Tag Archives: entreprenuership

Talking Social Business and Egyptian Revolution on Global TV

For my day-job, i shared some thoughts about the company’s role in the Egyptian revolution on Global TV – along with defraying some nonsensical rumour mongering about a guy in a hoodie buying a hotdog. I’d share more about this but if you really care, you’ll find it elsewhere.

From related video article from Global BC | Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg takes a bite out of Vancouver as speculation swirls (sic):

Meanwhile, rumours abound about what lured the 27-year-old to the Great White North.

Gossip hounds first suggested he could be here to pursue buying social media dashboard HootSuite — a rumour that was shot down in an Oct. 10 tweet by the Vancouver company’s CEO Ryan Holmes: “@facebook iosn’t buying @hottsuite anytime soon.”

Read it on Global News: Global BC | Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg takes a bite out of Vancouver as speculation swirls

NOTE: if the video was embeddable, i’d add it here ;(

Rockstar Training School – Tips for Managing and Inspiring Interns (from InternMatch)

Written as a day-job project for InternMatch.com and posted on my birthday, Aug. 16, 2011, archived here for the record as this was an epic labour of importance to me. I’ve wanted to create an “former intern club” of some kind to keep an eye on all those i mentor to some degree, but for now, this is my distillation of most of the tactics i use to keep the train chooglin’ forward in the workplace. If you like, tweet or comment on the Internmatch version.

Rockstar Training School – Tips for Managing and Inspiring Interns (from InternMatch)

Guest Post By Dave Olson, Community Marketing Director of HootSuite.com

Hootsuite2

From start-ups to established enterprises, there’s rarely enough time for all the tasks and new initiatives on your list. Investing time to find quality interns can be an ideal solution… if done correctly. If you aren’t prepared to integrate your helper correctly, you’ll end up micro-managing and draining your time – while also demotivating the once-eager intern.

Over 15 years running marketing and community teams I’ve sponsored dozens of internships and along the way, found future employees, ideal collaborators and even a few friends. I’ve also dealt with under-performers and a few disgruntled slackers who can negatively affect your company culture.

From these experiences, I’ve compiled key nuggets of wisdom to help your company reap quality contributions from an intern who truly enjoys their challenging work experience.

Remember, you can’t spell INTERNET without INTERN.

Hire Like an Employee

Post intern openings the same as paid openings with expected qualifications, application process and defined roles. This shows you are taking the search seriously and not just looking for a warm body to do menial tasks. Remove the mystery and set the expectation and you’ll start off right.

Hootsuite4

Introduce Loudly

On their first day, introduce them to your team in an email – be sure to include personal interests and previous experience as well as an overview of the sorts of tasks they’ll work on. This helps the intern feel valuable and sends a message to your team to start collaborating right away.

Upfront with Terms

My internships are (almost) always non-paid. Opinions throughout the industry differ on this point, but it’s your choice to make. Just ensure you are clear about the terms from the beginning. If you don’t have budget, let them know and explain the types for benefits they’ll receive from their efforts: Internships are valuable learning experiences and a great way to get a foot in the door of competitive industries.

Give them a Title

Sadly “intern” is sometimes used  as a synonym for “lackey” – this can be de-motivating and even embarrassing for your diligent helper. Instead, bestow a title upon them which describes their role. These titles can be fun but not condescending. At HootSuite, many Interns work on international outreach so we call them International Community Ambassadors. When you introduce them, use their title to show respect for their efforts.

Specific Tasks

While this seems obvious… Assign your padowans specific tasks with meaning and deadlines. By clearly defining to-dos, you not only keep Interns from spending their days on YouTube, but you give them valuable benchmarks of learning and achievement. We use Basecamp to organize tasks for employees and intern to a granular level.

Reports for Accountability

Each Intern should have a weekly report to fill out (I use Google forms which populate a spreadsheet) and measure some empirical evidence of their work as well as providing space for their ideas and insights and a grade their “happiness level.” This process holds them accountable, shows that their work matters and allows you to get in front of any problems whether for work or personal burn out (especially for international interns far from home).

Farm System

Hoot Suite1

For start-ups, Interns can fill a critical role to get a product out and promoted on a limited budget. For established companies, they can populate a “farm system” for entry-level employees similar to a sports teams’ minor league affiliate. Interns allow you to cultivate a new batch of talent and “taste test” a number of candidates to see how they react in real-life work situations before committing to a contract.

