certain day…”

More info: see these links:

[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]

* Since this article was written, Medsafe have confirmed the status of Ibogaine as a medicine under the Medicines Act. A clinical trial is currently underway in Northland and Otago, led by Dr Geoff Noller. Meanwhile, shortly after this interview Dana Beal was arrested in October 2009 for shifting medical marijuana across state lines.

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]

Amsterdam’s THSeeds

T.H.Seeds have given themselves an ambitious target: “to protect genetics and serve mankind”.  They’ve done a good job so far, with their strains winning multiple cannabis cups and grown throughout the world. They also have a successful hemp clothing company. CHRIS FOWLIE caught up with founders Adam Dunn and Doug Mignola in Amsterdam.

Gidday Adam, tell us about your entries for the Cannabis Cup and how it went.

It went exactly as we planned we got really good feedback from people and everyone loved it. We are not really worried about the awards. We had one old variety, MK Ultra, which is a winner from 2003 so we just thought after 5 years bring it back out of retirement. The other one is Rambo which is a Sativa entry that has got some afghan in it [with] two types of Jamaican, called Most Wanted which is the Haze, and the other is 9 Month Skunk, a purple sativa skunk from the original hippy trail vibe.

What are your concerns about feminised seeds?

There is always a big hype for a moment and right now it is feminised. I think Hank was the first company with Dutch Passion to go for it and commercialise the whole process. Not to say the seeds are bad or anything, but over the years I kind of watched to see what the reaction was and I never got the feeling that you were getting the best out of it. I’m sure he made lots of money and sold millions of packs, but when you checked with people on how these things turned out a lot of times it was weak issues: not really the most potent of genetics and a lot of times the hybrid vigor was lost or something seems to be missing. And the reality is if you grow indoors you definitely don’t need feminised because you just need a mom. You also want a plant that is really strong and can be cloned for years on end without any problems.

If you are breeding dogs or birds or fish, anything, you are looking for the best breeders and they are usually the most male of all males or the most female of all females. You don’t want something that is somewhere in between, where it has either hemaphroditic tendencies and/or not robust enough for genetics to follow.

If you take a plant that is feminised it has had stress induced on it at some point, a generation or two ago, so if plants were forced to turn into male then that next generation will all be female – it is true – but the fact that they are all female doesn’t mean that they are all good. It means that they have to be female because there is only female information on top of female information. But it also means that any problems will be amplified just as any good things may be amplified. So if you have a problem with bug resistance or THC production or any of these things, if there is not something to create vigor like what you get with a male and female, you can end up losing in the long run not gaining, which is our whole game.

Also when you are making clones from the same plant over generations if you are starting with stress there is a good chance it will go hermy on you or won’t root as well. I have just seen so many more negative results than positive.

Is there a risk that feminised seeds might contaminate the gene pool and have unintended consequences down the track?

True. It is like what Ruderalis was back in the early 90s when it was a really hot thing and everybody wanted it. I never included it in our program because I felt if this gets in there is a chance that 10% or 5 % or more could come out with these “pretendicas” – duds that don’t have any resin content or the resin is not potent. It much easier to put something into your gene pool than it is to pull something out. Once it is in, it is in, and if you’re working a few generations down the road you can’t reverse it. So for us Ruderalis was never that interesting. It was in my mind back when I was a kid – I thought it was great, these little auto-flowering plants – and some companies have based their entire existence on an auto flowering situation. But it is kind of like making it too easy for the person who is the end user, and that’s not really the goal, it is more the preservation of genetics. Yeah you’re going to get a female, and yeah it’s going to flower automatically, and yeah it’s going to stay under your waist level. It is great for that guy who doesn’t know what he is doing. But for the people who really know what they are doing, the last thing they want is to have no control over a plant where it just automatically flowers and is automatically a female so you have no chance of making any of your own seeds. It would be nicer if you could, say, take a pack of Chocolate Chunk, and a pack of SAGE, cross them together and you’ve got Chocolate SAGE or something like that. You’ve given the option to the person to produce their own, and that’s a lot more interesting

What is the philosophy or point of difference for T.H.Seeds?

We were one of the first to recognise the American gene pool which is now dominating the whole scene around the world with strains like Kush and Sour Diesel.

When we started CIA in 1993 we had already heard about Sour Diesel from our friends New York. I didn’t actually really get to try it until I got it in 1997- 98. It was one of those plants that didn’t even get to the Cup until 2001-2002, and now all of a sudden everyone knows Sour Diesel. The reality is that East Coast of America, that’s like the Don, you know, and the West Coast it is the Kush, and actually both of those strains are interrelated. The Chem Dawg is the plant that produced both of those things. So our thing was to find these isolated strains that had been proven themselves via the local population. And that is what is nice. They are our testers, the people who do that breeding make it that much easier for us -they do all the preselection, although they don’t know what they are doing half the time, that’s the other problem.

What are your favourite strains?

Our top strains are SAGE and Bubble Gum. Bubble Gum was the first plant we introduced into the whole market. That was a situation where we were forced to work with what we had. We had seven different moms that we were working with, and we had a break in at the room, and somebody did all our pre-selection for us by killing everything down to the one plant that had one branch that had been left at the bottom, so that could be re-veged and kept. So the unfortunate part of that was it wasn’t particularly the best of all the Bubblegums, it was the one that made it through. So that was our first introduction into the reality that if you have something good maybe people might like it and might really want it!

Then we did SAGE. That was our friend in California who lived here at the time. He actually did most of the pre-selection here and he did a lot of it outdoors which was cool. Like literally a whole back yard full, and not even the best conditions, but at least you can see in the worst conditions how it can work so you actually learn more than if you did it in the best conditions. That’s the thing about Holland. We live in a shitty horrible country, it’s rainy, miserable and humid. Conditions are never good so that’s why we all grow indoors. But everything that you bring from here and bring into nicer conditions always does so much better, like “oh my god, look at that!”. You go to Spain and take that same seed, all the different flavours pop out, things you didn’t even know were there.

A lot of people grow outdoors in New Zealand. Which strains would you recommend for that?

Medicino Madness is our flagship outdoor strain, that’s seven week flowering – mid September for the northern hemisphere so probably [mid-March] for the southern hemisphere. So that’s the kind of guarantee, the money maker to make sure you can get your product out on time and be the first guy smoking, which helps! Then if you have the good conditions, Sage and Sour work really well, like in Spain and California they really love it. This year I’ve have been getting good results with Zero Gravity in California. SAGE does well if you have the conditions, but not here! I’m sure the North Island and South Island are completely different from each other so it’s probably a northern one.

What about for down the bottom of the South Island which would be equivalent to Scandinavia?

That would be the Mendo. That would be the only one I would guarantee, the rest would be a little bit borderline. That’s why we did the Rambo this year because we were looking for something else outdoor, with a bit more Sativa influence. It’s big outdoor producing and quick. In NoCal if something stands out, it means something because they are growing a lot of different weed there. Usually they just keep going through different varieties, until they find one or two. They’ll go through sixty per year, so that’s a much better testing ground than anywhere, because they have the medical clubs and people testing it.

