All posts by Friendly Helper

Black Ice Issue #5 — This Game Sucked

There is no need for punditry. There is no need for spin. Empirical evidence ought to do just fine. This game sucked — by all accounts.

Where to begin. Let’s start with my hangover. I still haven’t gone home. I’m at the library right now. I’m too scared to go home. To frightened of my living room. My television. My hopes and dreams.

I’m being facetious, but Jesus. It’s only three games in one says. But this reminds me of a game last year when we lost to the Flyers 8-1 in another spiritess loss. While it is only three games in, the Canucks every year have to remind themselves that every win counts. How close have we missed the playoff 2 out of the last 3 years? 3 points in 2007-08 and 3 points in 2005-06. That means they need to win every game. Or at the very least — do not lose so insipidly.

The Canucks need to be mindful they play much better teams in the East this year than last. And they play all teams at least once. In the past, games against Eastern Conference teams, bordered on exhibition-like. From now onward every game matters. This was a badly scouted effort and Iain Macintyre was right in condemming the Darcy Hordichuk healthy scratch. Coaching needs to realize that this team is going to win on grit and determination; timely goals by tough competitors. Kyle Wellwood, showed nothing of this tonight and I’m pretty sure Coach Vee noticed. Actually nobody showed nothing tonight, registering just 10 shots all game on Washington’s back-up goalie.

Ovechkin was held off the score sheet, but that is a boring excuse for a boring effort. The Capitals are too front loaded to forget about the likes of Mike Green, Alexander Semin and Michael Nylander. This could be the team to beat this season and since the Canucks only play them once, this was the game to win.

Empirical evidence acts as a fine Litmus test.

Next Up — Detroit

Black Ice Issue #3 — How I spent the season opener

… or How either technology failed me or I failed technology

The short answer is work. I spent the season opener of the 2008-2009 Vancouver Canucks at working. Normally this is no problem, I just listen to the game on the radio. Since I have made a commitment to write a blog for all 82 game this year I figured I could at least watch the first one. Well is worked out, sort of.

CBC — that ubiquitous public broadcaster — plays Hockey Night In Canada on their website. This is a great option, but my Mac at work won’t let me load some of the plugins so the reception is pretty shitty. I caught most of the first period, but the play-by-play was so bad I switched to Team 1040 for the second stanza. In the third period I biked down to Pat’s Pub on my break. Unfortunately there was a terrible band playing Rancid covers so I watched the rest of the game in silence (arguably). To recap: I barely watched and mostly listened to the first period. I listened to but did not watch the second period. And I watched but did not listen to the third. Stupid, but my cross to bear, considering I could have asked for the night off in advance.

Nonetheless I am delighted with the outcome. Canucks win. Joe happy. Usually when I drink at Pat’s I wait for people to go smoke and then I steal beer from their unguarded pitchers. Cheap beer even cheaper. Tonight I was content merely to sit and watch abstemiously; immersed in victory.

The highlight of the game was watching the Sedins, fully actualized with new Canuck Steve Bernier. It’s hard to forget that just four months ago the Sedin’s were still looking for a regular linemate after seven seasons in Vancouver. The first major change from the Quinn/Burke/Nonis era is that nostalgic, Mike Gillis is not. He let go of many stalwart from that era and has ushered in a new ideology: bold moves! He also inherited a pretty good hockey team. This was apparent tonight when the top players were Daniel Sedin (3 points), Alex Burrows (2 goals) and Roberto Luongo (25 saves, 0.00 GAA) all leftovers from Nonis and Co.

The problem with the Quinn regime (and consequently the heavy hearted Canuck fanbase) was the failure to let go of the past. Remember ’94 we would say? Remember Pavel Bure we would moan? Remember the Westcoast Express we would labour? Remember would always precede the inevitable if onlys. If only there wasn’t that fuckin goal post blocking Linden’s tying goal in game seven we would say in agony. If only Bure wasn’t the only superstar on the team during the 90’s. If only Dan Cloutier didn’t suck. For every good thing this team has ever had there are ten excuses for why we never win.

Mike Gillis seems to have done away with lamentable facets from the past (Naslund, Morrison etc.). He has hinted there could be further moves to shore up offense. The performance tonight (not to mention the preseason) is proof that many of Gillis’ tactics could paid off. Sundin who? We Canucks faithful add, with a dash of scoffing glee. I wonder how long it will take before the if onlys start up again.

Next up — Calgary

Dave Comment:

Great beer tip! Not for the squeasmish though
Those non-smoking laws enable a great way to “share” beer ;-). Make sure you are up to date on your shots before sharing though. As for good pubs to watch the game at, … the choices seem to be be cheesy “chachie” kinda places or divey bars with crappy tvs and other noise. Perhaps we need a game-watching pub guide column on the site?