Coffee is your Job

Do I ever ask interns to fetch me coffee? Almost never. This task is a menial “make work” task for them and (honestly) going for a cup of coffee is one of the best parts of your day. Instead, invite your intern out for a chat over a beverage and everyone wins. Also, make sure they are invited for company events, after-work beer sessions and other “team building” activities – it’ll pay off with passion.

Mentor your Padowan

You are receiving free (or cheap) labor and in exchange, you should share you experience, feedback and inside tips and tactics. Go beyond the simple assignments and take the time to explain the “why” beyond the “what” and “how.” Giving this contextual meaning to their tasks will help them emotionally invest in the project. But don’t coddle– they are humans, not puppies, and your real advice will be of more use than unwarranted compliments.

Part of a Legacy

One by one, Interns come and Interns go, but let your newbs know the legacy they are continuing. We tell stories and share photos of past Interns. For example: one intern left a Danish national soccer team jersey as a gift. Now, this is awarded to the Intern who has shown “heart and soul and tenacity” for the week and is handed off by one recipient to the next… Make an intern hall of fame gallery to connect the people to one another and you may find they end up as virtual friends.

Overwhelm (& Support)

From day one, give them a list of tasks. They won’t gravitate or complete all of them but you’ll quickly learn where their skills are. Make sure they know how to get help from others and at what point to come to you for assistance – without bothering you. Schedule :15 catchup sessions to avoid slow downs.

Lackey Work

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I promise each new recruit that every task I assign to them is something I’ve done many times before – from stuffing envelopes to assembling desks, the jobs might sound mundane but if they know you’ve done the boring stuff too, they’ll understand it’s all part of the process and culture of a start-up.

Parting Gift

Since your Interns are non-paid, you want to ensure you provide some career assistance when they need it. This starts with a Linkedin recommendation and well-thought-out letter. Plus send a Tweet publicly to thank them and recommend them to other companies and offer yourself as a reference for jobs.

Field Trips

If someone really stepped up, introduce them to industry peers, either by email or by bringing them along to speaking gigs so they can make an impression in person. Tip: Start-up accelerators and incubators with newly funded companies are a great next step for your star Interns seeking work.

Keep in Touch

Remember each intern comes from a unique background and you can (and should) help elevate and fast-track them into the job world. Follow their career with interest once they are gone and invite them back for a coffee or office party.

Talking Hoot and Start-ups in Toronto with Techvibes

While on a biz trip to Toronto, I sat down for “5 Questions” with Karim Kanji of Techvibes at the EPIC restaurant (Epic is the name, not my description) at the Royal York Hotel. I manage to dispense some advice, offer props to iPadio (podcasting web app of Olympic Outsider), Sarah Prevette of Sprouter, and T.O. ex-pat Dave Delaney (dayjob= Griffin).

Go ahead and watch, it’s short and cheerful.

Bonus: Beers at the EPIC
beers at EPIC at Royal York in Toronto

Same bus, different stop – Trading Kits for Railtown

“The key to a perfect ending is knowing when to roll the credits” Drive By Truckers #

geared for traveling
Keep it light enough to travel

My ukulele-playing pal in Guam would always begin his humourous anecdotes on the boat with “so there i was … ” In this case, my story begins thusly, “so there i was, recording a podcast along the banks of Rice Lake, reflecting on the past year and figuring out my next move – i walked home and then the craziest thing happened in the form of an email from Mexico.”  (here’s the podcast: Festive Greetings to Ice Fishermen – Choogle On #82).

Of all the things i mentioned in the podcast, the note of “staying at one job for the year” struck me as funny. Yup, here we were a year ago New Year, New Gig ~ Moving closer to Self-Actualization in Kitsilano with the media chiming in and high-fives around. And, like a diligent dude, I gave er a full-on effort and left with a list of checked off accomplishment longer than i woulda predicted.

But, in short, i knew i was under-utilizing my passions and wanted to be a little part of something a little more in tune with my love of helping artists and entrepreneurs learn how to grow audience and share their work. In many ways, i’ve moved around dot-coms seeking something as mighty and fun as my first big internety success in Olympia WA ~ Yup, best is working hard with respected friends while providing a service which help all sorts of people fulfil the ambitions – like selling tools to the miners rather than ice to Inuit.