So what are the future plans for T.H.Seeds?

Well next year it is sweet 16 so big parties probably! No, we’re at a situation where we have new packaging, new energy back in. We had a couple of years with the jackets taking off, it made it hard to concentrate on everything. We’re putting more focus on getting everything tightened up so that people get the best and it’s always guaranteed. Seeds are one of those industries that have expanded so fast. There’s a new company every day, but we’re in the location where people can come to our shop any time. We also want to be available to anyone anywhere, so hopefully open a new shop, why not!

For more info see www.thseeds.com & www.hempworks.nl

[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]

Bubbleman: talking heads

Well known among hash connoisseurs, Bubbleman has promoted the ice water extraction process for the last ten years with his company Fresh Headies, makers of the Bubble Bag system. This is now an eight bag kit, that comes with or without a compact specialised washing machine, which lets anyone extract the active ingredients of cannabis. He’s also an accomplished pot-ographer, specialising in macro photos of mouth-watering trichomes and full-melt bubble hash.

CHRIS FOWLIE caught up with Bubbleman in Amsterdam over a lump of Shibani Amber – water hash from a Pakistani strain grown in Morocco – as they discussed the elusive search for an unadulterated high.

What’s the most important thing to understand about making great hash?

Where the medicinal values of cannabis exist are in the glandular trichome head. Not in the stalk, not the pistil hairs, not in the bud or the plant matter. Unless they have broken off and lodged into the leaf or melted onto the leaf, they don’t exist in those places. They just grow in the gland head. So if you remove as much contaminant from those heads as possible, like the plant matter, the stalks, and the seeds, the pistilate hairs and you get just these heads, upward of 90 to 98 percent pure heads under the microscope, then you are really truly experiencing the medicine of cannabis. Why would we dilute it, even it was diluted on the plant matter? Why would we dilute it at all?

Everyone always says when the have a hit of the full melt, the high is incredibly clear. Compared to smoking a blunt or some other method of smoking, it is an incredibly clear, up, high.

Getting these heads into at pure state is to acquire the best possible hash. Obviously at one point you will realise you can go through the cannabis strains to find where the really best is for one for you, depending on what you use it for recreational or medicinal. But what the water does is it allows the laymen, Joe Blow, everyday citizen Joe, to make a quality of hash that is unparalleled to anything that they would have ever tried to make before. The use and the ease, with the transfer chamber of the water keeping everything floating, while the resin breaks and sinks. The glandular trichome head secretes these cannabinoids and terpenes and turpeniods inside the head and the outside is a wax membrane, so when we freeze this wax membrane with the ice and the water it becomes brittle, and when we mix it up in the machine, in the Bubble Now my little washing machine, it washes the resin off. It breaks it off the plant and then it falls through this screen bag that is holding all the leaf together. They sink in the water. That transfer chamber of water really makes it so people can make a pure form of hash, whereas dry sifting – the same technique with dry screens – it is one in a thousand people who can make a melty product with dry sifting screens. It is an art form. When you do a sift and you get this gold powder, unless you are using a microscope, you are not going to get a pure product. You are going to end up getting capitate stalks and cystolith hairs. They can make up 60 to 70% of the hash, non-active material. And if you don’t understand that they are non active and you don’t understand that only the head is active then you realise, well that’s the best you can make it and that is what most people think.

Other people, very far and few between, realise that you can use tighter screens to gently with a card slide back and forth the resin – in a cold environment – and those stalks will become brittle. Walking them back and forth over the screen will push those stalks and cystolith hairs through and leave the heads on top. It is very labour intensive. It takes a long time to do a small amount that way.

There are other methods to acquire full melt dry sift, like putting a bunch of bud in a silver bowl and putting it into your freezer. Just give it a couple of swirls. The resin that will stick to the outside of that, if you put your finger and gooped it all up, will be a full melt hit. But that is not making an ounce, that is not making ten grams and the bubble bags do.

How do people get the most from their bags?

Listen to the directions. Following the directions is definitely the way for people to get the most from their bags. At the least, it’s the way to get their bearings with the bags. It’s where you get your starting point. Even if you fuck it up and do it all wrong, you can still make an incredibly strong water hash compared to what you know. But the point is that if you do it all right and you use the right material and you don’t make these mistakes, you can make exceptional hash. It’s a very different quality of high.

The key instruction is not to over mix. Since I’ve been selling the BubbleNow that’s really improved. Anyone who’s thinking to get the most, they want to get more. All they’re really doing is cutting their hash. You’re not getting more, you’re lowering the quality of your hash There is a lot to learn from using all the bags and separating all the grades because you can actually separate the different highs. You can separate out the munchies from the knockouts.

I figure if the plant wanted us to get high, and we are humans, we would want it do it in the purest form.

What difference has the ice hash products made to global hash making and appreciation?

It has put hash back in the hands of the every day Joe. Back in the day you had to know someone who knew someone. He doesn’t have to go down to the pool hall and try and buy it. Dudes all over the place are making their own bubble, even if it is from compressed Mexican weed that they are buying, or if it is from their own little crop that they have people are making it themselves. It is really quick and clean and easy.

Are there any tricks to cleaning it up?

The biggest trick is having a spray bottle of ice cold water. Then you take the bag, and I usually flip them inside out over a smaller bowl and tighten the screen, so I can scrape it all up. I’ll push down the screen a tiny little bit into the bowl, and then I will spray. It will create a pool and I’ll scoop it up with a spoon and put it in the pressing screen.

The most important trick is to dry it properly. It needs to be dabbed gently with the pressing screen – which really isn’t a good name. I’m going to start calling it the dabbing screen, because I don’t want people pressing the resin wet. It is the worst thing to do because the heads tend to breach. They’re popping and they’re mixing with the moisture and the oil’s trapping the water molecules and not allowing it to release and when that happens the hash never dries properly. It‘s weird and sticky. Gently dab water out with the pressing screen with a towel on either side so you can get it into a paddy that you can scoop up onto cardboard and chop real thin and spread over the cardboard. The cardboard acts as a desiccant.

Which of the screens produce the best bubble hash?

It’s hard to say, I hear a lot of people say 45, most people say 90 and 73, I like the 90 first almost exclusively. It tends to be the meltiest, it tends to be the strongest, it tends to be the tastiest. I don’t know if it is just the mid grade generalized head for the majority of strains that were growing in North America and Holland. I know that in places like New Zealand and Australia people really appreciate the 25 and 45 microns for the outdoor sativas that have just been blazed in the sun. The trichomes are not huge monsters, they are real tiny pinheads that are wicked strong and unique profiles and they get trapped in the smaller bags more often than not. It is a generalisation, doesn’t mean you wont find an indica that has super tiny heads and maybe you will find a sativa that has big ones but in general people from Australia and New Zealand have told me when they run their outdoor plants, that they get really nice in the 25 and 45 and that doesn’t surprise me at all.

What are the hallmarks of great hash?