Joe Comments:
thats a great idea.

thats a great idea. especially for someone like me. i like pat’s especially on sunday because its pretty empty. also the dover arm’s is pretty good. not too many dorks. its hard to find a bar in this town without serious ‘douche’ tendencies.
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Black Ice Issue #2 — Pre-Season

The Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres share an immutable bond. Both teams entered the league in the second round of modern-era expansion in 1970. Both teams have had more jeresey/logo changes and style woes than any fan cares to mention. Both teams have respectively won their division five times and both teams have been to the Stanley Cup finals twice and lost.

Buffalo was the team to beat two seasons ago. They had a small window to achieve the consummate hockey holy grail. Icing a ridiculously talented roster with a knack for scoring by committee, Buffalo was the team to beat. And they were beat. Not, however, before entertaining the hell out of fans. In the 2006-2007 season five players scored 30 or more goals for Buffalo. That is an amazing stat considering no one on the team finished in the top ten in scoring that year. They had their window, they did not capitalize.

Vancouver have a really good chance of perpetuating their bond with Sabres fans this year.

Enter Steve Bernier. Both Bernier and Daniel Sedin stand a legitimate chance of scoring 30 goals. There is fundamental promise for this line. Paring Bernier with the Sedins has the appearance of not just a flirtation, but likely a budding romance. In the past the Sedins have toyed with the idea of elite scoremanship. When management sat down to commiserate on what the Sedins need to put them over the edge and went out and acted they came up with a very wise, methodical choice. Bravo Mike Gillis on this move.

Enter Pavol Demitra. Demitra looks like an autistic genius finally let out of the asylum. He is skating, making plays, waltzing around defenders and generally playing a game of entertainment not seen in Vancouver in years. He looks like he’s having fun and its infectious. Whether he’s playing with Mason Raymond, Kyle Wellwood or Taylor Pyatt, he’s going to lite up the red lamp this year. He makes those around him better and his energy seems to rub off. If he plays with Raymond and Pyatt this year either guy stands a good chance of hitting the 30 goal plateau. Is this the secret to breaking the secondary scoring curse that has plagued the Canucks for so long? Expect this line to excel.

Enter Jannick Hansen. We’ll probably see, Ryan Kesler score 25-30 goals this year. Burrows will continue his point incline not to mention his nettlesome ways. Hansen will help hit the final nail into the secondary scoring casket. This guy works. Plain and simple. He gets the puck because he hustles. He creates opportunity because he’s smart and he thinks quickly. (I’ve already hear John Shorthouse dub him “The Great Dane” but i’m not sold.) This line has the talent and tenacity to score fifty goals for the team. Secondary just became even more of an afterthought.
Enter The Defense. If (emphasis on if) the blue-line stays healthy they are the deepest and most sinister in the league. Last year D-men 1 through 5 were the best in the league collectively. With the delightful early arrival of Alexander Edler last year the offensively minded defense corp has the ability to score fifty goals. Kevin Bieksa continues to improve and Sami Salo and Matthias Ohlund provide a stable cast of veterans guarding the zone. There might not be Norris callibre, but that’s an arbitrary award when you boast the best defense, collectivelly, in the league.
There is a real possiblity with this squad to ramp up the offense in the post-lockout, post-Naslund/Linden era. The Sabres, a few years ago, roared out of the gate with an offensive style that capitalized on a young, fast, puck-possession team that scored goals as a team.

The moral of the story is that the Canucks could mirror the goal scoring of the 06-07 Sabres. If they do this then they too have a small window to capitalize. If they are anything like the Sabres of old they will not win. But hell, the rides gonna be fun.

dave note:

Jannick Hansen is Hamlet

I like Hamlet for Jannick’s nickname – it isn’t an accurate historical reference but the vague Shakespeare association works for me.


Shakespeare’s longest play and the play responsible for the immortal lines “To be or not to be: that is the question:” and the advise “to thine own self be true,” begins in Denmark with the news that King Hamlet of Denmark has recently died. Denmark is now in a state of high alert and preparing for possible war with Young Fortinbras of Norway. A ghost resembling the late King Hamlet is spotted on a platform before Elsinore Castle in Denmark. King Claudius, who now rules Denmark, has taken King Hamlet’s wife, Queen Gertrude as his new wife and Queen of Denmark.
For other nicknames: Pavol Demitra is “Micheal Stipe” and Steve Bernier is “Bernie” and Cap’n Lou is way better than Louis and waaay better than Lui.

