Category Archives: Cannabis + Culture

extended essays about cannabis culture for several magazines and books, ergo: hemp in Japan, snowboarding, longboarding, cannabis travel expeditions and related

Japan’s First Lady Touts Revival of Hemp Culture via WSJ

Source: Japan’s First Lady Touts Revival of Hemp Culture – Japan Real Time – WSJ

Dave Notes:

“Very glad to see this article discussing a very fascinating aspect of Japan culture. I worked as a mushroom farmer and hitchhiked throughout remote rural areas in Japan and saw cannabis culture of all sorts — from traditional handicrafts and religious artifacts to folks harvesting wild cultivars for smoking and extracting.

A few annotations if i may:

1) My 1996/8 research essay traces the history of hemp in Japan and various uses and appeared in Cannabis Culture, Journal of International Hemp Association and Hemp Horizons

2) JapanHemp.org has gathered a massive repository of hemp artifacts and information in English and Japanese.

3) Note the wandering warrior poets Basho and Kobayashi Issa wrote about hemp on their journeys and hemp in mentioned in other literary classics.

4) The National History Museum in Sakura has many garments with unmarked cloth which are clearly not silk, cotton or mulberry, but not labelled as hemp – in fact the characters do not appear anywhere in the museum though the movement and trade form Korea and India was discussed as was the advent of silk production.

5) A commenter below mentioned wild Hokkaido cannabis and i can concur that these tall, robust, wild and THC-laden plants indeed do exist on roadsides and country areas.”

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Japan’s first lady raised eyebrows after telling a Japanese magazine that she has considered becoming a hemp farmer to help revive the traditional culture.

There seem to be few dull moments in the life of first lady Akie Abe, who sometimes spends her time hosting a web-based talk show, harvesting honey from a bee farm and even paying occasional visits to the contentious Yasukuni Shrine.

Most recently, Ms. Abe raised eyebrows after telling a Japanese magazine that she has considered becoming a hemp farmer to help revive the traditional culture.

In an interview with Spa!, Ms. Abe was quoted as saying that she had become interested in hemp cultivation and considered applying for a permit to grow the plant after studying its history.

“Hemp is a plant of which all of its parts can be used effectively,” Ms. Abe is quoted as saying. “While it is not yet permitted in Japan, I think it can be put into great practical use for medical purposes as well.”

Of course, hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, and Japan maintains a hard line on marijuana. The Cannabis Control Law enacted in 1948 bans the import, export, cultivation and purchase of marijuana. But prior to that, hemp was widely grown in Japan and used to make fabric and for use in imperial ceremonies. There are legal hemp farms in Japan, but they are rare and require a special permit.

Ms. Abe said in the article that she’d like to revive Japan’s tradition of growing hemp. “I’ve even considered myself to apply for a permit to grow hemp,” she was quoted as saying.

The article included a photo of the first lady visiting a legal hemp farm in western Japan in August and posing for a photo in the middle of the plants.

Ms. Abe has promoted the article on her personal Facebook page, encouraging those interested in the topic to pick up a copy.

Longboard Hockey in Vancouver – Reportage Notes and Artifacts

Originally published in Heads Magazine Toke on the Porch blog on January 22, 2007

Out n’ about on assignment for a forthcoming Heads article, I witnessed a sport hitherto unknown to me which combined many activities I enjoy into one sublime recreational pursuit: full contact hockey, tasty weed, chillaxin’ and longboarding (I am a newb – just cruised the Stanley Park seawall a couple times).

Anyhow, ace photog KK+, fashionista Kdon and my rolling amigo Cousin Herb chronicled the action – both the ongoing hockey games and boarders running the six story garage kamikaze style while sliding hard stops at the bottom and riding elevator back up for another go.  Besides KK‘s tasty snapshots, I shot some video I’ll cobble together into a clip soon.

Here are a few outtakes, anecdotes and pics of the exploits:

On the stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie.

Turns out she’s The Bloods’ goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers after they finish off the Shitmix.  She doesn’t seem insane yet she eagerly faces wildmen firing beer cans at her head, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”

Some incredible boarders (behold the mightiness of King Brian!) and a bewildering assortment of boards, mostly Landyachtz and Rayne.

“The Meathheads” are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude sans helmet who snakes through defenders – hard sliding to the left while shooting off the right, one foot flying behind.

Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the pavement, then leaps back up before being run down.  Turns out this savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team.  He’s also the Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup.

Besides the Longboard Hockey LeagueCoastlongboarding organizes a 4 day festival in May on the Sunshine Coast with a downhill race, championship hockey game and punk bands at a reserved campground at Danger Bay.

I ask another Chilliwack Meathhead called Tyson what possesses them to drive out from the farthest burb of Chilliwack – a town I remember mostly for grow houses and cow shit – “it’s about the community” he says rolling up a huge cone from my ample first aid kit of bud.  His buddy adds, “Yeah, all we do is skate and smoke weed.”

Sounds good to me, pulling a hoot with my head fogged and face grinning. “Good stuff” he says, as i dodge a bearded dude on a six wheel skateboard barrelling down the garage ramp.

An intriguing evening at the LHL games for sure – I spread the custom Heads rollies around Cousin Herb rolled up the aforementioned Chocolate Jack Herer using the “made in Spain” Raws and those clear rolling substrates I’ve become so fond of.

Of course, I recorded interviews and action for a forthcoming Choogle on with Uncle Weed podcast.  Recent episodes make fine companions to my HeadFirst articles, “Rebagliati Positive for 2010” and “Zen Rambling in Japan.”   Check out “International Heads and Hemp Oil – Choogle on #34” for some behind the scenes commentary and anecdotes from the articles plus my interview with Ross is at “Coffee talk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati.”

Enjoy!

The Rule of Longboard Hockey is … artifacts, drafts etc

Originally appeared in Heads Magazine (now defunct) in the XX, 200? issue with photos by Kris Krug

See also:

Video clips

Podcast – Choogle on with Uncle Weed

Photo set by Kris Krug

The Rule of Longboard Hockey is …

Driving into the forested far reaches of the University of British Columbia campus I really wasn’t sure what to expect – the note told me to show up saturday, midnight at a secret parking garage location – wondering should i have left a note with someone?

With mild trepidation, I followed the echoing noise to the basement as a chain of longboarders cruise past me, carving wide turns before dropping into the “rink” with a game of longboard hockey in full swing sprawling beyond the nets: Burnaby Blood vs. Chilliwack Methheads. Gotta learn quick to stay alert as the game action intersects with the de facto tailgate party of longboarders and boards of every shape – hi end drop decks downhill racing boards to decks homemade from old wooden water skiis.

This is no slop fest, this games has rules. You gotta have one foot on the board to play the puck, (exception goalies whose board becomes part shield, part deadly cricket bat), and you gotta play for the city you live in – you move, you’re traded, that’s it. The game is tough and full contact like they were taught by “The Jacks” an outlaw California skateboard gang who brought the game north (for the record, the Canadians now routinely quash their yankee mentors).

The puck is a beer can but your standard aluminum container would quickly disintegrate so you must use a heartily constructed Sapporo can imported from Japan – though I spy a few odd Polynesian guava tin juice can on the sidelines as practice pucks. After each goal, the teams line up along the goalline, the puck/can is placed in the middle and a metal coil is rung to signal the teams to maniacally trade ends, including the goalie who charges fullbrunt atop a longboard in full battle gear into the gauntlet of opposing players.

The Methheads are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude sans helmet who snakes through defenders – hard sliding to the left while shooting off the right, one foot flying behind. Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the pavement, then leaps back up before being run down. Turns out this savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team. He’s also the Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup, the beaten trophy (bought at a Flea Market for $5 and clever negotiation) which is tossed onto the pavement each night and ‘seasoned’ with the game play and hauled home by the vanquishing team each night. In May, the top two teams from the year battle for ultimate supremecy as part of a four-day longboard fiesta at the appropriatedly-named Danger Bay.

On the stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie. This is the Blood’s goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers after they finish off the Shitmix. She doesn’t seem insane yet she eagerly faces wildmen firing beer cans at her head, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”

She was auto-traded to Burnaby when she moved across the 2nd Narrows bridge so her old mates are stuck with a scrub in goal. With the game underway, she’s clearly not intimidated – batting cans out of midair and hurling the beerpuck back at Wolfman and his Slashers teammates. I also notice a skinny, curly-haired teammate who is skating like the wind and taking a serious beating … elbows to the ribs, cans to the face, sticks to the shins … but he keeps rolling. A husky dude with blue hair exclaims, “I’ve never seen anyone take that kind of abuse in the LHL!” He’d know since Striker’s is a 5 year veteran and his consortium “Coast Longboarding” are the ringleaders of grassroots longboarding events around the wet coast and bearer of the wisdom from the Jack’s gang.