It is hard because there is full melt out there, people do make butane oil and mix it with dry sift and lower quality hashes and make these really good looking hashes that can fool even the best. But the perceived high is too intense and it is not a positive vibe in the end. A lot of people enjoy smoking butane extractions but it is not worth the dangers of the ethyl mercaptan and the sulphides they put in the butane. By law butane is an odorless gas. They need to put smell into it so they add this ethyl mercaptan and it is oil soluble and it ends up in the oil. It is accumulative in the body and effects the central nervous system. People say they do a purge but when something when something is oil soluble and it bonds in a molecular level I highly doubt you are getting that out.

Truly great hash for me is hash that melts. Right off the bat. If I can hold the lighter up to it and it starts bubbling and melting and creating these clear domes, that is an exceptional quality of hash. If it is a nice light colour golden or blondish and when you hold a lighter to it goes yellow or amber really quick and melts, that is a pretty good sign. If it has been pressed, it should be hard. It shouldn’t be too, too soft. A too, too soft hash, like this hash here we’re smoking from the Dampkring, it‘s got a little bit of moisture. It should be hard. But still, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers! It’s pretty nice hash.

Ideally if you have done it right and you haven’t pressed it, it should be bone dry powder that you would be worried it would blow right off the table if you sneezed. But often bubble won’t, it just sticks.

Why did you get into macro photography?

Macro photography has opened up a world of doors for me, just in terms of the message I’m trying  to get out to people about seeking an unadulterated high. Pictures are worth a thousand words. When I show them a photo of melting hash on the screen or trichomes with big bulbous heads or smaller heads you can just see it. It is teaching us. Being able to see, to get down at those smaller levels, is something we are all interested in, to know what is going on.

I use a Canon 40D but I have just ordered the 5D Mk2 which is supposed to be exceptional. I’m shooting with a specialised macro Canon lens called the MPE, it is 65mm and I shoot with the 24EXMT dual flash and that’s also from Canon. You need the dual flash with the macro lens or it is just not happening.

I’ve looked throughout the plant and photographed at different weeks. Trichome development starts pretty early and they grow pretty fast. There’s always all sizes. You’ll never find a plant with one size trichome. All the variety, and they’re always at different maturity states, never all clear or all amber. I find amber is directly related to the death of the leaf or the plant matter. As it starts to decay the resin itself starts to decay. Maybe the cell membrane is breached and oxygen starts to get to it. So macro photography is good for knowing what is going on at a small level. Seeing how good your hash is. And what better way?

A big thanks to Bubbleman for sharing his wisdom with readers of Norml News. Anyone who wants to know more should check out www.fullmeltbubble.com where there are forums on dry sift, import hash and bubble hash, plus heaps of macro photos and photo essays on using the bags, the machine, and do it yourself methods.

[Originally published in NORML News Winter 2009]

 

Amsterdam Special Report: “It’s just so civilised!”

Norml News editor CHRIS FOWLIE recently went to Amsterdam for the 21st annual High Times Cannabis Cup, where Kiwiseeds won Best Indica for their strain Mt Cook. Hash parties, reggae royalty, medical grows, magic mushrooms, dodgy shit and overblown egos, Cup week had it all. But as the largely American crowd were partying hard, local activists were fighting Government plans to crack down on coffeeshops.

Amsterdam is three flights and 30 hours away, but it is well worth the effort. Stepping off the plane feels like a weight being lifted. Freedom, at last! I was staying with Rob Clarke, legendary breeder and author of books such as Marijuana Botany and Hashish! He lives in a typical Dutch apartment – small yet comfy – conveniently located round the corner from the first Green House coffeeshop and with several others located nearby. But like most locals Rob had never ventured inside. Instead, there is better and cheaper stuff to be found direct from dealers, smugglers and growers, just like back home. He handed me an egg of Maroccan brown hash, “shaped for smuggling”. It soon softened and I set to work rolling my first legal joint since I was last here.

Rob briefed me on what to expect. Strictly speaking, cannabis is not actually legal in the Netherlands, but it is tolerated by authorities. Each local municipality is different, and the rules sometimes change depending on who is elected. Most cities including Amsterdam allow the sale of small amounts of cannabis to adults in coffeeshops. The is intended to break any link with hard drugs and minimise youth access, and has been remarkably successful. And it’s just so civilised to walk into a cannabis cafe selling all sorts of marijuana and hash from all around the world, after coming from New Zealand, the country with the highest cannabis arrest rate in the world. But things were going backward under a new conservative government. “You’ll see,” he warned.

Smoking tobacco in venues, bars and restaurants was banned last June. The Amsterdam city council hired over 100 inspectors to check that joints were pure marijuana, which may still be smoked inside. But many traditional ‘brown’ bars and cafes were rebelling against this and had put their ashtrays back out. Bartenders and coffeeshop dealers often told me it was not their job to check what I put in my joint. There was widespread resentment at the new law, even among people who did not smoke tobacco, but the irony of being allowed to smoke marijuana inside while not allowed tobacco was impossible to ignore.

While I was there the government announced 43 Amsterdam coffeeshops within 250m of a school would have to close by 2011, including the original Bulldog Cafe and the Mellow Yellow. Local police and school principals opposed the plan, arguing the coffeeshops checked for ID and kids could not be served. The coffeeshops would be replaced by street dealers, they said. The issue dominated the media for several days and the coverage was a lot more intelligent and rational than what we would get in New Zealand. After all, Dutch journalists, like the rest of the country, have lived with this policy for thirty years and they know it works better than anything else.

Coffeeshop CRACKDOWN

The sale of marijuana is not actually legal in the Netherlands, but tolerated according to rules set down by local councils. Amsterdam’s coffeeshops follow the “AHOYG” rules: No Alcohol, No Hard drugs, No “Overlast” (nuisance), No Youth (R18), and a Gram limit (5g per sale, 500g allowed on premises). Added to this is a new rule: no tobacco. The Council has employed inspectors to make sure joints have no tobacco in them. During Cannabis Cup week, the Government announced another rule that Amsterdam coffeeshops may not be within 250m of a school. This will cause the closure of 43 of the city’s 220-odd coffeeshops, as the council will not allow them to move. The sale of magic mushrooms was banned on December 1, even though locals noted the only problems are with tourists from oppressive countries. The city council has also been purchasing prostitute’s windows in the red light district and replacing them with artist’s studios and fashion stores in an effort to ‘clean up’ the area, which is actually cleaner and safer than most other cities including here in NZ.

Even though cannabis is legally on sale to adults in over 200 outlets across the city, Dutch teenagers seem to have little interest in it or any other drug. They have some of the lowest use rates in the world. I didn’t see a single one even peek into a coffeeshop, let alone try to be served, and I spent a lot of time in them (for research purposes, of course).

And the timing of this step backwards? It was opening day of the 21st High Times Cannabis Cup. As local marijuana activists were scrambling to conduct media interviews and mobilise whatever support they could get, 2500 excited ganja tourists arrived in town for the cup.

Cup fever

Cup week starts at an expo centre on the outskirts of town called the Powerzone, and from there judges visit the various coffeeshops that have entered strains. I had been loaned a bike by Bret and Jackie of Ganja Tours, who show people around the city in a ganja friendly way. Bret offered to show me the way to the cup. There really is nothing quite like biking around the beautiful streets of Amsterdam while high as a kite, even if it was snowing at the time!