Changing Movies

smart cut bench

Without unneeded details, the ensuing weeks were a whirlwind of giving notice to my gig in Kits, finishing up several big projects, hopping the train to the secret village, paying respects to departed brewer Dick Young and Pe Ell ringleader Lee Roy, interviewing rock n roll younglings Numbskulz and surviving a bus ride back up.

Then i added a maraschino cherry to my professional sundae by publishing the Social Promotion for Movies guide (go ahead and download) and presented to a group of producers (slides) before turning in my laptop and walking out onto the Granville St. evening ~ aflutter with festive bunting.

The next morning, I hopped on the same bus as usual but hopped off a different stop to begin spreading the gospel of the owl as Community Wrangler for HootSuite – a social media dashboard + professional twitter tool which I’ve used since early release and evangelized far and wide to interns, friends and clients.

Kitsilano Flashbacks

I will miss lunchtime walks in Kits and taking a seat in the community gardens along the track – i also worked with a sterling cast of characters at various times in a transitory environment. But I won’t miss trying to change an industry which is resistant (and even hostile) to the web as a communication, distribution and promotion medium.

vancouver skyline

A few highlights for your perusal:

Showing up

I introduced myself to the world at the new gig and laid out my big ideas with: HootSuite adds Owls – I’m DaveO, Community Wrangler and the kind accolades via Twitter, FB, comments and every other channel was truly mighty and a real treat to be honest. {thanks to each of you}

I’d kept the news quiet and tipped off Rob Lewis at TechVibes broke the “news” {thanks} in Dave Olson joins HootSuite as Community Director:

One week after announcing that they raised $1.9 Million from VCs and Angels, HootSuite is putting that money to work and have hired Dave Olson as their new Community Director.

Olson will be responsible for overseeing marketing, outreach, and support for HootSute and already has a number of educational and aspirational campaigns planned to evangelize the social media dashboard to content makers.

Olson was an early user of the initial Bright Kit tool and has actively used HootSuite for promoting his own projects – so this appears to be a perfect fit on both sides.

Up in until very recently, Olson was with Vancouver startup MovieSet – he wrapped up his duties there just last night after presenting a white paper called Social Promotion for Movies to the Canadian Film and TV Producers BC branch.

Olson made some noteworthy improvements at MovieSet during his time there and will no doubt continue overachieving in 2010 with HootSuite.

Hitchhiking to the Boardroom – Presentation Pitch for SXSWi10

Dave Olson at SXSW F@ck Stats Make Art 2008
Find the plane where Awesum & Audience intersect

Here’s my (Dave Olson’s) submission to SXSW Interactive 2010 – Starting August 10, you’ll have a chance to vote for SXSW Panels and Presentations until Aug. 28th and your vote constitutes a portion of the selection process along with staff and an advisory board.

After the enjoyment of presenting F@ck Stats, Make Art spiel at SXSWi 2009 (which garnered favourable reviews BTW), I mulled over my options and have some pretty entertaining in mind which will entice me to dig deep in my older travel files and more modern Internet biz binders of artifacts to support my story-telling.

For F@ck Stat, Make Art, i went fully analog with no projectors, laptops etc. but this time i will  use some photos to share what i have in mind including stories from time spent as mushroom farmer in Japan, beach club host in Guam, searching for the kind in Palau, gathering grapes and chestnuts in Germany or following the Grateful Dead through the hinterlands of America in a VW bus.

Listen to a recap of my SXSW 2009 core conversation and after-hours hi-jinks in SXSW Stories from Middle Earth – Choogle On #79 podcast.

Also for your voting consideration:

Art = craft + intent x integrity
Art = craft + intent x integrity

Details of pitch:

Title of panel or presentation (maximum 8 words):

Hitchhiking to the Boardroom

50 word description of this panel / presentation

Not all business lessons are learned in an MBA program, nor management skills gained in seminars. This inter-disciplinary conversation distills a decade of working odd jobs in 20+ countries, followed by 14 years of Internet biz endeavors, into unique problem-solving skills as well as inspire attendees with a replenished toolbox of usable tactics.

10 questions that will be answered in this panel / presentation

  1. How can I reach the top without a fancy degree?
  2. Why should you bring “yourself” to work?
  3. How do you diffuse a$$holes (especially when they are your boss)?
  4. How can I find mentors, teachers and miracles?
  5. How can I develop recession-proof business ideas?
  6. What are the advantages of communicating with an audience in their language?
  7. Why should I forget pre-conceptions and surprise myself?
  8. Why is an inter-disciplinary perspective important?
  9. Why should I consider hitting the road (and not look back)?
  10. How can I figure out what truly matters to me – and make it happen?