Black Ice Issue #1 — Off-season

The Canucks have had a whirlwind off-season no doubt. The axing of Dave Nonis. A new GM. Linden retiring. The Death of Luc Bourdon. A final exodus of the Westcoast Express. The retarded Sundin saga. At this point you could have the Season 2 synopsis of MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives under wraps. Lists aside, with the hiring of new helmsman, Mike Giles, management got to work. Sort of.

First order of business: Thwart the signing of Fabian Brunnstrom. With the unexpected firing of Dave Nonis, the Aquillinis indirectly stopped the (almost) immediate signing of the late-blooming Swedish prospect. This is neither here nor there. The notion of a prospect is exactly in the nature of the phrase: prospect. There is expectation and hope. Nothing is proven, the fate of a prospect is left in the vast possibility of nature and chance. Think what you may, wherever this club was heading, a swift u-turn commenced the minute Nonis got the pink slip. What was interesting is that before he was about to be signed he was the next Pavel Bure. After he signed with Dallas he suddenly turned into a talentless has-been, vastly overrated. See: Alexander Daigle.

Second order of business. Hold a news conference (actually two). It was neither reassuring nor enlightening watching Aquillini explain his actions (firing Nonis) under the glare of Vancouver’s ravenous sports media. While the scribes listened intently, Francesco began sweating under the weight of his own decision. After Gillis signed on as GM another news conference was initiated. This one had the zero experience, ex-player agent pondering the fate of the Sedins (not sure if they’re part of our future plans), pontificating on preferred systems of play (less defense, more offense) and holding court on management strategies (Bold moves!)

Third order of business: Not firing Vigneault. Basically reneging on aforementioned plans to play that coveted puck-possession style. The funny thing is I don’t remember anyone complaining about Coach V a season ago. Remember that? When Vancouver was busy winning the division and setting club records in wins and points. But man, fuck that guy now, he destroyed all entertainment value still existing in the game. Right, how many consecutive sellouts are we at now? 4419?

Fourth order of business: Drafting the new Trevor Linden. At 10th overall, Cody Hodgson was the safe bet. With such a defense deep draft, Hodgson easily could have gone higher. What the precocious center lacks in size and speed he makes up with in leadership and hockey smarts. Hodgson captained the U-18 world champs to gold with Pat Quinn steering the ship. Lets hope that ol’ cigar chompin’ Irishman’s magic rubbed off on the kid and he makes good on his promise. I envision his name being retired, sans Stanley Cup, right next to Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden. Dude, remember that 2015 run? God we were so close. If only Hodgson hadn’t hit the crossbar in game six overtime to send the series (against Atlanta?) into a seventh game. Argh. We were so close.

Fifth order of business. Not drafting Kyle Beech. The best players from B.C. never play in B.C. Joe Sakic. Scott Niedermayer. Paul Kariya, Steve Yzerman (although raised in Ontario I think it still counts). The list goes on. What is admirable about this choice is that it’s a safe bet. Beech had some “character” issues (love that word in the context of professional athletics) off the ice that made the Canucks brass waver and ultimately pass on the hulking forward. What I detest about this choice is that it’s a safe bet. It would be nice to see some home grown talent (Beech was raised in Kelowna) skate at 800 Griffiths Way. It would also be nice to gain a reputation for good draft choices. A safe move.

Sixth order of business: The Sundin offer. At this point its a big cock tease. If the big Swede had signed on the first day of free agency, a statue of Gillis would already be up, right between Gassy Jack and the Steam clock. Too bad no one wants to sign in Vancouver. Is Vancouver the new Edmonton? Is the travel that bad? Is the culture of losing in this city so advanced that people will pass on record breaking contract offers? Christ, $10 million dollars and two-and-a-half months later the indecision and the gutless top six roster continue. It doesn’t matter at this point, just sign somebody already.

Seventh order of business: Signing Kyle Wellwood. Kyle Wellwood does two things that I cannot: 1) Play hockey for heaps of money and 2) live without a television. His underdeveloped tenure in the Big Smoke behind him, the prospects of this former prospect have merely codified the perspective most fans have of this team: mediocrity abound! Other former prospects have fared well in the City of Glass (hint: rhymes with Maslund and Gertuzzi). What remains is that other perspective most fans have of this team: delusional hope.

Eighth order of business: Signing Pavol Demitra. The worst kept secret in town. I don’t know why but I love this move. It has to do with the chain around his neck. I always thought athletes who wore chains were really fuckin cool. Hopefully it adds some incentive for Demitra’s buddy Marion Gaborik to sign when he inevitably leaves Minnesota at the end of the year (because of, ahem, Lamaire’s soul-sucking defensive system). The speedy forward hopes to brings finesse to Vancouver’s soon-to-be vaunted puck-possession system. Hopefully the next thing he brings is that other Slovak, suffocating in the clutches of the Twin Cities.