Hundreds of cold but excited judges were huddling in the snow outside the expo hall as they waited for the doors to open. A friend of Rob’s got us some backstage passes and we headed inside.

The hall was filled with stalls run by seed companies, coffeeshops and related businesses. THSeeds had a contest called the Trichome Challenge, which involved a six-foot glass bong, a teaspoon of trichome crystals, a large video screen and a close-up on red boggling eyes. Only a few people kept the lungful of potent vapours down without coughing. Both THSeeds and DNA Genetics had potent cannabis mouth sprays. THSeeds called their spray, made from ice hash of their cup-winning strain MK Ultra dissolved in alcohol, ‘M-Spray Ultra’. The DNA spray, dubbed Pocket Alchemy, was made in California and brought over on the plane. In fact it seemed many people brought weed with them, especially medical users from California, and a lot of people were buying seeds to take back home. THSeeds even entered some outdoor Cali weed called Rambo in the Sativa Cup. The 500 gram entry was sent by regular mail, but was intercepted by Dutch customs, who then let it through anyway. Maybe they were coming to the cup too.

One table at the cup featured a row of 3-foot high quality custom RooR bongs, valued at several hundred euros each. A Volcano Vaporizer filled huge 15-foot balloon which were was passed round. There was even a Canadian guy by the door doing spots! He was promoting a spotting bong that he had produced called the Hooter. Soma held court upstairs, with samples of his Lavender strain while accomplice Wax rolled huge trumpet joints that were wrapped with a snake of fresh ice hash. Seed companies such as Kiwiseeds, Green Life, Dutch Passion, DNA Genetics, Delta-9 Labs, Green House and Barney’s all gave away copious amounts of marijuana to entice the judges to vote for them.

There was certainly a great party atmosphere at the expo. The room quickly filled smoke from many potent and aromatic strains, and the chatter of excited first timers, joyful anticipation from seasoned hands, and reunions of old friends. It was certainly an honour and a privilege for me to meet so many cannabis activists and entrepreneurs, including grow guru Jorge Cervantes, Sadhu Sam the Skunk man, pot photographer Barge, the Kiwiseeds crew, Arjan from the Green House, Simon from Serious Seeds, Mila, Bubbleman, Arthur from Cones, Martin from Roor bongs, as well as their friendly, intelligent staff and all the keen judges from around the world. As more than one remarked, they weren’t really there for the cup but for the other people who come for the cup.

I wandered over to talk to Bubbleman and he asked me to find him some ice so he could make some hash. At the bar they pointed backstage. Here’s my chance, I thought. That’s where the huge piles of weed will be, and my ‘backstage’ pass can get me there! But there was no security, just a curtain and beyond that a dark concrete room with broken stacked chairs and an old ice machine under a pile of junk. After watching Bubbleman’s demonstration, involving weed, ice, a small washing machine and silk screen filters, it was time for the official opening ceremony. This was as you’d expect: a very hippy affair, complete with chakra opening, weird horn blowing and the
lighting of candles.

The theme for this year was reggae, and cup week was filled with great parties. The Green House had Bob Marley’s youngest son Ky-Mani performing in the Melkweg, one of the city’s first coffeeshops. The next night THSeeds held an underground party, while rivals DNA Genetics had the official cup party featuring LA-based hip hop outfit Dilated Peoples. Barney’s sponsored a party at the Melkweg featuring legendary reggae band Steel Pulse, and Peter Tosh was honoured into the High Times Counter Culture Hall of Fame. With his son Andrew performing alongside Ky-Mani Marley and Bunny Wailer’s daughter CenC Love, all the original Wailers were represented.

Winning strains

The award ceremony was held at the cup expo centre, backed up by Andrew Tosh, Bushman and Cannabis Cup regular Rocker T, who one wry observer noted, was “killing reggae one song at a time”. He was so bad you had to be there to believe it. One of the first cups awarded was the Indica Cup. This is a seed company category, which means a blind taste test by a panel of judges, as opposed to the coffeeshop cups which are decided by popular vote. These are thought to be more open to bribery and are dominated by whichever company spends the most money on promoting themselves and giving away the most marijuana. The seed company Indica and Sativa cups are therefore held in higher esteem. It was an honour to be there to witness Kiwiseeds winning the Indica Cup for their strain Mt Cook. While some rivals disputed the result, one of the judging panel later told me it really was a clear winner. It had the best flavour, they came back to it first and they consumed it first. The other cups were dominated by Barney’s and Green House, who were rumoured to spend something like 250,000 euros on their cup campaigns. I think they did have really nice marijuana and hashes, just not the best that I saw that week!

WINNING STRAINS – 2008 CANNABIS CUP RESULTS
Overall Cannabis Cup
1st: The Greenhouse – Super Lemon Haze
2nd: Barney’s – Utopia Haze
3rd: The Green Place – Chocolope
Indica Cup
1st: Kiwiseeds – Mt. Cook
2nd: Homegrown Fantaseeds – Cheese
3rd: Amnesia Seeds – LSD
Sativa Cup
1st: Barney’s Farm – Utopia Haze
2nd: Paradise Seeds – De La Haze
3rd: Resin Seeds – Cannatonic
Import Hash Cup
1st: Barney’s – Triple Zero
2nd: Greenhouse – Super Polm
3rd: Amnesia – Shiraz
Dutch Hash Cup
1st: Barney’s – Royal Jelly
2nd: The Greenhouse – Greenhouse Ice
3rd: Grey Area – Grey Crystal
Product Cup
1st=: Barney’s – BC Chillum / DNA – Pocket Alchemy Spray
2nd: Bubbleman – Bubble Bags
3rd: Herborizer – Glass Vaporizer
Best Booth
Barney’s
Glass Cup
1st: DNA Genetics – AK
2nd: Roor – Mr. Nice
3rd: Green Devil – MOE

Local activism

Cup week also marked the 10th anniversary of the Cannabis College, an educational facility supported by several of the ‘good guys’ of the Amsterdam scene such as Ben Dronkers from Sensi Seeds and Eddie from Flying Dutchmen. They organised a full program of events including a film festival, hemp gallery opening, a parade as well as a symposium at the national parliament in the Hague, but Cup organisers would not let them promote it in their events. I couldn’t quite understand this, as the visiting judges would surely enjoy experiencing this side of Amsterdam, and both sides seemed worse off by not working together. The gallery opening in particular was impressive and interesting. Ben Dronkers has assembled a wonderful collection of cannabis and hemp artefacts, worthy of any museum, including original old masters, old medicine bottles, antique hemp processing equipment, as well as modern plastics and composites made from hemp (I hope to be able to bring you photos and a story in an future issue).