50-word bio for this speaker

Dave Olson is a world-traveling renaissance guy who has published essays, poetry and fiction, wrote and produced a documentary film, and traveled to 20+ countries working jobs from mushroom farmer to private beach club host. An experienced story-teller, Dave’s presentation style is unique, visually compelling and free of jargon, cheesy buzzwords and bulleted lists.

get out of the cublicle you deserve more!
get out of the cublicle you deserve more! (photo KK)

I am qualified to speak on this topic because:

{pardon the 3rd person} An experienced media pundit, Dave made dozens of TV/radio/newspaper appearances discussing web media technology, public policy activism, entrepreneurship, hockey and more on outlets ranging from CBC to BBC to High Times.

Most recently, he’s worked as a professional web community builder and marketing evangelist for a variety Vancouver web companies.

He regularly speaks at events and conferences about using technology to enable artistic expression and using social media for social change.

He graduated in 2004 from the noted Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington with a degree in Inter-disciplinary studies after studying public policy, philosophy, global affairs and writing – he also attended the Universities of Utah and Guam.

A podcasting pioneer, Dave creates several long-running series including Postcards from Gravelly Beach – a spoken word literature show, Choogle on! – gonzo international sound-seeing adventures, and Canucks Outsider, a wildly-popular audio magazine about Vancouver hockey culture.

Has this person spoken at SXSW before?

Yes – See the recap of F@ck Stats, Make Art at SXSW 2009

Spieling to the People of SXSW 09
Spieling to the People of SXSW 09- photo by KK

The scales of sharing - Free for Taking or Dont Take
The scales of sharing - Free for Taking or Don't Take

Recent Publications:

  • Depth Perception (poetry) – 2009
  • Letters from Russia (epistolary lit) – 2006
  • The First Rule of Longboard Hockey is … – Heads Magazine 2007
  • Rebagliati Positive for 2010 – Head Magazine 2006
  • Zen Rambling in Japan – Heads Magazine 2006
  • Hemp Culture in Japan – Cannabis Culture 2000

For Your SXSW Voting Consideration:

Seeking a Handmade Holiday Gift? Mavili’s Hat and Scarves at Lonsdale Quay

Mavili sells his handmade hats and scarves at Lonsdale Quay during the holidays and reports place him at other markets from time to time. His hats and scarves make great festive gifts and your money is going to a decent man working hard at his craft.

Get on the SeaBus at Waterfront Station for a :15 harbour cruise with a market at the other side where you’ll see Mavili and other fine vendors and fishmongers. Here are a few photos of Lonsdale Quay and North Vancouver etc.

His hats are made from the finest materials (mostly wool) and the workmanship is old-world outstanding – he is often sewing right on site!

This year, his booth he is on a cross aisle in the Quay Market near the bank machine – do not confuse him with the cheap knock of hats vendor. (BTW, Mavili only takes cash so the bank machine is well placed).

Here’s his photo for the record:

Mavili the Hatmaker at Lonsdale quay

He makes hats and scarves in various styles for gentlemen and ladies – i am partial to the designs with earflaps cause my ears stay warm and i feel like Holden Caulfied in Catcher in the Rye.

Some kind Choogle on podcast fans purchased this one for me as a gift. Alas i lost it.

Fortunately Mavili made me a custom made new version with a few minor changes for ever more ruggedness!

Last year i purchased colour and style matched hats for all my brothers who were all pleased. I wear one of his hats each day and am now a proud owner of a matching hat and scarf set while my brother Dan got another lid for his collection.

bros with new hats

Support this talented artisan this festive season and be sure to tell him i said hello!

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Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun writes about the Emerging Medical Cannabis Economy

This is simply too important of an article to not spread around. Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun is the only MSM journalist in Vancouver who really speaks out sensibly and professionally about the pragmatic economics and realistic public policy options about cannabis in BC and Canada.

Thanks Ian for excellent work (PS Would you like to be a guest on a Choogle on podcast?)

Copied from the Vancouver Sun article: A bright green spot in the economy

A bright green spot in the economy

With courts striking down the government’s monopoly on supplying medical marijuana, private growers are clamouring to capitalize on pot’s commercial potential

Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Photo: Various types of marijuana are offered by former NDP candidate Dana Larsen at his marijuana dispensary on East Hastings Street. He says the medical pot market is about to expand.CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun “Various types of marijuana are offered by former NDP candidate Dana Larsen at his marijuana dispensary on East Hastings Street. He says the medical pot market is about to expand.”