At the end of the game, Natasha yanks off her helmet with a grin and I wave her over for another fat cone rolled by another Methhead. “There’s only one joint going here?!” She’s appaled.

“Yeah, but it’s a big one,” someone answers through the cloud of smoke but she’s already grabbing another. “Hash plant, with hash too.” It’s coming on 4:20AM and she passing a heavy indica around! Beer can slapshots to the face is one thing but this is really tough! She nonchalantly says they leave, “around 5 or 6 when they kick us out and then come back next Saturday, every Saturday.”

A few cones later, I look over to see Striker, playing for the Downtown Eastside Dirty Dogs, charge into a loose can from the left wing, twisting his fireplug frame to rip a shot top shelf short side on the sprawling goalie and I realized the community and the game are equal co-conspirators to this strangley perfect recreation. No wonder they keep the secret.

##
The Rule of Longboard Hockey is …

by Dave Thorvald Olson

Driving into the forested far reaches of Vancouver to the University campus, I really wasn’t sure what to expect – the cryptic note said to show up Saturday, midnight in the basement of parking garage for full contact longboard hockey. Maybe I should’ve left a note with someone?

I followed the echoing noise as a chain of longboarders cruised past me, swooping wide turns before dropping into the “rink” where a game versus the Blood Thirsty Bastards and Methheads. Gotta stay alert as the game sprawls beyond the nets with frantic skaters on boards of every shape – hi-end dropdeck downhill racing boards to homemade rides crafted from old wooden water skiis – charge vigorously at a beer can. No regular beer can though, must be a burly Japanese import Sapporo can.

This is no slop fest, there are rules and serious skills required. The rules: You gotta have one foot on the board to play the puck, (exception goalies whose board becomes part shield, part deadly cricket bat); and you gotta play for the city you live in – you move, you’re traded, that’s it. The game is tough like they were taught by “The Jacks,” an outlaw California skateboard gang who brought the game north (but are now routinely beaten by their Canadian understudies).

After each goal, the teams line up along the goal-line, the puck/can is placed in the middle and a metal coil bell signals the squads to maniacally change ends – including the goalie charging fullbrunt in full battle gear atop a board to defend the net.

The Methheads are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude who effortlessly snakes through defenders, sliding hard to the left while shooting off the right foot, the other foot flying behind. Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit and goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the cold pavement but leaps up quick avoiding errant boards crushing his bare noggin.

This savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team and is Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup. The battered trophy (bought at a Flea Market for $5 and clever negotiation) is tossed into the rink and ‘seasoned’ with the gameplay and hauled home by the vanquishing team each Saturday.

A skinny, curly-haired teammate is skating like the wind and taking a serious beating … elbows to the ribs, can to the face, sticks to the shins … but he keeps rolling on as a husky green-haired boarder exclaims, “I’ve never seen anyone take that kind of abuse in my five years in the LHL!” Beside playing for the Downtown Dirty Dogs, this boarder named Striker is the ringleader of Coast Longboarding and organizes these grassroots longboard events including the LHL championship at the appropriately-named Danger Bay.

After the game, Natasha, The Bloods’ goalie, yanks off her helmet with a grin as I wave her over for a Chocolate Jack Herer cone. “There’s only one joint going around here?!” She’s appalled and grabs another. “Hash plant, with hash mixed too. It’s almost 4:20AM as she passes the heavy indica around.

Glancing over, Striker charges at a loose can, twisting his fireplug frame to rip a shot top shelf, short side on the sprawling goalie as Natasha nonchalantly tells me they leave, “when they kick us out around 5 or 6AM and then we come back next Saturday, every Saturday.”

Seeing the community vibe like a chilled out tailgate party co-existing with the intense blood sport, I realize it’s probably a good thing they keep this strangely perfect recreation a secret.

http://coastlongboarding.com/hockey.cfm

##

Hopping the parking garage elevator with a overstuffed crowd heading to run another circuit down the five levels, i reach for the thick cone in raw paper with transit pass filter Cousin Herb rolled up for the mission but, .

skill level all over the place, some pro quality riders while others are patiently learning and taking bruises along the way – no sausage fest, at least a dozen hockey playing skater girls too. Everyone says, this is a light turnout. “But it’s secret,” i say. Maybe they just don’t want short boarders to show up? Anyhow, May long weekend is when the real fun goes down, the 4 day Danger Bay long board fest – the two top team show down for one epic game and everyone speaks of Danger Bay hippies talking about a Dead show. downhill longboard races on the sunshine coast with bands and buds? hmmmm pencil that one in.

I ask another Methhead called Tyson what possesses them to drive out from the farthest burb of Chilliwack – a town i remember mostly for grow houses and cow shit – “it’s about the community” he says rolling up a huge cone from my ample first aid kit of magik bud. his buddy XXX adds, “something else about the positive vibe.”

Sounds good to me, pulling a hoot with my head fogged and face grinning. “good stuff” he says, as i dodge a bearded dude on a six wheel skateboard barrelling down the garage ramp, “I grow some outdoor, its just do easy to put a few here and there.” i ask him what he does the rest of the week, both reply “skate and smoke.” one frames houses sometimes – that’s it, the rest is skating and toking – but they don’t talk like burned out losers, it’s just they don’t care to work, they live is a cheap place and save their time. sign me up.

On a stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie. This is the Blood’s goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers, after they finish off the Shitmix. She was auto-traded after moving and here old mates are stuck with a scrub in goal despite their high-powered offense led by Wolfman. I question the sanity of taking Sapporo cans to the face but undeterred she explains, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”

##

At the end of the game, Natasha yanks off her helmet with a grin and i wave her over as i gather up a few more Methheads and and a few hangers-on for another fatty. “there only one joint going here?” she asks “it’s a big one someone answers but she’s already grabbing another. “hash plant’ she says giving it a light, “with hash in it too.” it’s coming on 4:20AM and she passing a heavy indica around – beer can slapshots to the face is one thing but this is really tough but nonchalantly says they leave “around 5 or 6 when they kick us out.”

Rebagliati Positive About 2010 in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine”

Ross article - Heads magazine coverMy article “Rebagliati Positive About 2010” was published in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine” Vol. 6 Issue 10 “The Stoned Cold Issue.”

Like “Zen Rambling in Japan” the Ross article is the “Head First” lead article and over 3000 words and I also managed one photo in there (the one with the big nug). A great layout and Kris Krug‘s fine shots of a candid Ross frame the article nicley indeed.

The article discusses 1998 Nagano Olympic snowboard gold medalist and Canadian sporting legend, Ross Rebagliati’s quest for 2010 Olympics in Whistler/Vancouver plus his training routine, fundraising efforts, quest to make the team role on tour and recreational interests.

Importantly, he breaks down the events and emotions of the big shakedown in Nagano. Hear more about the fallout from his positive marijuana test from an interview I did in Vancouver during the 2006 Turin games.

Ross article, Heads magazineRoss article, Heads magazine, pg. 2
See full size images on Flickr in the Magazines of Note set

Choose between this (not really updated) Heads magazine or this Heads magazine on myspace but better off just scorcing a copy for yourself.

UPDATE: 2015, Heads magazine sadly folded a few years back. Ross is now a father and marijuana entrepreneur.

See also: Ross’ site, Ross on Flickr

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Rebagliati Positive About 2010

by Dave Thorvald Olson

Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati is training for 2010 Olympics on his home course, defending his reputation and spreading his wisdom to the youth

Ross Rebagliati rolled into the early morning Vancouver coffeeshop looking composed and chillaxed, deftly juggling cellphone radio interviews and answering questions via a live symposium connected to the 2006 Games in Turin. While others yawned, he grinned for snapshots and scribbled Sharpie autographs before heading back up the twisty road to Whistler for an afternoon of training.

Somehow, the thirty-something Ross manages to escape any stereotyping – balancing an elite athlete’s intensity with the laid back ease of a sagey mountain monk. No stoner drawl or disheveled appearance here, Ross is all dialed in – looking simultaneously chiseled and cherubic. Part James Bond and part Jeff Spicoli with ruddy cheeks which must get him carded 8 times out of 10 buying beer in the States. His healthy lifestyle is evident and he’s got something 007 and Spicoli dude don’t – a Gold Medal. Says so right on his business card, “Olympic Gold Medalist.”

Though his 1998 gold medal performance still draws occasional cliched punch-lines, these days Ross is a busy guy who stays rolling with good food and exercise from kick boxing to kite sailing to keep him relaxed, focused and healthy while facing a constant schedule.

Eight years after his big win, he’s become part of Canadian culture as more than, “that guy who won the gold and got busted for weed.” And it’s not just stoners toasting him when toking Nagano Gold buds or boarders admiring his success of winning the controversial inaugural event – his candor and perseverance qualified him for folk hero status to many civil libertarians.