After the hazy crazy times of cup week abated, I headed to Den Hague to visit the Dutch parliament and attend the ‘Cannabis Tribunaal’ organised by local activists. Ben Dronkers had put up 250,000 euros as a prize for anyone who could prove cannabis has more negative effects than positive effects. Needless to say, the prize was not won. Speaker after speaker attested to the harms of cannabis prohibition and the benefits of the Dutch approach. Vaporisers were handily set up in the foyer, with a balcony allocated for smoking joints. It was truly refreshing to openly consume cannabis inside the Dutch Parliament, especially as the Tweed Kamer (upper house) was in session upstairs.

The fun times were short-lived. The following week a ban on the sale of magic mushrooms came into place. Dutch drug policy, like in other countries, is often not based on evidence but can also be political in nature. The advantage of their policy of ‘tolerance’ is that the rules can be altered by authorities in response to changing circumstances; the disadvantage is that policy can be held captive by small extremist coalition partners, as is currently the case. Having said that, the Netherlands is still the best place to see sensible drug policies in action. I can’t imagine anyone visiting Holland with an open mind and return still supporting our insane drug laws.

For the worldwide marijuana culture, Amsterdam is our marijuana Mecca, and every proud consumer – or doubting prohibitionist – should make the pilgrimage at least once in their life.

As for me, I can’t wait to go back.

In upcoming issues I’ll bring you interviews with Kiwiseeds, DNA Genetics, Serious Seeds, THSeeds, Bubble Man, Mila from the Pollinator, Wernard Brunning who pioneered the first coffeeshop, Marco from Treating Yourself magazine, the Cannabis College, and more!

[Originally published in NORML News Autumn 2009]

 

Interview with Kiwiseeds

The boys from up north have done it again. Kiwiseeds recently won Best Indica at the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, so CHRIS FOWLIE sat down for a session with founder Tim A’Court.

Chris: Congratulations for winning your second Cannabis Cup! Could you take us through what happened, what you entered and why?

Tim: We entered the Mt Cook this year which is a plant that didn’t come from anywhere near Mt Cook, it is just the beautiful name that we gave it. It is a true Indica, one of the first when we were bringing Indica seeds back from overseas in the late 80s early 90s. We started playing round with them and this was something we came up with. Since then we brought it back to Amsterdam, and have crossed it, bettered it and made it into the hybrid kind of bigger plant. It is a fat leaved Indica with lots of crystals and grows in nice short seasons and has that typical Indica quality which is lots of strength.

Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of it. This was a selection from a group of seeds that we have grown out. It happened to be much better than the last one we had. For the cup we have to enter nearly 100 grams of weed and it took up everything we had. I know people were not happy they didn’t get a change to taste it or have any of it!

Me included! Speaking of taste, the High Times judging crew said they all agreed Mt Cook was the best and said it was a clear winner.

Yep, I’ve heard that as well from the lady who fills the jars for the judges. She came in and got her packet of Mt Cook seeds before she left and she said the same thing. I’m absolutely rapt. I mean the seed cup is always great. We don’t have a coffeeshop so I don’t win coffeeshop prizes but the seed cup is the real one. The samples are there and people vote on what they see and taste. It is a blind test so there is no buying of votes or persuasion from other people. So we are absolutely rapt and there are a whole lot of seed companies who are astounded that we’ve taken not just the Sativa Cup two years ago but now we’ve got the Indica Cup. We have never really been known as Indica-type people. Our idea was originally to be the Sativa varieties that we grew in New Zealand in the early days; to capture some of the genetics that we were rapidly losing in New Zealand due to skunk varieties and other various things coming in.

Before you got to Amsterdam what were you getting up to in New Zealand?

Ever since I was a kid, the whole family was a horticulture family and we still are. Over the years my crazy mum who I guess I should blame everything on has grown everything from sweet peas to boysenberries and loganberries. We have always had glass houses, open ground market gardening kind of thing. When I was 15 I left school – stupidly, but not stupidly. The marijuana thing was just a sideline. It was just another herb in the garden in those days. Of course we realised we could grow it and we had friends who all wanted it so it became something that we were good at, a young age. I think my brother and I had our first plants when we were 13 years old. I’m the first one to say it is not a complicated plant. It’s not a hard plant to grow. Breeding is a different story. It is really easy for anyone to grow in so many different ways. It’s a fantastic medicine.

I hear in those days you were a member of Norml in Whangarei and did a bit of activism.

We were all big members of Norml. I realized that is wasn’t fair that a lot of friends were in court for having a roach in there pocket. It was destroying young peoples lives. I joined Norml and every Thursday we would go to the court house with pockets full of joints and smoke them on the steps and we would try and get in. On several occasions we had these sessions going in the middle of the court house. There were often police coming up from Auckland and they would just go nuts – grabbing people, absolute chaos and violence. It made the whole thing look stupid.

What sort of growing did you get up to in New Zealand?

The typical guerrilla growing – cages in the bush. Then we got a little bit sneaky and realised that putting it right under peoples noses was actually the best way. We actually ended up night time gardening right on the edges of towns. After that we moved to the Hawkes Bay and down there was huge demand for this stuff but the price was incredibly high compared to up North. We ended up going back up north and putting our patches out and feeding the people of Hawkes Bay with our produce. The last couple of years we went back to Northland and tried pretty unsuccessfully to pull off the big one – we didn’t pull it off but at the end we had just enough to come back to the UK. The rest is history.

What do you put your success down to?

Just being humble kiwis not being full of bullshit. We have stuck to the really basic old varieties crossed with some things we have brought in from NZ. We haven’t gone too far off, we have kept the hybrid vigour, we haven’t bred and bred into some strange little thing. It can get all too complicated. We need to get back to the basics. I like to keep it really simple when people come into the grow shop and need advice. I don’t want to sell them every bottle of potion in the shop which is how it comes in a grow shop in the end.

What is your top tip for growing the best marijuana around – from the Kiwiseeds catalogue of course!

Keep it simple – you can get carried away with additives. Stick to what is known. Marijuana requires a lot of food. It is a very fast growing annual – the growing and nutrition of it is very important.

If people want to recapture that old style Kiwi taste what should they be going for?

There are couple of strains we have that are typical kiwi weeds. One of them is “2 Pounder” which was really famous up north when I was a kid. We brought it back into Holland and we have made it into more of a super hybrid that really can produce a lot of weed if people have got a bit more room. It really is that classic big old kiwi sativa with that lovely sativa taste and high. The other one would be Mako Haze. We had a plant that we nicknamed Mako in the north and we brought this back in clone form and crossed it with the Haze. We managed to capture the spice and taste of the New Zealand bush weed.

Have you kept that original cutting alive?

Yes – we have to keep it all going, and we do rely a lot on original stock that we’ve still got going. You have to keep it not just in one place but two or three places, just to make sure. If one goes down or we get busted, they take everything. One of my biggest nightmares is to keep it going. Every 3 or 4 weeks the clones are replenished in each place. I think we have got about 150 different things in vegetation all the time, just for the mothers and fathers for all those different things. You can always go back to seed but there is nothing like the original stock. I know a few people in town, different seed breeders, quite famous ones, who have lost everything at one stage and they have tried to bring it back from nothing. That is a big shame but it is also something that happens in an illegal situation.

The perception from people outside Holland is often that it is very liberal, that it is legal and that you can do anything, but the reality seems a lot different.