Ninth order of business: The release of Markus Naslund. It was not really a move per se. After a paltry offer, the Canucks captain and all-time leading scorer went out with neither a bang nor a whimper. The shy forward, opted out of the piranha pit of Vancouver media scrums for the calm waters of Broadway. Go Giants! Go Jets! Go Knicks! Go Yankees! Go Mets! Go Red Bulls! Go Islanders! Go Rangers? In New York there are over 1000 roster spots available for professional athletes of any given sport in the greater metropolitan area. I expect Markus to go gently into that good night of his fine career. Do not expect his number to be retired.

Tenth order of business: Yearly signing of possible Sedin linemate. After the offer sheet nonsense with St. Louis, Gillis determined to put the BS back in Bold Moves. What did he come up with? You guessed it, another fledgling prospect. Steve Bernier, on his third team in five months, can use his size on the top line with the Sedin’s or he cannot. I expect him to score 30 goals this year simply because of the Sedin factor. The mirrored Swedes need a third wheel for their cycle game to flourish. Soft hands attached to big body heed results. After eight seasons in Vancouver the Sedins must have a few inside jokes regarding their bazillion line parings.
Eleventh order of business: Retool a wicked fourth line and an awesome third line. Darcy Hordichuk trains with Chuck Liddel. That shot block guy from St. Louis is a da bomb, but no one can remember his name. This is such a great move. The Canucks need more balls, and these two pick ups add depth in the chutzpah department. I think the shot block guy is gonna help with the PK which needs a jump start after a lousy campaign last season. Darcy is the new Gino. Cowan has my vote for the waiver wire. 7-1-4 according to, its been a while since Vancouver has had a bonafide heavy weight.

Everything else seems in working order. The tragic lose of Luc Bourdon still leaves me with great sorrow. Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler return for another season of shorthanded third line magic (I have to wonder about my own sanity when the third line is the one I’m waiting to hit the ice). We continue to see what sort of bizarre injury leaves Sami Salo sidelined, will he get eaten by an Orca while swimming in Coal Harbour? Will he be attacked by a wild band of West End skunks hell bent on purging this city of their best shot from the point? Wunderkind defensman Alex Edler will continue to move up the depth chart with his cooler-than-thou Swedish touch to the defensive end. The Sedins will continue to cycle until the opposition is so twisted up that Gabriella Luongo could score with a tap in from the left side.

Who knows? Shoulder shrug. That’s the general sentiment in this city. Who the fuck knows? This is the best position, entertainment wise, that we can be in. Sure I have to sell my body to afford a ticket. It will be worth it. Why? Because the business of hockey is selling. And I’m already buying. I’m gorging on whatever they feed me. All eleven orders and counting.

Seattle Magazine Article: The Case for Pot by Yemaya Maurer

An excellent article from Seattle Magazine about Washington State activism, education and Hempfest. Re-printed here for educational use.

Source: Seattle Magazine
Pubdate: August 2008 issue

The Case For Pot

What do a Seattle cop, an Edmonds travel writer and the ACLU have incommon? They all want to legalizemarijuana, and not just for medical purposes. As Seattle’s annual Hempfest returns to Myrtle Edward Park this month, these odd bedfellows are putting Seattle at the center of a national conversation about marijuana reform

By Yemaya Maurer

Hempfest: August 2006. On the shores of Puget Sound in Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park, a hard rock band wraps up its set. Amid vendors hawking colorful bongs, hemp knapsacks and Love Your Mother bumper stickers, the
crowd of 20- and 30-somethings applauds. As the last strains of guitar music drift upward into the air, mixing with plumes of marijuana smoke, a broad-shouldered man with short, white hair pushes through the crowd. In
bold print, the back of his T-shirt reads: cops say legalize drugs. ask me why. When he takes the stage and turns around, it’s clear why he’s prompting the question: This is Seattle’s former police chief Norm Stamper.

While Stamper isn’t scheduled to appear at this year’s Hempfest, at the event two years ago he addressed the crowd on an issue that he continues to speak out on: the legalization of marijuana. So how does a cop go from
busting people for pot to advocating its decriminalization?