Albeit unintentionally, Ross is a role model or an accidental martyr and is irrevocably synonymous with the positive weed test after winning the snowboard gold. But more importantly, he is known for the way he handled the incident, notably, his persistence in fighting to keep his hard-earned medal while sticking to his ideals, staying loyal to his friends, speaking out and showing that cannabis use can be a normal part of a healthy lifestyle.

Not content to rest on past accomplishments, Ross plans a return to the podium and is eyeing a place on Team Canada to compete on his home course, before his hometown friends at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler.

Recreation Renaissance Man

Ross’ public schedule is a stream of autograph signings, car dealership appearances, media interviews and spots on every cheesy radio and TV morning show in the nation sandwiched in between grueling training sessions, playing with his beloved dog and hanging out with, you know, his peer group, the ones with gold medals. Kicking back with Donavon Bailey or strolling into the NHL awards ceremony with Captain Cassie Campbell – just like its no big deal.

He’s dabbled in broadcast work like many victorious athletes and toyed with a bit of TV acting but mixes in adventure sports action with his training retinue – racing stock cars, riding dirt bikes, kite-sailing, surfing, mountain biking the technical trails and whatever else you got, … including golf.

These days, he’s set on 2010 but also keeps new adventures in mind, “Right now from here to then, 2010 is obviously my main focus, after that i’d love to race in the Paris Dakar rally race on a motor bike – that’s one of my main goals for my life.”

As for politics, the contemplative and well-spoken Ross says, “That has crossed my mind as well but I don’t think it would give me enough free time.”

Currently taking up valuable time is a “misappropriation of personality” lawsuit he filed against the producers of a gaudy TV program featuring a blond-haired, blue-eyed, goldmedal-winning snowboarder whose murder leads to uncovering a hedonistic and unsavory past. Ross says, “I’m the only former gold medal snowboarder in Whistler so yeah I think it is confusing and detrimental to my image and hurts my ability to secure sponsorships.” However, the producers say that Ross’s name never came up in the meetings and the character is purely coincidental (yeah right).

Either way, the locals know the truth that Ross is the real deal in Whistler where visitors can ski Ross’ run on Blackcomb and finish the day by sparking a doob in the Village park named in his honor.

The Message

Ross approaches the weed topic with a “been there” sigh, but he’s reluctantly aware that he’s become an unintentional role-model for the millions of weekend athletes and herbal enthusiasts who seek to balance turning on with working out. Indeed, whenever Ross’ name appears in the media, “marijuana” isn’t far behind and he is still vilified by crusty conservatives who pull out the “what kind of message does this send to the kids” rhetoric.

Turns out, contrary to the misleading rumblings, Ross sends a great message to the kids, particularly aspiring Olympians, saying, “If you have a goal to become an Olympic athlete and if you devote your life, it is definitely a obtainable thing, it is just about making the time and committing to it.”

He also sends a positive message to the community with his considerable charity work, hanging out with kids across North America and genuinely enjoying the good work. Besides actively participating in sports programs for kids with disabilities, diabetes awareness with his mom, and visiting terminally ill youth, he also does a kids day at at EA Sports where he is patiently worked over by wheelchair-bound kids playing video games. He explains, almost excitedly, “Due to their various conditions, gaming is an integral part of their lives and let me tell you, they are pros at it!”

His epic performance also sent a very powerful message to the nay-sayers like the ignorant politicos who won’t admit that responsible marijuana use in not anti-social behavior and pompous blowhard crusaders like International Olympic Committee’s dope chief, Dick Pound who struggles to differentiate between harmful, synthesized substances or damaging steroids, and non-toxic THC (which is only maybe a performance enhancing substance) and clings to the tired and unproven gateway drug rhetoric.

However, his open opinions supporting cannabis and refusal to “sell out” his toker friends raised the ire of do-gooders who sought to leverage him into an anti-herb crusader to atone for his error.

No such luck for the draconians as Ross chimes in on decriminalization, “Right now the whole idea of it being decriminalized makes the legal system function at a level that it should be functioning at and not clogging up the courts and the judicial system and even jails or whatever for something like that.”
{ref: Olympian Rebagliati urges pot decriminalization, Canadian Press, Updated: Thurs. May. 8 2003 6:18 AM ET)}

His out-spoken nature has caused problems crossing borders into USA, Europe and Australia and he still faces annoying travel restrictions when heading into the USA and required minor diplomatic intervention to facilitate his trip to watch the Games in Salt Lake City 2002.

While the excess attention caused problems crossing borders, the resultant hassle was the impetus to take a break from competitive snowboarding allowing him precious time to purse his other various interests, but now, he is back on his race board and ready to win again.

2010 – What’s it gonna take

Competing in the Olympics is a Big Deal for anyone, but a bigger deal for 38 year old (well, unless you’re 39 year old 2006 Skeleton Gold Medalist, Duff Gibson but that’s another story). Sure, sometimes you see a grey haired curler but the snowboarding circuit is dominated by spry twenty-somethings who combine the rare mix of health, motivation, skill with ability to cobble enough income to support themselves to train, travel and compete in a challenging discipline where milliseconds count and injuries are easily come by.

But first, Ross has got to make the team. There are no automatic slots on Canada’s Olympic Snowboard team – even for a gold medalist & BC Sports Hall of Famer. Instead, the egalitarian system rewards boarders for long-term amateur participation for Team Canada. Candidates must compete in prescribed events and participate in group training sessions to rise through the ranks to qualify. Which means you have to be fast and race a lot where and when they tell ya.

So what is it gonna take for Ross to make the team against guys 15 years his junior?

As part of preparing himself physically, he drink most of his meals – mixing protein powder, raw egg, blueberries, flax seed, grape nuts, banana and yogurt in a blender for breakfast and lunch and eating chicken with broccoli for dinner. That’s part of the difference between an elite snowboarder and the dude down the street who pounds a few twinkies before hitting the lifts.

Ross continues, “I’m riding every day, back on my race board running gates at Blackcomb, most days you can see me training on Jersey Cream at the Race Centre. Plus I do an extensive kick boxing routine and have a basement gym with weights and punching bags.”

Just in case he isn’t working hard enough, he worked with Sasha, a Russian conditioning coach who defected from the Army 20 years ago who Ross describes as “pretty hardcore.”

For snowboard-specific training, he hooked up with a former competitor Thedo Remilink who finished 10th in Nagano, boarding for Holland at age 35. Ross says, “Thedo and I were on the same pro team around 1996. He will be a familiar face for me as well as someone who knows my history.”

After a summer on the mountain bike and early training on Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor, he’s ready for competition in Europe this fall.

The Path Back Home

Specialized, international training isn’t cheap and must be funded by company sponsors or privately as Canada doesn’t kick down the expenses to the level of some countries where elite athletes are feted and coddled like sacred cows. Instead, Canada spreads sports funding across a wide swath of athletes rather than fully funding a few top performers,

This policy can lead to situations evidenced in Turin 2006 when independently wealthy freestyle mogul skier Dale Begg-Smith, who hails from Vancouver and train in Whistler, competed for Australia because he didn’t care to participate in the required group training procedures and risk missing out on the Games by these missing required events. Instead, he paid his way, waited his time and brought the Aussies a rare Winter Gold.

With snowboarding, the Canadian Olympic powers doesn’t fund anyone who doesn’t train with the team which causes a conundrum for someone like Ross who expects to make the team yet wishes to train with his preferred coach. No worry though, Ross insists he will compete only for Canada and is headed back to take his lumps as the cagey veteran racing against up and comers on the World Cup circuit where (back in the day) he won the European Championship plus his hometown World Cup event and was a regular in the top three.

Besides the coaching expense, until he makes Team Canada, he’s on his own to fund the $1000/week needed for the basic travel expenses for life on the circuit from plane tickets to entry fees to lift tickets for training, etc. Like a rock band scraping gas money for the tour van, he sells t-shirts, toques and other Ross paraphernalia on his website but of course, his accomplishments and high profile draw sponsor’s attention, notably iconoclastic Canadian brand, Roots. “They’ve been there for me every step,” Ross says, adding,”I lost some sponsors after the Olympics, but Roots picked up the slack.” Looks like the exposure works for Roots too who now make Olympic uniforms for several countries. Besides Roots, he shills body space for ads for googles and gear enough to keep rolling to the next race.

But don’t worry too much about the enterprising Rebagliati – after losing a pre-Olympic sponsor who was covering his mortgage payments, Ross sold his house and realized a considerable profit. He says, “A light bulb went off in my head and I realized I could continue to flip houses.” So he pulls enough flips in the hectic Whistler real estate market to keep the homefires burning and suggests, “The midnight infomercial about buying houses with no money down is true.”

Know Your Role

On his return to the circuit, he is savvy to the trials of the road in the hyper-competitive environment and the effects of the inter-personal dynamics on race results.