It has been going backwards, but even when it was at its peak, all it meant is that the Dutch people are pragmatic people, and the Dutch always saw this as a personal liberty. Rather than go in all guns blazing they decided it was better to try have some control but also at the same time try and separate the soft drugs from the hard drugs. All they did was say that personal use of drugs should not be a criminal offence, so coffee shops were allowed. The idea was to take it out of residential areas and put it where it could be controlled. But the problem is the supply to the coffeeshops is illegal, and the coffeeshops are only allowed to have 500 grams. The “backdoor” as we call it is totally illegal. As a grower it is completely illegal.

What can New Zealand learn from the Dutch scene?

It has always been such a shame that we couldn’t do something like the Dutch. I still see New Zealand as having the opportunity to be an eco-paradise. If we said in New Zealand tomorrow that we would decriminalise marijuana we would have hordes of tourists wanting to come and lie down and smoke a joint, because people say it is so far away and when you get there you can’t score anything! Give people their weed and let them have a holiday in paradise.

So what does the future hold for you and kiwi seeds?

We have won the cup again this year and I was almost looking to take a break but the race is on to get out all the seeds that are in the catalogue this year. We are doing some feminised seeds this year, purely through pressure to do that. I really don’t like the idea of spreading genetically modified seeds round the world and ruining our stocks of plants.

When people buy feminised seeds what would you caution them about?

If they have any love for marijuana and the species as a whole, if you buy feminised seeds you should grow them, clone them and flower them but don’t try and seed them. If you grow a plant and it is a couple of months old and a couple of feet high you can sex it there and then. Just take a gauze bag, stick it over the very lower branch. Doesn’t have to be perfectly 12/12. Give it a lot of darkness and a little bit of air as well and that branch will sex and you can pull it out or keep growing it. It means that you don’t need to have feminised seeds.

Are you looking for new strains if people back home have the meanest weed around and want to get that to you?

Absolutely. Just give us an email or ring or put it in a video case. We actually supply little containers if people want to send a clone. We would be absolutely honoured to grow those things
out.

Maybe we could get the Mako Haze back and enter the Auckland Cup! Are there official overseas sites that people can go to to buy your seeds?

We sell to distributors and some of those take the risk for selling overseas, mainly everyonedoesit.co.uk. There is no problem with it at the moment but as a producer we have to be careful. England seems to have no problems sending anywhere in the world.

So there you have it, go for the English sites. Thanks to Tim, Dave and all the crew at Kiwiseeds, and here’s to winning your third Cup!

[originally published in NORML News Autumn 2009]

Legends of Hashish

The best party of cup week was not part of the Cup. Legends of Hashish is an invite-only private party held at a Lebanese Restaurant. Everyone there is a cannabis legend in their own right, and everyone brings a piece to show off.

It was astounding.

The worst piece in the room was better than anything at the cup or in any coffeeshop.

Pipes and bongs filled with all sorts of hashes were continually passed around the room and the nice thing about smoking hash is that you don’t get sleepy.

To really set the scene, videos taken in Afghanistan in the 1980’s were playing on a large television screen. They showed mullahs and very traditional looking Afghan dudes crumbling about 50 grams of hash into these huge stand-up water bongs they call Chillums. These are ornately beaded and feature a large sculpted cone called a sarcona. The guys were very serious about the task before them and wanted to talk to god, which they apparently did. Many fell over and started spasming or vomiting then going into a trance dance.

After a while I could tell the whole room was thinking the same thing: “and I thought I was hard. How do these guys do it?”

Then two of these huge waterpipes were wheeled out. Rob handed me a lump of vintage Afghani hash and asked me to break it up. Barge set to work on the Maroccan. The Chairman sat by the chillum, pouring a fresh spoon full of 1988 Hindu Kush ice hash on top for every person. As he explained to me, in the 1980’s they selected the original Hindu Kush and Skunk #1 mother plants from a kilo of seeds they had smuggled out of Afghanistan. They grew the lot out and selected only those two plants, which they have kept alive as mothers ever since.

The sarcona cones were filled with about 25 grams of hash each: Maroccan layered over Nepali layered over Afghan, with that magic 20-year-old Hindu Kush ice hash on top. Several people fell over after taking a hit, and everyone agreed it was the most high they had ever been – me included!

It was such an amazing night that it would be impossible for the cup to compare, no matter what they pulled out of the bag.

Rasta Reason – Interview with Nandor Tanczos

The Dread has left the House. New Zealand’s highest profile cannabis campaigner is no longer a Green MP, but in this discussion with CHRIS FOWLIE, Ras Nandor Tanczos says you can expect to hear more from him soon.

Chris: Gidday mate, and welcome back to the land of regular people! What were your expectations at the beginning? The impression perhaps was that you felt disappointed with your time there or with what happened.

Nandor: I went in really expecting nothing from the place. I joined the green party because I felt there was a kaupapa that was vital for the 21st century the Greens were the only party that had anything to say of relevance to the world we were going into as far as I could see. So I wanted to support that kaupapa. When the Green party became independent of the Alliance I got involved in various activities as you will remember. When people in the party asked me if I was going to stand or asked me to stand as an MP I thought about it a lot, because I come from an anarchist background, I’m a Rastafarian, both of those things we don’t really engage in parliamentary politics. And I never expected anything from parliament. I’ve never seen parliament as a place where real change is going to happen, progressive change, the kind of change that we need is going to happen. I stood because we had a chance to and I felt it was important that there was someone in parliament who was outside of the box. To say, you can be yourself, and you can be in there, and you can cut it and you can be as good as any of them, but you can be yourself. You don’t have to conform to all that bullshit about who you’ve got to be to be a power broker. I wanted to break down
prejudice. I wanted to confront them with the reality of who we are, which I think I have done after nine years. Interesting the things that people are saying about me when I left compared to what they were saying about me when I entered are quite different.

So I went in really as a symbolic thing as much as anything else. And I never expected to be able to do anything useful in parliament because I already recognised it as a place coopted by corporate agendas and coopted by power itself, you know people become inflated with their own self importance because of those positions of power so when I came out telling them off it wasn’t that I was disappointed or disillusioned, it wasn’t as though I had any illusions in the first place, but nevertheless those things still need to be said.

You said you were there for almost symbolic reasons and yet it was the things that you stood for, the symbols as such, that got held against you. Your hair, your alleged cannabis use. Because of these reasons, doors were closed.

And that got in the way of some of the things I was trying to do. Let me say as well that having gone in kind of symbolically, what I discovered, the first thing I discovered was that there were more opportunities to make changes than I had at first thought. What I hadn’t realized was the power of being there, having a seat at the table, having a vote at the table. The ability to articulate dissent is an important one even if it doesn’t change the result. To articulate it and have it on the record. We need a historical record of those that stood against them. You can change things, I changed legislation, I made amendments, I introduced legislation. I’ve made a practical difference in terms of legislation and policy which I’m really proud of, but also after going through that I then also came back to the realisation that the changes that you can make in there are limited, because the place is so co-opted and governments and almost all political parties in there are so compromised by corporate agendas and their own self importance, that the really fundamental changes that we need to make in the world today – I just don’t see them coming from them.