Stamper recently recounted a story from his rookie year as a cop when he arrested a 19-year-old for marijuana possession, handcuffed him, put him in the back of his squad car and started driving toward the station. As he
looked at his charge in the rear-view mirror, he realized he’d just arrested a young man who hadn’t been hurting anybody. “I could have been doing real police work,” Stamper says. “I could have been intervening in domestic
violence. I could have been stopping people from hurting other people-that’s noble, honorable work.” It was a turning point for Stamper, who made a vow to treat adult marijuana possession enforcement as his lowest priority. He did so throughout his tenure as police chief, and in 2003, three years after he retired, Seattle residents passed Initiative 75, making adult marijuana possession the lowest priority for city police-an initiative that led to
similar reforms in other cities, including Denver. Leadership on initiatives such as this, as well as advocacy by high-profile activists such as Stamper, has put Seattle at the center of a national conversation about marijuana

Stamper is one of the more unlikely advocates for marijuana policy reform-and he holds a position that’s radical, even to many of those who attend Hempfest (arguably the largest cannabis reform rally in the world).
While many reform advocates would like to see marijuana decriminalized, Stamper takes it several steps further: He wants marijuana-and all drugs-to be legalized, regulated and controlled. Only then, he argues, can we take
power away from drug lords, get users the help they need and allow law enforcement to focus on violent crimes.

Stamper sits on the advisory board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a national nonprofit organization with 6,500-plus members who advocate for the end to the war on drugs. As a member of LEAP,
he often gives speeches, such as the one he gave earlier this year to students at Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center. As he paced the stage in his polished leather shoes and pressed black suit, he
called the war on drugs the most damaging social policy since slavery, and a failure. “Today, drugs are more readily available at lower prices and higher potency than at any time in the drug war.” Among the stats he cited: $1 trillion has been spent on the war on drugs; more than a half-million Americans are currently in jail as a result of it; and in 2006, a record 829,627 individuals were arrested for marijuana offenses in America.

Several audience members brought up an issue frequently raised on this topic-whether it’s moral for a government to legalize drugs that can hurt people and lead to addiction. It was clearly a question Stamper had heard
before. In a passionate yet well-rehearsed response, he said that legalization, regulation and control won’t solve the drug problem, but at least users will get drugs at the proper strength and have access to resources that will help them limit or stop their drug use. One student, sitting in the back row, asked the question everyone secretly hoped someone would pose: Does Stamper smoke pot? Sidestepping the question, he told the group that he cherishes his privacy, and that it’s nobody’s business whether or not he uses pot. The only things that get him off Orcas Island where he lives are what he calls the three D’s-domestic violence, the death penalty and drug policy reform, issues that he speaks about across the country.

No one is happier to have Stamper on the side of legalizing pot than Vivian McPeak, executive director of Hempfest and self-described traditional hippie (his gray dreadlocks and long beard fit the part). McPeak devotes
himself full time, year-round to organizing Hempfest. “If someone would have told us in 1991 [the year Hempfest started] that 15 years later the chief of police would be on our stage, speaking our same message of freedom and responsibility, I’d have said, ‘You’re crazy,'” McPeak says, adding that Stamper adds a lot of credibility to Hempfest and has helped generate positive media coverage. Too often, he says, media coverage has focused more on the festival component of the event, rather than the forum it provides for discussion about marijuana policy reform.

“People who dismiss us as a bunch of people smoking pot in the park are completely missing the point,” says McPeak. “This movement is about people losing their homes, their jobs and their kids, kids getting kicked
out of school, people being incarcerated for an equal or greater amount of time than those committing violent crimes. It’s not funny.” McPeak, who has been with Hempfest from the beginning, originally got involved to celebrate personal freedom. But over the years, he has focused more on what he calls the unjustified and inequitable incarceration of otherwise innocent people who are caught with marijuana in their possession. In 2006 alone, according to the FBI, 44 percent of drug arrests made were for marijuana-more than any other drug. And 89 percent of those arrests were for possession only, not trafficking.

The ACLU of Washington is another organization involved with marijuana reform. This winter, it launched “Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation”, a multimedia campaign that casts marijuana policy reform as a matter of
civil liberty and racial justice, an argument that is slowly experiencing increased traction. According to Alison Holcomb, Washington ACLU’s Marijuana Education Project director, marijuana prohibition is rooted in racism. Until
the 1960s or ’70s, marijuana was viewed by the public as primarily the intoxicant of marginalized people, such as immigrants and black jazz musicians. Because these outsiders’ use of “wacky tobaccy” scared mainstream
Americans, prohibitionists relied on fear to push anti-marijuana laws through federal legislation. Marijuana laws are still enforced disproportionately against people of color: While 74 percent of marijuana users are white and 14 percent are African American, African Americans account for 30 percent of marijuana arrests.

The ACLU’s educational campaign has another unlikely marijuana advocate as host: renowned Edmonds-based travel writer and TV celebrity Rick Steves. The campaign’s Web site and television program (available 24/7 to
Comcast On Demand subscribers) features likable, uncontroversial characters such as Steves who encourage people to talk publicly about marijuana and its prohibition. The ACLU supports a public health approach to drugs, including marijuana. Holcomb says that marijuana is a safe way to start addressing the war on drugs, and that Steves is the ideal person to start the conversation: He’s the father of two teens; he and his wife, Anne, are active
philanthropists in their community; he’s a committed member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and he often writes and speaks publicly about his deep concern for this country.