DUNCAN – Eric Nash can barely contain his excitement waiting to hear from Health Canada whether he can start growing marijuana for 250 patients.

That would be just the start. There are tens of thousands more who are ailing across the country clamouring for his organic B.C. bud.

“There is a great opportunity here for the government to collect significant tax revenue currently being lost to the street market,” Nash, one of the best-known legal cannabis producers, enthused.

“With the current global financial crisis, this court ruling is certainly a bright light in dark economic times. We’re just waiting for clarification. I figure our production would increase significantly from several pounds to 150 pounds or more immediately.”

Now that the Federal Court of Appeal has struck down the government’s monopoly on supplying medical marijuana, Nash believes commercial agricultural production of pot is around the corner and the sky’s the limit.

His local company, Island Harvest, has cleared the industrial security regulatory hurdles so the company meets the standards set by Ottawa to grow the much-demonized plant.

“Our vision is to have a sustainable commercial agriculture operation,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t achieve that. Look at the number of compassion clubs, look at the number of people using marijuana to relieve a headache or pre-menstrual cramps!”

More and more research is supporting previous anecdotal evidence that cannabis may have a wide range of therapeutic uses from the treatment of Alzheimer’s, depression, glaucoma, epilepsy and cancer to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and ADD/ADHD. Its most ardent promoters say cannabis may be an addition to the modern pharmacopeia that rivals Aspirin in the breadth of its applications.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize the potential profits are staggering.

Until now, the government’s poorly administered medical program has artificially depressed that market by making it difficult for patients to qualify, supplied what many consider poor-quality marijuana and imposed an arbitrary restriction on qualified licensed growers to supplying only two patients.

Doctors, too, have exacerbated the situation with their reluctance to prescribe marijuana, claiming they have no guide on dosage or the usual pharmaceutical medical studies to rely on. That is changing, slowly.

Nash explained there have been three relatively recent, serious analyses of the medical marijuana market, which give an idea of its scope and potential.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal did a survey in 2000 and estimated the number of self-medicating marijuana patients to be 1.9 per cent of the population; a Price Waterhouse report prepared for Health Canada two years later concluded it was more like four per cent of the population, and a report in 2004 by a member of the federal government’s advisory committee on pot suggested the reality was closer to seven per cent.

(Health Canada, after eight years, has issued roughly 2,500 exemption permits to needy patients.)

Regardless, Nash said, based on the four-per-cent model, that puts sales at more than $400 million annually.

More optimistic projections say the medical market, including ancillary products such as vaporizers and paraphernalia, could be as high as $20 billion.

Add it up: The government sells maybe $1 million a year worth of the pot produced in a Manitoba mine, and compassion clubs across the country sell about $10 million worth of cannabis products.

By far the vast majority of patients who need marijuana as a medicine continue to buy their drugs from the black market. It’s a crazy situation: imagine if diabetics had to go to a corner dealer to score insulin.

That’s one of the fundamental reasons behind the court ruling Oct. 27: the medical marijuana program set up by Ottawa at the turn of the millennium isn’t working.

The government adopted the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) and accompanying bureaucracy in 2001. It has modified it since then in the face of judicial warnings that it was constitutionally inadequate, but it still can’t pass muster.

The courts find that offensive.

This new judgment heralds a tectonic shift in the country’s medical-marijuana regulatory regime and perhaps even the drug laws. It may even invalidate the cannabis prohibition.

Two B.C. Supreme Court justices sitting on separate cases (one about simple possession, the other production and trafficking) are currently seized with that question.

If they agree that because a section of medical program is unconstitutional the criminal law cannot be enforced, it would also mark the triumph of a Trojan horse strategy by cannabis activists to achieve legalization by expanding medical access.

Just as liquor was once obtained via prescription, cannabis could be regulated in a similar fashion, obviating the need for a criminal prohibition.

No matter how you look at it, the federal court decision promises an economic boon immediately for the hundreds of legal cannabis producers and increased opportunity for many others.

Nash said it was good news for both the consumer and producer.

The former government communications worker and his partner, Wendy Little, have been growing since 2002 and proselytizing longer than that. Their book Sell Marijuana Legally is a huge hit; they created an online users’ group for patients and growers, and they teach courses.

But medical growers across the country have been restricted, a policy that results in a huge gift of revenue to organized crime.