“Aside from the underlying stress of the financial commitments with no guarantees, there is considerable time on the road and the particular dynamic of the inner team relationships. These are the factors which, if dealt with wisely or not, contribute to either success or failure. The ‘reality TV shows’ like Big Brother and Survivor are very good examples of what life on the racing circuit is like.”

As a first to have a rare boarder pass at Blackcomb, Ross, who started as ski racer, met snowboarding at 15 and never looked back and as someone who loves the sport, and as the “not-quite grizzled” veteran teammate, he’s prepared to help other boarders cope and succeed by bringing a cooperative attitude into a competitive environment.

“I will be the veteran with all the experience. When I first started with professional teams 15 years ago, me and the others were in our early 20’s, and sometimes younger, with very limited life experience away from the comforts of home. Dealing with things about growing up along with race life on the road is a challenge for anyone, especially at that age.”

After a five year competitive hiatus, he’s gotta be realistic with his expectations though, he expects, “to make top three in at least one race and he in the finals (top 15) or better on a regular basis by mid-season. My goals will become more or less aggressive depending on where my level of riding is ay compared to the current top guns.”

His quest to be a competitor in 2010 was inspired by his involvement with bringing the games to his hometown as an unofficial ambassador for his hometown. “During the Plebasite, I did a bunch of media to get people out to vote ‘yes’ and having the Games come here has created the motivation I now have to get back on my race boards.”

The historical significance is not lost on Ross who says, “To race in the games here would be a cool thing since when I first started snowboarding here we weren’t even allowed to ride the chairlifts anywere in Canada. It’s kind of a full circle which I am proud to have been have been a part of since the beginning.”

Don’t underestimate the advantage of competing on a familiar course (let alone sleeping at home with race-day breakfast at your favorite cafe) and with his steely-eyed focus, love of boarding, healthy lifestyle and balanced demeanor, don’t bet against Rebagliati being back on top of the podium in 2010. After a few seasons back on the board, the still-distant February morning might just feel like another screaming day on the slopes for the cagey veteran.

Backstory (sidebar?)

As one of the later boarders to ride the chopped up and foggy Shiga Kogen Giant Slalom course which had claimed over a dozen DNFs on the day – Ross hurdled down the slope, pushing each turn tighter and harder and arrived at the bottom in sizzling time – moving from eighth to first and winning the Gold Medal with two hundredths of a second to spare.

From the victory celebration, the elated Ross headed back to the athlete’s village to hang out with his buddies and co-competitors. They passed his Gold Medal around and talked about the race with friendly camaraderie when the coaches walked into the room and asked everyone to leave, everyone … except for Ross who they advised to sit down.

Ross says, “They basically told me I had failed drug test but they didn’t know what for.” So he gathered the various supplements and sports drinks he’d ingested for analyzation and headed to Nagano city by bus with his backpack. When I got to Nagano, they set me up with the Head of the Canadian Olympic Association, and she explained that i had failed a test for weed.”

After 11 years training for this win, he stopped smoking in the previous April knowing testing was part game. “This was something that was part of my life for years on end leading up to that moment. We knew that it would be somewhat of an issue going into the games, and we’d gone to great lengths to educate ourselves and learn about it and to make sure it wasn’t an issue and all of a sudden, here it was right at the most crucial point of my career so it was bad news for sure. They wanted to know if I had an explanation of course I didn’t except that I’d been hanging out with people over Christmas and New Year’s and at a wake that I’d been at for a friend that I’d dedicated my winning run to.”

Suddenly statistics appeared about how much smoke would have to be in a room for the THC level to reach that point and instantly everyone was an expert on whether or not cannabis was a performance enhancing drug.

Rumors began to spread that the issue was moot as marijuana wasn’t even included as a banned substance in the agreement which added snowboarding to the Games as the International Ski Federation allows for 15ml contrary to IOC regulations permitted which permit none. Regardless, a duplicate Gold was awarded in a hastily planned ceremony trying to defray attention from the controversy.

The following morning, the ordeal continued as Ross was taken into custody by the Nagano Prefectural police who took their turn to grandstand. The local cops had managed to separate him from his RCMP escorts and Canadian Olympic Association Representatives and worked over his frazzled nerves. Ross adds, “They put me in a jail cell and interrogated me for 4-5 hours about the different things about weed. I was really starting to feel the reality of the situation because the translator could barely speak English and I didn’t even know if she was telling the chief what I was telling her.”

During that anxious, isolated time in the dark hours in jail cell, worn-out but strident, with the disputed gold medal still stuck protectively sequestered in his pocket, “They came in and told me that I’d in fact won my appeal and I could keep my medal. ” And not a moment to soon, as Ross continues, “Otherwise the Japanese police wouldn’t have let me out, they were actually pressing charges.” Tense times in a country with a 7 years jail term the norm for possession.

With the 3-2 decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport didn’t see the issue as sharply as Ross who states emphatically, “Weed was not on the list of banned substances at the time and in my opinion the fact that they tested for it anyway was a violation of social privacy.” But with the announcement, the IOC shuffled the medals once more, with Ross back on top.

Despite the relief, Ross says, “This all started less than 24 hours after the race. I only had those hours of pure exhilaration to enjoy winning the Olympics and then it all went downhill and it’s never felt the same.”

##

Ross’ website: www.rossrebagliati.com/
Roots website: www.roots.com/new_canada/html/ath_update_RossM05.shtml

##

Bonus

Aside from the underlying stress of the financial commitments with no guarantees there is considerable time on the road and the particular dynamic of the inner team relationships. These are the factors which, if dealt with wisely or not, contribute to either success or failure. A high level of training and racing become effortless and when the social side of things is kept in check. We are constantly in a competitive atmosphere within the team during training. Whether on snow or in the gym, do to the fact that at the end of the day we all compete against each other, the atmosphere always has this element. There will always be those who deal with this better than others and it is the responsibility of each team member to do their best to either help or distance them selves to make the most of any situation. I have made my share of mistakes and positive contributions to my team over the years and from those experiences I have come to learn how I can best contribute to not only my own success but also that of my team. I will be the veteran with all the experience but when I first started with professional teams 15yrs ago I and others were in our early 20’s and sometimes younger with very limited life experience away from the comforts of home. Dealing with things about growing up along with race life on the road is a challenge for anyone, especially at that age . The ‘reality shows’ that are on TV like Big Brother and Survivor are very good examples of what life on the racing circuit is like.

My expectations for this season are to make the top three in at least one race and to be in the finals (top 15) or better on a regular basis by mid season. As this is my first full year of racing in around five seasons my goals will become more or less aggressive depending on where my level of ridding is at compared to the current top guns. The most important thing about setting goals is to set lots of small ones that can be easily accomplished that eventually lead up to ones that are not so easy.

I am involved in what seems to be countless charities of which most of them are for kids. I am involved with the special olympics, the adaptive ski and snowboard programs for kids with disabilities, ‘make a wish’ and ‘hole in the wall’ for kids with terminal illness’. The Canadian diabetes association and myself of partnering up to raise money along with my mother who has diabetes. EA Sports and I also do kids days at their headquarters which involves me gaming against some of the best in the business,(kids in wheel chairs). Due to their various conditions, gaming is an intrigal part of their lives and let me tell you,” they are pros at it!”.

As far as the weed is concerned and the ‘rumor’ I honestly don’t know and further more would’nt want to speculate one way or the other. What I do know is that weed was not on the list of banned substances at the time and in my opinion the fact that they tested for it anyway was a violation of social privacy. All snowboarders at the Nagano Olympics followed the rules.

Aside from certain travel restrictions which are still upon me with regards to the USA I have had only a small corporate fall out with at least one of my main sponsors I had going into Nagano. I would like to point out that I don’t blame the sponsors at all for there decision although it was disappointing none the less. ‘Roots’ has been there for me every step of the way and are design leaders in healthy living and lifestyle and their clothing line reflects that.

“Hemp Ed” Chronicling the Good Fight ~ Originally in Heads Magazine Tokes on the Porch blog

Note: Originally appeared in (now-defunct) Heads Magazine in “Uncle Weed’s Tokes on the Porch” blog —  March 12, 2007 (cached)

Bonus: A podcast i recorded with Ed back in the day: Bacon, Biscuits and Hemp Ed – Choogle on #39

I recently rolled down for a visit to Pe Ell, Washington to see my old amigo Hemp Ed.  Pe Ell is dang near the smallest town you’ve seen  – a former logging boom town and now a fading enclave of approx 619 folks, a bar, a cafe, a store, a gas station, a post office, a school, one part-time cop.