When asked why he’s chosen to focus on marijuana rather than other pressing social issues, Steves’ answer is simple: “Anybody can talk about homelessness and everyone claps, but people are afraid to talk about
marijuana.. I can speak out and survive. I don’t need to be elected or promoted.” Steves’ successful company-which publishes guidebooks and hosts overseas trips-employs 80 people. The nature of his business means that he spends a good chunk of each year traveling the world, where he sees firsthand how many other countries have addressed their drug problems more successfully than the United States. He’s occasionally smoked marijuana while abroad and doesn’t want to lie about it to his kids or to anybody else. He believes this country can adopt a pragmatic policy toward marijuana with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough but counterproductive criminalization. When he accepted the Luther Institute’s Wittenberg Award, recognizing outstanding service to church and society earlier this year, he didn’t pull any punches as he talked about drug policy reform to the mostly conservative crowd.

For most, Steves’ message is a little more palatable than Stamper’s, as Steves advocates for decriminalization, not legalization. He points to the Netherlands, where marijuana is decriminalized-sales are not legal and regulated, but the criminal penalties are absent-as an example of a country that approaches marijuana from a public health perspective rather than a criminal one. The Dutch government invests more in marijuana education, prevention and treatment than in prosecuting and jailing users. “They don’t have all the answers, but they’re comfortable with the gray zone,” says Steves.

When he can get mainstream people talking about marijuana policy reform, Steves feels like he’s putting his fame to good use. He writes op-ed pieces in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he speaks about the issue on public radio and he appears on television shows such as Evening Magazine. But when he talks each year at Hempfest, he worries that he’s preaching to the choir. “It would be great if everyone there would buy a few less T-shirts and take that money to support advocacy groups such as NORML.” The group, on whose advisory board Steves sits, lobbies Congress and state legislatures for more rational and
cost-effective marijuana policies. He finds it disappointing when people smoke marijuana recreationally and responsibly, but do not get involved in advocacy. Mostly he sees Hempfest as a celebration of a subculture, a good thing in and of itself. “But if you want to win the war on criminalization, you’ve got to cut your hair, put on a shirt and go talk outside the choir.”

Some experts involved in drug policy reform have concluded that the facts are in and there’s nothing to discuss. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (DCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President,
for one, stands firmly behind the federal law, which states that marijuana is illegal and that getting high on marijuana can impede human development and impair judgment. Under federal law, possession of any amount is
punishable by up to one year in jail for a first offense and a minimum fine of $1,000-the punishment increases with each offense; the sale or cultivation of any amount less than 50 kilograms is a felony punishable by
five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. In Washington state, possession of 40 grams or more can result in five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Other experts, such as Dr. Roger Roffman, a professor of social work at the University of Washington, say that marijuana is harmful and that criminalizing people for its use is even more harmful. Roffman has studied
marijuana use for 40 years, initially among service personnel in the Vietnam War. He currently researches marijuana dependence and, with federal funds, studies counseling approaches to treating adults dependent on marijuana. He argues that even with the ACLU’s recent efforts and with Hempfest gaining more credibility as a reform rally, major strides in marijuana policy reform will not happen until reform advocates acknowledge that marijuana can be harmful, should not be used by children and should not be used continually by teens or people with certain health issues. Only when advocates acknowledge this, will the public become comfortable talking rationally and openly about marijuana decriminalization, he says.

No matter where they fall on the spectrum of proposed policy reform, decriminalization advocates and many legal experts and politicians agree that our current marijuana laws are not working. Today, 98 million Americans-a third of our population-admit to having tried marijuana. They acquired the drug from dealers who had all the control during the transaction. “The way things are now, we can’t control how strong the pot is, what pesticides are used, whether it’s been laced with cocaine, nothing!” says the ACLU’s Holcomb. To those who argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, Steves counters that it only has that role in that it puts young people out in the streets with people who have a financial incentive to sell harder stuff.

Hempfest is one way marijuana policy reform proponents are trying to get their message out, using the hook of entertainment. But once there, organizers work to impart advocacy. Sometimes the two have mixed, as in a
performance on the Hempfest main stage in 2005 by Alison Holcomb. To prove that what the messenger looks like does matter if you want to be heard, she started her speech wearing an over-the-top hippie chic outfit, complete with tie-dyed muumuu and peace-sign glasses; by the end, she’d stripped down to her customary lawyer attire-black pant suit, Barbara Bush pearls.