The cannabis inquiry got stalled for political reasons, purely to get back at the Greens for Corngate or whatever. Yet cannabis arrests have dropped about 20 percent every year since then. Society has changed and the Police have changed.

I think that the cannabis inquiry did have a really big impact even though we didn’t get the law changed. I mean if you go back to the report, its still actually an excellent report that lays out what the issues are, lays out still a pretty good guide to the health impacts and all those things, it does weigh up all the policy options, it doesn’t come up with a recommendation saying we should change [but] if you read those pros and cons its pretty clear that prohibition is the worst one. So those Select Committee reports they actually do have impact. I’m sure the select committees report is part of the things that’s changed the attitude. There was really good coverage of the issues through that inquiry and also people came and made representations for the first time to a select committee, really courageously. I was really impressed and inspired by all the people that came forward. I think it did make a difference. I certainly wouldn’t want those people to think that it was a waste of their time, because I don’t think it was.

Coming back to your earlier question, the fact I was a dreadlocked Rastafarian, that I openly used cannabis and unashamedly and are honest about it you know and all the kinds of stuff that goes with being part of the marginalized, outside the main stream, I think it was really important being there but there is no doubt that that also created an obstacle, which is why after two terms of holding the cannabis drug policy portfolio, even though I was an expert at drug policy, I gave the portfolio up because it became increasingly apparent that I had become an obstacle to change. Having kinda opened the door by being open about it also became a blockage. My hope was that by standing aside, some of that blockage would go away. Now I am actually optimistic that the tide for cannabis law reform is still coming in. And I hope that now someone will pick up the championing of the cause in parliament but who doesn’t have the same political liability that I have.

Where is that going to come from – who is our next hope?

I’m not sure, I haven’t seen it coming forward yet. I don’t know where it is going to come from, but you know its early days yet. No one was going to pick it up while I was in Parliament maybe now that I’m out, that will create a space. In some ways the real thing is again a conscience vote because there are a lot of people in National who want to support law reform, and if you generally follow the kaupapa of the National Party, you should support drug law reform. This is the curious thing about the left and right thing, and why I for a long time have tried to position myself outside that continuum. In a lot of issues I’m left wing, there is no doubt about it, but cannabis law reform seems  to me more intrinsically more a right wing issue than a left wing issue because it is about individual freedom.

In hindsight we came really close to changing the law about five years ago. If get to a similar position, what can we learn from that so we actually get something through?

I do blame myself a lot for the missed opportunity. I think if I’d been more experienced I personally could have done more, in that just being less reasonable I think. More pig headed and arm twisting, Its difficult because the party, my party … it was a contentious issue within the Green Party, and that made it more difficult, but what we should have done is just said “you will change the fucken law”, actually what we should of done is said “No inquiry, we don’t want a fucken inquiry, you will change the law this year otherwise we are pulling the plug.” That is what we should have done.

I hear some criticism from activists who blame the Greens for not doing enough. What is your response to that. Is it fair?

It’s a difficult question, and it depends from what position you are looking at it from. There is no doubt that the Greens have done more for drug law reform than any other party in parliament, sensible drug policy in general they are the only party in parliament, so I think it would be unfair to not acknowledge that. At the same time, because it was controversial within the party and key people were very hesitant about it, I think the Greens made a strategic error. Because some people were hesitant about it, I was kind of hobbled from pursing the issue as aggressively as it needed
to be done. The Green Party made a collective decision, the caucus made a collective decision against my view and the view of some others like Rod Donald and Keith Locke. There was a collective decision not to aggressively go out and promote cannabis law reform but to kind of defend ourselves when attacked. Now that was inadequate. What we needed to do was go aggressively and take the issue out there, ‘cos we had all the arguments, we had all the evidence, we would have won any argument that we entered in to and if we had been wholeheartedly about it as a party I think we could have gone a lot further.

So I guess what I am saying is yes and no. We did more that any other party, and I think the Green Party should get credit for that, but we made a strategic error collectively. But moving forward, the reality is what are your choices: the legalise cannabis campaign [ALCP] for all their commitment and passion are not going to be in parliament, so people can vote, I just think their chances of that happening are so remote as to be more or less irrelevant.

I think in terms of voting it’s still more useful to vote for the Green Party because you know that you are voting for people who support law reform. I think that the Green Party is not going to make  cannabis law reform an election issue, they are just not going to do that anymore, but I think that they will – if the opportunity arises – they will pick it up.

Like Metiria Turei, who’s our drug policy portfolio, she’s got a members bill on medical marijuana. She’s being strategic about it, she hasn’t introduced it into parliament, ‘cos she knows right now we’d lose the votes. She wants to get it through and she’s working to do that, not necessarily in major headlines. She is quietly working away on it. I think that, like with most political issues, I think that the movement has to take leadership again. That is the only way you are going to get it on the
agenda, and the only way it got on the agenda in the first place was that the movement put it on the agenda. It wasn’t the Green Party that made cannabis law reform a political issue, it was NORML. It was NORML who made it a political issue. The Green Party were just the ally, the Green Party didn’t make it a political issue. So, its going to be the same thing again. Political parties rarely make things political issues. Mostly it is the movement that makes the issue and the political party will champion it in parliament.

To be effective what we need to do as a movement is sit down and really look at what have we been doing, what have we got, who have we got, what are our resources and how can we use that  strategically? There are people in the movement who are really good at some stuff but are really unhelpful in other areas. You know we need to collectively go, let’s be strategic, who have we got, lets make sure that everyone has their place, stuff they like to do, lets get them doing that, so that we move forward together. There is still a lot of division in the movement which I think is going to hinder forward progress.

As an MP what was it about the movement you were impressed with, and from a parliamentarians point of view, what have we got going for us?

It’s hard for me to give a clear picture right now because I’ve been so in that world, its really focused. There is a lot of good things going on. There’s some really amazing people, committed people, there is a wealth of information, really good information. There is a magazine that goes out nationally which communicates to the network. There is still a massive latent support for law reform.

In a way the thing that really struck me during the cannabis enquiry, and that debate in Dunedin, is  ordinary people getting up and I think really honestly, and it just cuts through all that bullshit. That  is really powerful, just the honesty and integrity of that thing is really, really powerful, I think. There is still a lot there to work with, it’s just kind of bringing it all together and building a bit of momentum. I think the challenges are once again finding things for people to do that’s going to take us forward.

The thing that worries me is there is a backlash for drugs reform based around P, and it’s being used once again to target drug users. So you see the clown up north who wants to drug test all  school kids, all sorts. This stuff is building momentum because there is money to be made and  people are fearful of P – and probably fairly so – but there are a whole lot of people who are there to exploit those fears.

So there is that going on, but there is things like what is going on internationally, there is a review of international conventions, you’ve got these really evidencebased impartial organizations like the Drug Foundation, who I think are really helpful because they are not seen as a lobby group, they  are being this kind of authoritative voice, but when you look at the kind of stuff, the evidence they have got, the evidence is the evidence. Something that we have always been strong on is we look to the evidence as opposed to our opponents.