I’ve worked with Ed on hemp activism and advocacy projects since the mid 90’s when public policy seemed to be trended towards decriminalization of recreational cannabis and legalization of industrial hemp as Hemp Lobby.  This venerable website is a bit stale but is now enhanced with Ed’s blogging efforts on Hemp Lobby Chronicles where Ed is blogging up a storm with his candid and thoughtful discourse on public policy, agriculture, energy and the ill-fated “war on drugs.”

Dave & Ed again
Dave & Ed in Oly

Back in the day … We set up an office and library in Olympia Washington and outreached to state legislators, community groups, media and the like with quality materials and polite dialouge.

Notably, in an effort to educate policy-makers, researchers and agriculturalists, Hemplobby created a booklet called “Practical Guide to Cannabis.”  Within are excerpts from many research studies, legislative bills, growing guides and various discourse on hemp policy. We distributed this tome physically and electronically around the world.

Ed’s experience working as a logger for a clearcut operator speaks loudly. He is a wild-eyed libertarian and  grows and raises much of his own food, watches CSPAN compulsively and loves to talk about wild times in Alaska.  I enjoy his rambles even more than his handmade cedar sauna out back.

When I first met Ed, he was touring the country attending events and concerts in the Hemp Education van, a beastly panel van loaded up with hemp samples, sellables and info to share.  He also marketed a woven hemp necklace/pendant thing called an Enviro-eye and sources raw hemp materials for all sorts of industries.

Hemp Ed van

Ed was a founding member of the Hemp Industries Association, the industry’s largest trade group, and was involved in many groups supporting industrial hemp but not medicinal or recreational use. But, like me, he is annoyed at the organizations who are looking down their noses at the uncouthness of recreational herbal enthusiasts.

While I, acutely aware of the societal, agricultural and commercial differences are between cannabis’ varied genus, I am also aware of the prejudice and obstruction techniques “the man” uses to bring the momentum to a crawl.

E.g. … Finally, the DEA vs HIA lawsuit was resolved (effectively re-allowing imported hemp food products into the US more readily), but then the comes the $3000 application process to begin the process of inquiring if you can grow hemp.  The Vote Hemp folks are seeking to test the effectiveness of the newest red-tape brigade by applying and challenging any negative result. But I can’t see a result for some time indeed.  Makes you wanna holler!

While testing the rule of law in laborious court battles (coupled with the drama and diligence required to fundraise to cover expenses) is a noble fight for some, it is not my calling.

Zen Rambling in Japan ~ Originally in Heads Magazine

Authour's intro in Heads Magazine

Authour’s note: This article “Zen Rambling in Japan” by me Dave Thorvald Olson originally appeared in Heads Magazine (now defunct) in the Vol. 6, Issue 4, circa: Spring 2006, as the cover story for the Travel Issue.

The iteration below is a late-version draft rather than the (apparently misplaced) submitted final version so there are some minor errors. This article is also markedly different from my “classic” Hemp Culture in Japan articles (see below) as this all original piece concentrates on modern times and practical tips rather than focusing on history and cultural change.

Heads did a beauty lay-out (excerpt scans included) and added several ancillary articles about Japanese culture in the issue. I’ll try to add in the photos where {indicated} in the article.

Be wary and read all the safety tips and caution closely – neither the Japanese police or Yakuza are to be trifled with but, if you keep it chill the good times are in store.

Ganbatte!

dvo, June 2010, Vancouver.

More Hemp in Japan

Hemp Culture in Japan – a 1992-7 ground-breaking treatise on the history and cultural significance of hemp in Japan is available in .html or .pdf . For alternate versions, visit JapanHemp.org, a site dedicated to Hemp in Japan. Published in Cannabis Culture magazine (#13 & Best of …), the Journal of International Hemp Association (V.4 N.1), as well as excerpted in several books including Hemp Horizons (USA), Hemp for Victory (UK) and “Hanp” from Norway.

Zen Rambling in Japan - Heads magazine cover

Zen Rambling article in Heads magazine Zen Rambling in Japan article in Heads magazine Heads magazine - Dave bio

Forget Everything

Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travelers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee which all taste the same in ubiquitous vending machines. You will also find a vibrant underground culture of tokers enjoying quality weed, homegrown from imported foreign seeds in crafty gardens, or harvested from the wild fields on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. And, while weed is not cheap in cities, and can be hard to find in the countryside, with some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures in the land of the rising herb.

Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea and finishing up with a bowl of wild Hokkaido herb smoked from a long “kiseru” pipe.

Checking the Scene

While cannabis holds cultural significance in Japanese history, all varieties were declared illegal in post WWII by the US occupational government. However, good genetics have existed in Japan for decades, both domestic strains of high-THC fiber hemp THC and imported strains from tourist hotspots from India, Thailand or Jamaica by young Japanese turned on during the 1960-70s when worldwide youth culture turned to individual thought and away from the rigorous norm imposed by society.

In recent years, many young Japanese have traveled to Australia, Canada and New Zealand and brought back seeds, growing techniques and liberal attitudes, and, in the past 2-3 years, growers may legally order the seeds from finest breeders in Canada or The Netherlands. Coupled with access to experienced grow advice via the Internet or myriad books, it is just a matter of time until new flavors emerge from these novice growers.

With the lack of big commercial grow-ops and sketchy quality of imported weed, many experienced smokers either grow their own or make an annual trip to Hokkaido for a harvesting wild cannabis for private stash which, while untended, can be a sticky treat.

Electricity is expensive in Japan so any indoor operation must be efficient and certainly discrete, but close-dwelling Japanese are used carving out bits of privacy in confined spaces and enthusiasts squeeze small, personal-use gardens into apartments, closets, and greenhouses.

greenhouse
In suburban areas, back porch greenhouses gardens with a few plants blend well in with the neighbourhood.

Since you aren’t growing yourself, you’ll need to find some a friend. But, due to the harsh punishments, tokers are obliged to keep low-key and with the city prices at $30/gram, usually aren’t ripping bong tubes all day long if you know what I mean.

Find a reggae club, surf beach, or mountain festival, make some friends and be patient and respectful and follow your nose. In the cities, you may also find open-minded foreigners teaching English or running a street stall who may be able to lend a hand in a hookup.

If you are more fortunate, you may find quality stash illicitly imported from Holland, more common in the last 8-9 years. The strains are different each time and the price is sky-high at $40-$80/gram, but you also may end up with a wild goose chase or a dicey situation.

There is also a busy trade of lower-grade, seedy ganja imported from The Philipines or Thailand, and sold for $15-30/gram by organized crime organizations (Yakuza) at train stations by hired foreigners – along with speed, cocaine and whatever else they have. This is not your best option as you are likely to be ripped off, arrested, or turned-in for reward money. As one Japanese friend in the Tokyo-area points out, “There are many Iranians in Tokyo, they always have hash, not weed. They are usually around the big stations but I think it is dangerous to get in touch with them because police keep eye on them.”

Punishment for growing is harsh in Japan but the police are more concerned about organized crime gangs than personal use or small-scale growers so, as long you are low-key and not disturbing the peace, the Japanese police will rarely bother with you, but remember this is the country that jailed Paul Mccartney for 1 oz. and native rocker star Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi’s (think of a Nihonjin Springsteen) career was almost destroyed when busted with 2g of weed. Same goes with non-fiction writer Nobuhiro Motobashi who was also relegated to a penance of public groveling for minor possession charge.

Trips & Places

Honshu, the biggest and most populous of the four main islands, varies from the pacific-side, which is crowded with cities and fast-paced lifestyles, and the over the mountains running down the spine and life slows down but a little less convenient.

Since you probably arrived in Tokyo, check out the busy urban area of Shibuya to get started. Under Japanese law, it is illegal to possess or import a drug itself but the plant from which it comes, is legal. As such, marijuana seeds, mushroom spores kits, whole peyote cacti and paraphernalia are commonly sold in the hectic recreation areas like Shibuya.

Out of the town a ways, score a quintessential Japanese moment at a now-legal, microbrewpub with a view of the famous Mt. Fuji. If you are gung-ho you can walk up the giant cinder cone with fantastic views, no shade and with yes, … plenty of vending machines near the top. Or cruise over to Yokohama to Blaze pipe to buy a piece and take a roll on their skateboard ramp.

From the busy Tokyo/Yokohama area, high-rollers can head down the idyllic Izu peninsula for surf and boutique hotels, otherwise, grab your stash and head into the hills!

Between Nagano and Tokyo, make your way through Tochigi prefecture where you might meet Takashi Okanuma who is growing legal hemp under a license to make traditional “zouri” sandals and maintain a traditional hemp weaving craft called “nara sarashi.”

The field is carefully administrated by the local agricultural agency and is grown with a low-THC cultivar called Tochigishiro derived from a indigenous strain containing cannabidiol acid and thought to be indigenous to Japan since the Neolithic Jomon period. However heavier THC cultivars also existed since ancient times, likely brought from China via Korea as did rice and Buddhism. At over 15ft, these native varieties of hemp was the tallest tested by the USDA in 1930s and with over 4% THC.