Other decriminalization activists focus on reaching out to parents. Sandee Burbank, the founder and executive director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA), an Oregon-based group with 2,000 members who want to help people make informed decisions about drugs, travels around the country talking about drug consumer safety. One stop on her annual tour is Hempfest, which gives her the opportunity to talk with parents about the potential dangers of all drugs-including prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications-compared to medical marijuana, which she believes is far more useful and less harmful. She would like to see marijuana legalized so people have the option to choose it over other, more dangerous drugs.

Medical marijuana is the most successful realm of drug policy reform, at least at the state level. Voters in Washington state passed the Medical Use of Marijuana Act in 1998, which allows patients with certain chronic,
fatal and debilitating diseases to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana with a doctor’s authorization. (The state Legislature has mandated that the Washington State Department of Health spell out exactly how much a 60-day
supply constitutes; a decision on the matter was expected around July 1, after this issue went to press.) Other states have similar measures, but none of them change federal marijuana laws, which do not recognize state
medical marijuana laws: Anyone who grows, distributes, dispenses or possesses marijuana for any purpose may still face federal prosecution-felony charges, jail time, fines and loss of financial aid.

If Seattle’s marijuana advocates have their way, people across the nation will stop with the Cheech and Chong jokes and start talking about marijuana decriminalization around their dining-room tables, in front of
their legislatures and, for two days each August, at a waterfront celebration in honor of a plant called pot.

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How to Smoke Cannabis while Avoiding Jail – an illustrated guide by Seattle lawyer Jeffery Steinborn

{Update – thanks Dominic!) This user-friendly guide was Illustrated and created by *awesome* graphic artist Ellen Forney (ellen’s blog) based on an interview with Seattle lawyer Jeffery Steinborn whose 10 Commandments are below for your continued perusal and education. Combine this with the ACLU bust card (download Bust Card .pdf) and you are a much better protected citizen.

Know your rights, these are your rights!


1. One law at a time. If you’re holding or using that’s one. Don’t break any others.

2. Practice Home Hygiene. Sooner or later, someone is going to show up at your door…

3. Never invite trouble into your home.

4. Protect the privacy of your home if you can.

5. Don’t think you’re safe out in the countryside.

6. Don’t take your pipe out of your house. Smoke joints.

7. Don’t be afraid to blend in if you’re on the wrong side of the pot laws.

8. Don’t talk, don’t talk, don’t talk, no digas nada.

9. When confronted by the police, take the advice on the back of my card and ask to call your lawyer.

10. Don’t forget it’s against the law.

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Levon’s Dirtfarmer Documentary

Levon Helm is one of my all-time heroes – drummer, mandolinist, songwriter, sanger, southern gentleman (Arkansasan), cancer (throat) survivor, actor, friend of Canada and a Grammy winner for his folk album Dirt Farmer. Here’s a little featurette of Levon playing music and talking about the state of the USA for farmers, country folk, and civilians everywhere. “I can’t say, i’m just having a soda.”

Levon Helm – “Only Halfway Home” 20:57
A short film inspired by and featuring music from Levon Helm’s
GRAMMY Award winning album Dirt Farmer.
Features: “Calvary”
(Byron Isaacs); (BMI)
“Poor Old Dirt Farmer”
(Tracy Schwartz); Traditon Music Co., (ASCAP)
“False Hearted Lover Blues”
(Trad, arrangement by Levon Helm, Larry Campbell);
Dirt Farmer Music, Talkhouse Music (BMI)
“Got Me a Woman”
(Paul Kennerley); Irving Music (BMI)

Mars Martian Flying Boat Flies o’er Burrard Inlet Vancouver

The Mars Martian is the largest flying boat (or something along those lines). Usually stationed on Vancouver Island, the Martian can skim the water, filling her belly with water, then gain altitude to reach the fire zone and help to douse forest fires.

In this video clip, she doesn’t do the fire drill, but gives a nice slow, low pass over Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet while my pal Richard and I observe from the top floor of Gastown building while the Seabus goes about its business passing the heliport and the West Coast Express waits patiently in Gastown railyards.

Geek further as desired:

Creative Commons – Remix with attribution

Rick Steves gets even cooler with a Cannabis Policy Guest Column in Seattle PI

Travel in Europe guru, PBS super-star, decent Lutheran guy, and multi-purpose enlightened thinker Rick Steves wrote a guest column about the failed USA war on drugs policy – i’ve re-posted for educational use from Seattle

We need to get smart about marijuana


As a parent helping two children navigate their teen years, and as a travel writer who has seen firsthand how Europe deals with its drug problem, I’ve thought a lot about U.S. drug policy — particularly our criminalization of marijuana.