One of things I think is we have to find a way of breaking out of our locked in camps. It came up during the Dunedin debate again and I thought it was an interesting point. I looked at Jim Anderton who was just locked into his mindframe, and to our side – there were some people there on our side of the debate who were also just totally locked into their mindset. Now we have to find some way of crossing that bridge. I think that all these people are locked into the prohibition mindset ‘cos they are scared.

I think we can meet all their needs. I’m sure there is a way of communicating so that we breakdown some of this locked in opposition and free things up a bit. I’m sure there is a way of doing that, y’know, and I think that is one thing we have to focus on, because otherwise what happens is the opposition just builds so we end up with a balance on both sides, and if the opposing forces were balanced we would lose. We are trying to change things, not maintain the status quo, so we have to find some way of reducing that opposition by acknowledging those real fears that people feel. We’ve got to hear our opponents.

So what’s next for you? You’re chilling out in a house truck in the middle of the Waikato somewhere.

Yeah, finishing a house truck in the middle of the Waikato. We are living in it and it’s good, but there are still things that need to be finished. Growing veges, planting trees, raising chickens and family, so that’s all good. I’m looking at going back to do some tertiary study. I think in parliament you soak up information through your skin, it’s like you just get filled up with information, but there  is no time to reflect, so there’s no wisdom – its just ‘stuff’. That’s why there is so little wisdom in that place. Wisdom comes from reflection and there is no time for reflection, so going back to university would be a way for me to reflect a bit and do some deep thinking, and I’m looking forward to doing that.

But also needing to make a living so I’m trying to establish a business, ‘cos looking at the last nine years in parliament I’ve picked up an enormous amount of information about stuff and also about political processes and I want to make that information and expertise available to the community and to NGOs, not to corporates – fuck them – but to community organisations, people doing positive stuff. I want to help to deconstruct the system and help people become more politically effective.

Also a bit of media work, there is a real space for a deep green analysis and public debate, so I want to be part of pushing that. You get left and right commentators, you don’t get green commentators. Like the Herald has the ‘green pages’ but its all like take a shorter shower and change your light bulbs, which is cool but it’s also very shallow.

I’ve always loved to do education so doing workshopping around Treaty issues, sustainability issues, political stuff into adult education, and also maybe see if I can get into schools and do like civic education in schools and breakdown political stuff for kids. So I’m trying to kind of put a package of these things together to see if I can do work that accords with my heart and also earns me enough money to make a living. I don’t need to earn a lot, we live pretty simply in a bus, ha ha.

www.nandor.net.nz

(NORML News Spring 2008)

Interview with Rob Van Dam – The Heavyweight Champion of cannabis!

Former world wrestling champion Rob Van Dam, known for his high-flying acrobatics and catch cry “RVD 420”, is also an outspoken advocate of cannabis legalisation. CHRIS FOWLIE caught up with the world’s weediest wrestler.

Chris: Rob, welcome to New Zealand! Can you tell us how “RVD 420” started?

Rob: RVD 420 as a moniker started itself. It was actually something I saw in a crowd one time. Some fans had it on a sign, and I loved it because we were in ECW, and WWE, the big company  with Stone Cold Steve Austin, had a very popular selling t shirt with Austin 316, or something, which means “I’ve just kicked your ass”, so RVD 420 became “I just smoked your ass”. As a parody it was  hilarious. And it was a tribute to being a cannabis consumer. ECW was totally against the grain, it was revolutionary, and [RVD 420] stood for everything the ECW stood for. It was aimed at adults, I mean they had a guy that would drink 5 beers before coming into the ring, we had foul language, we had adult film stars cast as celebrities. It was a really hard core crowd and I needed some sort of edge, and I really appreciated marijuana. So during the promos I would do, I would always drop little hints about it and then the crowd caught onto it.

You’re known as a mellow guy outside the ring, is pot a part of that?

Actually one thing about me is I’m also known as a martial artist. Throughout the 17, 18 years of my professional wrestling career I’ve always been the one to do the kicks, the one to do the flips, the  one that stretches for an hour before my matches, so as far as who I am as a person, I practise zenful life principles and I always try to avoid stress. It’s something I’ve worked towards, and I use the yin-yan symbol to achieve balance. I have it all over my wrestling outfit, my wedding ring is a  yinyan symbol. It helps me to remember that there is a balance. Bad is necessary to have good. You need to know exactly where to put it and accept it rather than becoming emotionally wrapped around it. All that does is ripple the steady flow I’m trying to achieve. I’ve spent years working at it and getting good at it and it’s a challenge but it’s part of my nature. Mom and dad always said even as a kid I was really hard to upset, that I was really even tempered.

Does pot help keep you on an even keel? Is it medical for you, like pain relief?

I consider all adult use medicinal, because what’s the use of getting high if it’s not relieving stress, not relieving anxiety or the social pressures we feel. A lot of normal people who think pot is evil are going to the doctor to get xanax, zoloft or prozac or whatever medicines I don’t even know about. But yeah it helps everything equal out. It inspires adequacy. It definitely does help with the pain, no doubt about that, and it helps take you to a place that’s a good place to be. It’s also referred to as a spiritual place. It allows you to ascend to a higher position to where you don’t have to be weighted down by the troubles and negative aspects of life. It’s definitely not a bad thing, there’s certainly no reason for it to be illegal. And I prefer cannabis to other dangerous drugs that’s gonna make me hyper or whatever.

With what you’ve seen of the medicinal marijuana law in California, with registered patients going to dispensaries, and the Green’s bill that’s happening here in New Zealand, that is modelled on the Californian approach, do you have any lessons or observations from that?

Well, a lot of opposers to medicinal marijuana think it’s a gateway to get it legalised recreationally, and I really can’t argue with that. Personally, it makes absolutely no common sense that it should be outlawed. I put the argument into three different categories of cannabis’ uses. There’s recreational, medicinal and material. It’s a fact if you do the research you’ll find out that cannabis is more effective and safer in all three areas. Using medicinal it’s easy to open people’s minds up because we do have dying people that are suffering who can absolutely for sure benefit from it’s use, and some people have enough compassion to drop the negative charges that were put on it, that we’re brainwashed into, that they can listen to reason and they’ll say ok, they should at least have it, if that’s what it takes. And if it only goes so far as to them being able to have it, then that’s good. I would however, from a personal perspective, like to see it opened up further and see it used in all three areas. Hemp doesn’t even have any THC in it and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to use it. There’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t utilise it. And recreational, I compare it to cigarettes which kill approximately one in five Americans every year. Pot’s killed zero. If anybody looks that up they’ll find it to be a fact and I think it will change their opinion on it. Most people don’t know that. They think pot’s a dangerous drug that will kill you because we’re taught that. I was lied to at school. Now that I know the truth, I just want other people to know the truth so they can base their own opinions and feelings on that. Fact is, if a lot of people voted on knowing the truth, we’ll see some changes made, and I expect to see that in the future.

So do we. Thanks for your time Rob.

(NORML News Autumn 2008)