{Picture Caption: In the countryside, a few plants grow from imported seeds grow well – perhaps disguised with bamboo, goldenrod grow – on valley and mountain sides where the only other visitors are likely harvesting mountain vegetables and rare matsutake mushrooms and understand the importance of safe herbs for medicinal use.}

Another hemp farmer in Shizuoka prefecture, Yasunao Nakayama, has worked through the government red-tape and processes his hemp crop into oil for skin products which he sells at a shop called Kaya and, along with other local farmers, hosts a “hemp festival” every August in Shizukuishi village in northern Iwate Prefecture.

Further along, in the fat middle belly of Honshu is Nagano prefecture, with the Japanese Alps and fertile valleys with farms, this is the historic heartland for hemp culture in Japan. Most recently famous for the incident at the 1998 Winter Olympic games in which the first-ever snowboard gold medalist, Canadian Ross Regabiatti tested positive for marijuana and was briefly stripped of his medal. Regabiatti stood his ground and after days of interrogations and hassles, his medal was returned and a cannabis hero was born and the strain Nagano Gold named in his honor.

Just a few kilometers from the historic snowboarding run is the town of “Miasa” meaning “beautiful hemp.” A tiny rural hamlet in this breadbasket area, Miasa celebrates its hempen heritage with a seven bladed leaf emblazoned on the village brochure and the local museum displays scenes of hemp processing techniques common to the area until the 1950’s.

The Nagano area is home to communities of homesteaders who dropped out of city life and moved into abandoned houses in forgotten valleys. Reviving villages after a long slumber of disrepair when a generation went away to war and never returned leaving remote communities occupied with only old folks. Once the prefectural government moved them into apartment homes in nearby towns, the historic homes stood unoccupied for decades until these new residents squatted in to rebuild and keep the old customs alive.

Nowadays, this progressive element combined with the stunning scenery, make the area around the ski town of Hakuba a worthwhile visit. Summer months feature counter-culture music festivals, programs at an alternative arts retreat, plus hiking and/or paragliding through a range of jagged peaks, well-adorned with mountain huts and hot springs. Head up during the O bon holiday (mid-August) – a Shinto festival during which people visit graves of ancestors and generally party down with festivals.

The northern island of Hokkaido boasts wild cannabis, adventurous winter sports, the Sapporo brewery and more hot springs. This wild cannabis is no mid-west ditch weed, instead it is more than folklore that potent weed survives (flourishes in fact) untended in fields around the sparsely populated island.

Crafty stoners head north in early autumn to prospect and harvest quickly at night, filling trunks and driving straight back to city or holing up for a couple of days in a cabin to cure and make the sticky, seedy weed into bubble hash. The police know people do this but, there is so much land to cover, and cannabis disguised growing in so many fields that the yearly eradication and arrest programs hardly make a dent. If you are feeling dangerous, head to Hokkaido during early fall for clandestine harvest but, bear in mind that this is tricky business and not to be undertaken lightly. Otherwise, take your snowboard and enjoy Sapporo’s snow festival and beer instead.

{picture of weed drying in cabin or field with hard to see cannabis plants}

Back on Honshu, history enthusiasts must visit Kyoto, the venerable old capital city of which survived the bombings intact and is now a busy city of temples, museums and nightlife. Poets and philosophers have come here for centuries seeking knowledge and peace through aesthetic arts and meditative practice. Alternatively, Nara is a smaller and more low key city with more history, ancient temples and semi-wild deer wandering the streets and parks.

Heading down the Pacific coast, you’ll come to Okayama, served by the bullet train but cheaper to stay in, this medium sized city is a handy jumping off city for trips to Shikoku and nearby artistic exploration. Sometime called the Venice of Japan, nearby Kurashiki is a town of numerous museums including Japanese folkcraft, archaeology, toys, natural history and a eviable collection of modern modern European masters at the Ohara museum (e.g. Picasso, Pisarro, Degas, El Greco, Cezanne, Monet, Millet and Tollouse-Lautrec). Also near Okayama city is Bizen, one of a handful of traditional pottery centers in Japan with walk-in-sized kilns that look like giant wasps nests are fired for weeks at a time.

Every trip needs a reality check, in Amsterdam it is the Anne Frank House, Japan’s heavy history lesson is the atomic bomb site in Hiroshima. Besides the buzz kill, you may learn something plus Hiroshima is a good city for Okonomiyaki restaurants where you grill your own savory-pancake type creation.

From Osaka or Kobe, hop an overnight ferry to the smaller island of Shikoku featuring a sparse population, surf culture, sacred hemp fields, and the “pilgrim’s path” – 88 sacred sites spread around the island visited by white-clothed pilgrims like an oriental Road to Santiago. On the ferry, dig the Inland Sea, turquoise blue and smattered with tiny islands, while picnicking on the big open floor with new friends. Hitch and hike your way around the coast, pitch a tent on the beach, or use simple pilgrim hostels along the way and you’ll left alone to meditate on what wandering poet Issa Kobayashi meant when he wrote:

The grass around my hut also
has suffered
From summer thinness.
Just when I hear
The sundown bell,
The flower of this weed

Shikoku’s Pacific beaches have great surf and cheap land so attracts surfers and drop-outs who may not fit in with the rigorous Japanese city life, sounds like a good place to meet cannabis aficionados. Head to the south central coast for the surf town of Kochi with a restored castle and surrounded by national parks, this is a great area to let the good times roll and rent a board or explore the sandy beaches, tropical plants and unique coral and rock formations.

Inland, in Shikoku’s farming region, hunt for the clandestine hemp field growing secretly for the Imperial family’s ceremonial use. Once cannabis was made illegal by the US-occupational forces and the Hemp Control act “taima torishimari hô,” this village continued growing to preserve the sanctity of sacred Shinto rites requiring hemp as a symbol of purity including the imperial coronation ceremony several years back when they revealed their illicit field to the relief of the royal folks.

{photo of author hitchiking on Shikoku}

To discover some traditional Nihon, point your thumb towards the San-in coast from Tottori to Shimonoseki on the Sea of Japan side (or Sea of Korea depending on who you ask). A stretch of fishing and farming villages with traditional festivals – drums beaten by drunken farmers and fishermen who are back at toil hangover and all the next morn, men who will be out on the squid boats bobbing offshore with glowing lamps attracting tomorrow’s sushi.

Far away from the tourist track, you’ll find giant sand dunes complete with camels, hidden coves for snorkeling, the finest Asian pears on this planet, open air hot springs and climbing on high empty mountains

Heading further south brings you to the more tropical island of Kyushu, and further yet, the entirely culturally different island of Okinawa.

From Kyushu, catch a ferry to continue your trip to Korea from the closest point between the countries. This same area is site to pre-historic cave paintings depicting what appears to be foreigners bringing a five-leafed plant and horses to Japan. Go find the cave and decide for yourself.

Zen of Travel

Traveling well in Japan is an exercise in simplicity – pack light with versatile clothes and shoes that are comfortable but are quick to take on and off (trust me). Unless you are planning to stay in one place, don’t bring your surf/snowboard because you’ll quick grown frustrated lugging it around in confined spaces, trains, subways, rooms, lockers – everything seems just a wee bit small.

Food

If traveling on the cheap, you can buy most anything from omnipresent vending machines to sustain your journey (including beer) – indeed instant food can be tasty and purchased in the most remote places. Beverages of every description including the aforementioned coffee machine with 30 brands all sweet, milky and strong (served at 110 degrees until one day, all machine magically switch to cold coffee). Look for noodle stands for huge steaming bowls of miso ramen or udon noodles, slurped standing up. Abundant shopping markets sell prepared foods to take away and fill your belly while saving your money.

Take some chances cause you aren’t likely to find Mexican food or peanut butter. Local fruits and vegetables are much less than imported ones. Dairy products are outstanding as is tofu of course. In this land of sushi, killer seafood everywhere and most always safe and clean if sometimes a bit odd (puffer fish anyone?). Japanese beef is famous raised on beer and massage, you can enjoy it in small strips you grill on a hot plate on your restaurant table. When you get serious hungry, find an all-you-can eat curry rice joint for a mound of rice smothered with Japan-ified sweet curry laden with meat and veggies.

Crash space

Most all flights arrive in Tokyo or Osaka, if you are on a budget, get out of the big cities as fast as possible! If you have a friend’s place to crash at and who will show you around, then you’re styling, otherwise, make a smart choice or you’ll spend a lot of money staying in the city.