Europe, like the U.S., is dealing with a persistent drug-abuse problem. But unlike us, Europe, which treats drug abuse primarily as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue, measures the success of its drug policy in terms of pragmatic harm reduction.

Europeans seek a cure that isn’t more costly than the problem. While the U.S. spends its tax dollars on police, courts and prisons, Europe fights drug abuse by funding doctors, counselors and clinics. European Union policymakers estimate that for each euro invested in drug education and counseling, they save 15 euros in police and health costs. Similar estimates have been made for U.S. health-based approaches by the Rand Corp. and others.

While Europeans are as firmly opposed to hard drugs as we are, the difference in how they approach marijuana is striking. Take the Netherlands, with its famously liberal marijuana laws. On my last trip to Amsterdam, I visited a “coffee shop” — a cafe that openly and legally sells marijuana to people over 18. I sat and observed the very local, almost quaint scene: Neighbors were chatting. An older couple (who apparently didn’t enjoy the trendy ambience) parked their bikes and dropped in for a baggie to go. An underage customer was shooed away. Then a police officer showed up — but only to post a warning about the latest danger from chemical drugs on the streets.

Some concerned U.S. parents are comforted by the illusion of control created by our complete prohibition of marijuana. But the policy seems to be backfiring: Their kids say it’s easier to buy marijuana than tobacco or alcohol. (You don’t get carded when you buy something illegally.) Meanwhile, Dutch parents say their approach not only protects their younger children, but also helps insulate teens over 18 from street pushers trying to get them hooked on more addictive (and profitable) hard drugs.

After a decade of regulating marijuana, Dutch anti-drug abuse professionals agree there has been no significant increase in pot smoking among young people, and that overall cannabis use has increased only slightly. European and U.S. government statistics show per-capita consumption of marijuana for most of Europe (including the Netherlands) is about half that of the U.S., despite the criminal consequences facing American pot smokers.

When it comes to marijuana, European leaders understand that a society must choose: Tolerate alternative lifestyles or build more prisons. They’ve made their choice. We’re still building more prisons.

According to Forbes magazine, 25 million Americans currently use marijuana (federal statistics indicate that one in three Americans has used marijuana at some point), which makes it a $113 billion untaxed industry in our country. The FBI reports that about 40 percent of the roughly 1.8 million annual drug arrests in the U.S. are for marijuana — the majority (89 percent) for simple possession.

Rather than act as a deterrent, criminalization of marijuana drains precious resources, clogs our legal system and distracts law enforcement attention from more pressing safety concerns.

But things are changing. For example, in Seattle, Initiative 75, which makes adult marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority for local cops, was recently reviewed after four years in action. The results clearly show that during that period, marijuana use didn’t measurably increase, and street crime associated with drugs actually went down.

More and more U.S. parents, lawyers, police, judges and even travel writers feel it’s time for a change. Obviously, like Europeans, we don’t want anyone to harm themselves or others by misusing marijuana. We simply believe that regulating and taxing what many consider a harmless vice is smarter than outlawing it.

Like my European friends, I believe we can adopt a pragmatic policy toward marijuana, with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough-talking but counterproductive criminalization. The time has come to have an honest discussion about our marijuana laws and their effectiveness. We need to find a policy that is neither “hard on drugs” nor “soft on drugs” — but smart on drugs.

Rick Steves is a travel writer based in Edmonds.

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Obama’s Position on Medical Marijuana

Barry Obama, class of '79With the US aflutter with electioneering, my old buddy (who i am very eager to go visit) Hemp Ed in Pe Ell (hear Ed on Bacon, Biscuits and Hemp Ed – Choogle on #39) sent along Senator Obama’s campaign’s response to Ed’s query about the candidate’s medical marijuana policy.

Note that cannabis seems absent from the current political discourse aside from Mitt Romney (stop stalking me Mitt!) telling a terminally ill patient that he wouldn’t allow him to have medicine (he must be stopped!) aside from Ron Paul who has been marginalized by the process (despite rabid grassroots support).

Anyhow, Barack (who has toked in his time)’s folks say:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting Obama for America to inquire about the Senator’s position on allowing severely ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes.

Many states have laws that condone medical marijuana, but the Bush Administration is using federal drug enforcement agents to raid these facilities and arrest seriously ill people. Focusing scarce law enforcement resources on these patients who pose no threat while many violent and highly dangerous drug traffickers are at large makes no sense. Senator Obama will not continue the Bush policy when he is president.

Thank you again for contacting us.


Obama for America

We’ll see if noted Olympia correspondent Cosmo (and precinct organizer for Obama AFAIK) has anything to add.

Photo Credit: Awesom high school yearbook image from Pushing String blog Barry Obama and the gang