Besides hostels – which can be rather stale and poorly located in the city but sometimes fantastic in the countryside – you can stay at a Japanese-style “Ryokon” (an traditional bed and breakfast inn with tatami mats, kimono robes and funky food), or western-style chain hotels (some even with a strange Denny’s in the lobby), but the smart late night partier finds a handy gaudy “love hotels” which are rented for a 4 or 8 hour block – usually close by train station. Rooms are ordered in like fastfood – pictures of available rooms are lit up on a board (i.e. jungle room, bondage room), push a button to select and slide money through a window and voila, your heavenly crash pad awaits.

Once in the countryside, you can find accommodations in temples and monasteries if you are looking for some enlightenment or just a memorable night.

Getting Around

Buy a Japan Rail pass to cover the long distances – the trains range from clunky locals and to the warp-speed Shinkansen bullet train, prices range accordingly but all are timely and relatively comfy. Like a Eurorail pass, the JR pass must be purchased outside of Japan and gives you unlimited travel on most routes. Get to know the schedule to make your life easier at the manic stations and plan smart so to catch sleep en route.

The train stations are the hub of activity in any town with myriad restaurants and accommodations close by. Every station offer unique pre-prepared box lunches called “eki-ben” (literally = station box lunch), a great way to sample local cuisine while taking a slow train through new areas. Take a chance and get off at random towns to find family-run restaurants, empty beaches, historic temples and great walks up to samurai fortresses.

The overnight coach buses are another great way to cover the long distances in quiet and comfort. These ain’t no Greyhounds but rather sleek, comfy cruisers whisking you through the night to a distant destination in a whole other climate.

To get off the beaten path, get you left thumb ready to hitchhike. Thumbing around is a great way to meet people and often score a meal, or visit to their village or other adventure. Make a sign of where you are going – write in ABCs or find a friend to write the Kanji characters.

Communication

Everyone studies English for years in school but who remembers their high school Spanish, German or French lessons? Me neither.

Do not fear, with a dozen words (remember the Karate kid), much patience, and a small notebook, you’ll skid along just fine. Japanese are very impressed and grateful when anyone makes an effort to understand their unique culture and difficult language and will respond with kindness to your noble effort.

Hello: Konnichiwa (ko-NII-chi-wa
Goodbye: Ja Nae (Sayonara is more formal)
Excuse me: Suimasen (see-mah-sen)
Thanks/Thank you: arigato – domo arigato (Mr. Roboto)
How are you?: Genki desu ka? Answer: Genki desu!
Yes: Hai No: Iie
Please: Kusasai or Onegaishimasu
Foreignor: Gai-jin (or Canada-jin, American-jin, Nihon-jin, etc.)

Tokers know the word “ganja” or use “taima” (cannabis) or “marifana”
Say, “dozo” for “here you go” when passing the joint.

Arriving & Departing

You’ll likely fly in and out of Tokyo or Osaka and the officers take their immigration procedures very seriously so have your shit together. Clean your pockets and fingernails to prevent stray crumbs from your killer going away party from cutting your trip short.

Under 26-years-old Canadian, Australian and New Zealand travelers wishing an extended trip may qualify for a six-month working-holiday visa allowing you to make some money along the way. You’ll get a Gainjin Registration Card which you MUST keep with you at all times, and turn it in when you leave.

Ganja train

For me, I got caught the ganja-train in Nagano, high in the hills, stuck with a broken down van. Followed unclear directions to third-hand friends, I ended up living with a group of big city drop-outs, reinventing life in the hills. Ended up in counter culture festival in an abandoned children’s ski hill…. Teepes and psychedelics. Drums and tents, fat joints passing around – especially after the very-plain clothes cops went home. That’s when i learned about he wild Hokkaido herb. Seems too good to be true but turned out to be better than believed. I didn’t believe the story of trunk full of potent weed until an afternoon in a teepee in Nagano.

After a festival weekend, I was still in full party mode. Feeling jaded about the look of the weed, I rolled a giant joint of the weed harvested in a clandestine evening operation. The weed was seedy but sticky and dense which seemed a contradiction – thick sweet smoke, couching hard, heavy indica high…. Before I knew it, the teepee was spinning and I wasn’t sure if I channeling the ancient local shogun or the native north Americans. The festival, camping in tents, watching sunrise after all night drumming, I could’ve been anywhere.

Resources

Check out JapanHemp.org for comprehensive list of head shops and news articles and historical research.
Japan Hostel Association: http://www.jyh.or.jp/english/
Official Japan tourism: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/
Japan CANNABIS CONTROL LAW in English: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/legal_library/jp/legal_library_1994-07-15_1994-35.html

Bio

Dave Thorvald Olson is a North Vancouver-based writer and entrepreneur who also brews up the “Choogle on with Uncle Weed” podcast and made the 1997 documentary film “HempenRoad.” He’s enjoyed herb in fourteen countries on four continents so far.

Marc Emery’s press conference at BC Supreme Court pre-extradition to USA

Marc Emery hugs his "drug war widow" Jodie EmeryI attended Marc Emery’s press conference this morning before he had to surrender to the courts and while i am not a huge enthusiast of his personal style and tactics, this is a massive injustice and needs to be discussed sensibly.

Very poignant and sad to see him have to say goodbye to his wife Jodie for several years while serving time far from home in a US prison for “aliens.” Sad day for Canada and freedom advocates everywhere.

After from the remarks and questions, Marc Scott Emery was formally taken into custody and taken to a holding facility to await extradition transfer and sentencing in a US court based on a plea arrangement giving him 5 years in an “alien” jail.

He implored the assembled advocates and media to seek his transfer back to Canada to serve his sentence rather than submit to the USA punishment for the charge of selling cannabis seeds to “overgrow the government.”

Here are a few snapshots from the Marc Emery’s press conference at BC Supreme Court pre-extradition to USA on Sept. 28 2009

There were many grassroots and mainstream media assembled so i expect more audio, video and photos to come. I recorded some audio and will release on a future Choogle on podcast.

Marc Emery awaits extradition to the USA

Busted in Japan – a narrative by a Briton caught in Kansai

A quick preamble to this stunning narrative …

Taima.org Hemp Cannabis in JapanI wrote Hemp Culture in Japan which turned into a collaboration with HempMan, a German in Japan, to create a comprehensive clearinghouse of all information about Cannabis in Japan called Taima.org. This site is maintained by HempMan but in dire need to “web 2.0″i-fi-cation to make more searchable and participatory and such but i digress …

As part of my research, i get interesting things in the snail and postal mail – from angry letters from Iran PhDs to cool grow shot shots to other”researchers” wanting all my contacts.

This note though is heavy duty as this older gentleman recounts the dystopia experience of being shook down. Frustrating to be sure as no one would add any reason or sense to the process and he was cut off from most anyone but a rubber-stamping attorney.

I’ve followed up with the gentleman for some more insight, but for starters, get comfy and give this a read.

I arrived at Kansai Airport last March with around 15g of marijuana. I’d bought it in Amsterdam and thought it would be OK as I’d travelled in and out of Japan for years and never been searched – this time it was different. I don’t really know why they searched me – the sniffer dogs weren’t interested. Anyway, they discovered the stuff. Later that day they searched my apartment and discovered about 20g there in deep
freeze – pretty bland stuff and I was hoping the import from Amsterdam was going to give me a better buzz.

I was kept at Kansai kuko police station for 18 days and then transferred to Sakai detention center in southern Osaka, where I spent a further 42 days (almost 2 months in total).

Even though I’d cooperated fully with the police, confessed and didn’t try to hide anything, the prosecutor demanded a 2 year prison sentence as I had a ‘significant’ amount. I’ve lived in Japan for 18 years and this is my first offence. In the trial, the judge regarded my ‘addiction’ as a big problem as I’d admitted to first smoking cannabis when I was 19 (I’m now 54) he said he was giving me a 18 month sentence suspended for 4 years. Very surprisingly I was granted bail after the first court appearance (the hearing and presenting of evidence). This cheered me no end as it seemed to indicate the judge and prosecutor did not regard me as a danger to society. At present I’m waiting to see what Immigration has to say as they decide to deport or not.

I did try to get my lawyer to emphasise the relative ‘harmlessness’ of cannabis abuse and the fact that I had often stopped smoking – sometimes for months at a time (couldn’t buy it) and also this was a victimless crime – smoking alone in my own home. This was ignored and not brought up at the trial but I suppose the lawyer had good reasons, he was pretty indifferent about the case to begin with and only after constant prodding by friends did he start to work a bit harder. I was still amazed at the possible harshness of the sentence. According to the lawyer, the maximum penalty for smuggling or possession of cannabis is 5 years in jail and/or a 30 million yen fine.

Detention in Japan was extremely boring and there were hundreds of rules to be obeyed. Sitting on a hard floor (this is Japan – no chairs are allowed) was very uncomfortable for me. If it wasn’t for friends bringing books and a decent cushion, I may have tried suicide in detention. The food was reasonable, though. I wasn’t made to pay court costs although my lawyer charged me his ‘standard’ fee – $4500. So now I’m out of a well-paid job and a lot poorer and still have the possibility of being
kicked out of Japan.

For anyone else contemplating bringing drugs to Japan, I’d advise – DON’T take the risk. Buy it in Japan. Grow it in Japan, (seeds are ‘apparently legal’ as there is no THC – but they’re always confiscated) but DON’T bring it in. According to the web site http://www.customs.go.jp/tokyo/english/iio/iio-cased-y2006.html even amounts as small as 1g are prosecuted.

If I’d done the same in my home country (Britain), I’d probably have been kept overnight in a cell or simply cautioned and then released – the police there have far better things to do with their time. The Japanese police throw huge amounts of money (and police time) at these prosecutions and my ‘file’ was 4 inches thick at the end, with scores of colour photos and colour copies of my diary, travel notebook etc. There were at least 3 complete copies produced. My home was searched by 10 officers for 90 minutes – while they discovered cannabis seeds hidden in a box, they failed to find a large bong filled with cannabis and may not have found my deep-freeze stash if I hadn’t pointed it out!

Police here seem to rely on confessions and don’t seem to have the ability or desire to ‘investigate’ cases thoroughly – which is why many Japanese kids ‘stonewall’ the cops, when arrested.

More on this topic:

Japan Bud wild in HokkaidoFor more hemp on Japan, listen to Japanese Mountain Satori Time – Choogle on #48 & International Heads and Hemp Oil – Choogle on #34

Hemp Culture in Japan a 1992-7 ground-breaking treatise on the history and cultural significance of hemp in Japan. Hemp Culture in Japan is available in .html or .pdf.

For alternate versions, visit Taima.org, a site dedicated to Hemp in Japan. Published in Cannabis Culture magazine (#13 & Best of …), the Journal of International Hemp Association (V.4 N.1) as well as excerpted in several books including Hemp Horizons and “Hanp” from Norway and Hemp for Victory from UK.

Barcelona Travel Tips for tokers and foodies

Some amigos are Barcelona-bound and since i’ve been to this fine city, i’ve assembled a few travel tips and resources for them. Ergo:

Stuff to See:
Picasso’s museum – a wide-ranging collection from youth paintings to pottery to blue period classics by the local boy made good housed in a classic manor house

Antonin Gaudi’s architecture – especially Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia – this master is less known in the west but will blow your mind with melting buildings and a bewildering rethinking of space and material

Goudi's Sagrada Familia Goudy's Parc Guell in Barcelona

Las Ramblas – this is *the* main strolling drag of the city, put on big sunglasses and stop a dozen times for a glass of wine here, tapas there, rent a chair to gaze a little while, take your time – every one else is …

Make sure to:

Eat lots of Gelato – better for ya then ice cream so eat more! a variety of flavors makes hard to choose especially when each is laden with fresh fruit

Tip the posers – along Las Ramblas you’ll see are elaborately-costumed street performers striking poses for tips – throw in your coin and get a brief performance and a chance for a photo

Mmmm ham – it seems in every cafe you’ll see ham aging, tied from ceilings – this marbled meat is served impossibly thin and tasty and makes a great picnic – This guy agrees

Tapas – the aforementioned ham along with hundreds of other small tasty snacks are the norm for eating – be sure to stop along the way for one or many of these small appetizer plates most are displayed in counter case for easy ordering

La Boqueria Market – this meandering indoor market displays the finest the region has to offer from fresh seafood to whole piglets – load up with bread, cheese, meat, olives and Mediterranean fruit for a vast movable feast

I haven’t even mentioned the street musicians in cobbled courtyards, the happening late night vibe, the cable car over the harbour, the fabulous beaches, Columbus statue, clubs and pubs galore, huge steaming paella feasts …

More Tourist Resources:
Dopefiend’s trip to Barcelona – Dopecast #81

Doepfiend in BarcelonaHe says: “In a special Dopecast partially live from the scenic surroundings of the Port Vell in Beautiful Barcelona, the Web’s Favourite Cannabis Commentator tells what makes Barcelona an ideal stoner location and re-lives some favourite memories of the city while smoking some very tasty Moroccan pollen.”

Bonus: Uncle Weed’s podcast with the Dopefiend and Max Freakout  – Choogle On #38

Tourcaster – Getting To Know BarcelonaGetting to Know Barcelona feed

National Geographic Walks of a Lifetime (.mp3)

“Take a ramble with Traveler on tree-lined Las Ramblas, a thoroughfare in Barcelona that actually incorporates five streets and comprises one of Europeâs most electric pedestrian foot fairs. Some say it’s the most famous street in Spain. For our money, it’s one of the world’s greatest promenades–with no intersections and no motor vehicles. Our walk can take you several hours–or all day–depending on how much you decide to sample the city’s world-class art, street performers, and tapas bars. And if you venture the route at night, well, you’ll probably see the sunrise before you get home.”

Rick Steves’ Travel in Europe podcast on Spanish travel and culture

You probably already know that the flamenco, Sunday evening bullfights, tapas, and sangria are some of the flavors of Spain. Now, as part of the European Union, Spain is a re-energized democracy that might also provide us examples for coping with the threats of terrorism.
Also, we’ll learn how the Spanish tradition of taking a midday nap — the siesta — has been helping Spaniards beat stress for centuries…and how its days may be numbered in modern, urban culture. Julio Astor of the Spanish Tourism Board joins Rick to explain the role of “the siesta.”

Thanks to my Mom on Flickr for Barcelona photos
Here’s an interesting Barcelona tag on Flickr in case you want fancier photos

Ross’ New Job: Snowboarder Rebagliati starts camp in Kelowna

This press release came across the wire about my sorta-acquanitance Ross Rebagliati’s new gig as the snowboard guru for Kelowna Mountain.

ross regbliatti at 2002 olympics

Coffee talk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati

In my article for Heads magazine about Ross’ quest for Team Canada for 2010 [“Rebagliati Positive about 2010″ in Heads, the marijuana lifestyle magazine] and Olympic Outsider interview [Coffeetalk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati – Olympic Outsider #3], i pointed out how sharp, healthy and communicative the youthful Rebagliati is.

As such, this is a wicked smart move by Kelowna Mountain as Ross brand appeal is still massively high (no pun), and this is a great deal for Ross who can solidify his role as the elder statesman of Snowboard culture and the resort business.

Ross article - Heads magazine coverRoss article, Heads magazineRoss article, Heads magazine, pg. 2

His RASTA brand of camps and gear will also benefit from the increased exposure and the will be evidenced in the super-skilled and chilled boarders graduating from his dojo.  Anyhow, read it up and enjoy.

Ross Rebagliati Named New Snowboard and Ski Director for Kelowna Mountain

July 3, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

KELOWNA – The world’s first Olympic snowboarding champion will be training future Olympians at a four-seasons residential resort planned for Kelowna.

Ross Rebagliati, B.C.’s Olympic gold medalist from the 1998 Nagano Games, is the new Director of Snowboarding and Skiing for Kelowna Mountain. Rebagliati lived in Whistler for 17 exciting and productive years.

Ross and his wife Alexandra plan to share their time between Whistler and the Okanagan. Alexandra worked as a realtor in Whistler with Macdonald Realty and will continue to work with Macdonald Realty in Kelowna.

“We believe having Ross join us is a real coup for Kelowna,” said Kelowna Mountain co-owner Nicola Consiglio.

“With Ross on board, we know we’ll have a top-notch facility,” said co-owner Mark Consiglio. “We’re also excited about supporting Ross as he trains young people for the Olympics.”

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Rebagliati. “I’ve known Mark for 10 years and I’m excited about being part of the Kelowna Mountain team.”

The Rebagliati Alpine Snowboard Training Academy (RASTA) will officially open next year at Kelowna Mountain. The training academy will focus on riders of all levels who are looking to improve in the sport of snowboarding. For more information on RASTA camps, please e-mail rasta@rossrebagliati.com or phone 250.870.2792.

Rebagliati has been hired to design and manage the snowboard and ski operations at Kelowna Mountain, an exciting, youth-amenities-oriented residential resort at the corner of Chute Lake Road and Gillard Forestry Road in the Upper Mission neighbourhood.

More on Ross Rebagliati:
Born: July 14, 1971, North Vancouver, B.C.
Vitals: 5-10, 180 pounds
2005 – Inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame
1998 – Olympic Gold Medal, Nagano, Japan
1997 – 1st place, World Cup Giant Slalom, Whistler
1996 – 1st place, World Cup Super G, Whistler
1996 – 1st place, World Cup GS, Sestriere
1991- Canadian Amateur Snowboard Champion

As an active member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ross has helped grant the wishes of children from as far away as Florida. Ross’ name and offer of a snowboard lesson can be seen on silent auction ballots for many charities. Ross is an active participant at annual events hosted by the Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver and Kids Help Phone.