B.C. BUD’S STAGGERING NUMBERS

Stephen Easton, an economist at Simon Fraser University and with the Fraser Institute, has done the most respected work on the size of the domestic pot industry.

He sat down earlier this year in Denny’s with one of B.C.’s biggest dealers and went over his numbers.

“He figured it out differently than I did, using lights and ballasts,” Easton said. “But he worked out the numbers with me and it all worked out. He told me it was very close. He was quite surprised. I was very happy about that. We had a really good talk. He was really helpful for me.”

Since Easton’s original estimates, the domestic marijuana market has undergone some changes, but nothing cataclysmic.

“The fluctuations in the dollar are the main economic factor,” he said. “It has gone up and down and that pushes these guys.”

For most of the last few years, the most significant factor has been the various improvements in border security triggered by the 9/11 terrorist strikes.

In the 1990s and even throughout the early part of this decade, tons and tons of Canadian marijuana flooded into the U.S. market carried by anyone with moxy and a decent plan.

People were backpacking across with as much weed as they could carry in the Interior, or kayaking across with a stash of bud worth as much as emeralds.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Canadian pot market doubled in size fuelled primarily by the increased hydroponic production of B.C. bud.

Nationally, we apparently spent $1.8 billion toking up — just shy of the $2.3 billion we burned on tobacco.

By 2006, when he did his calculations, Easton said the numbers indicated a provincial wholesale market of $2.2 billion. You could increase that to $7.7 billion retail if consumers paid top dollar for their bud.

That dwarfed any other B.C. agricultural product.

The result on the street was easy to see: a proliferation of gangs duly documented by the RCMP, as every crook plucked what Easton called “the low-hanging fruit.”

The tightening of the border has had several effects.

Not just everyone can take it across now, with underground sensors, heightened air traffic scrutiny and the deployment of the military. Smuggling now is more the purview of the very organized and the very desperate.

At the same time, U.S. authorities have charted the rise of their own domestic production as American states relaxed enforcement and sentencing — the opposite of the 1980s and 1990s when their stiff attitude drove marijuana growers north.

In California alone, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and San Francisco all have officially told police to make marijuana offences their lowest priority.

EVOLVING PRODUCTION

Pot production in California rivals Canada’s total output.

Similar initiatives have been adopted in other states and cities such as Seattle, Denver and even Missoula, Mont.

With the north-south route to market more problematic, more B.C. bud has moved east to feed eastern appetites or find a less monitored area of the border before turning south. The Mounties have responded by increasing surveillance along the Trans-Canada on the Prairies, resulting in large seizures.

By far the biggest factor in the marijuana market in recent years, however, has been the revolution in production — the ease, predictability and most importantly the portability that has come with advances in indoor cultivation that mean great weed can be grown anywhere.

The RCMP have been reporting huge busts in Eastern Canada as production has sprouted in the Maritimes and Ontario, reducing their appetite for West Coast pot.

In Ontario, whose provincial production is said to have surpassed B.C.’s, authorities have uncovered two separate operations each capable of producing $100 million worth of cannabis a year.

B.C. bud ruled in the 1990s when the underground marijuana trade was responsible for keeping afloat many small communities buffeted by resource-market gales.

Our pot even had cachet even up until four or five years ago but these days, be you in Charlottetown or Joe Batt’s Arm, Nfld., you can easily obtain good seeds and fail-safe equipment and within a few months be producing marijuana to rival B.C.’s best.

Nevertheless, Easton explained, when you are looking at a commodity and domestic production, it’s all about the money.

The rise of the dollar in recent years worked against growers and exporters, but its recent fall provides an upward fillip.

“I imagine with all the market turmoil the domestic marijuana industry will pick up a bit,” Easton said. “it’s just had a 15-to-20-per-cent bump in two months.”

Some estimates in the 1990s suggested as much as 50 cents of every dollar generated in some Kootenay towns could be traced directly to pot.

With the international financial tempest wreaking havoc again with commodity prices, B.C. bud may yet help ride out the storm but probably not to the same extent.

“We’ll just have to watch housing prices in Nelson,” Easton laughed.

MEXICO CONSIDERING LEGALIZATION

Sitting in Kitsilano eating breakfast before meeting the city’s police board, former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Celerino Castillo III nodded his head furiously.

“Yes, yes, it’s all about the money,” he said. “The money, it’s all so corrupt.”

Castillo spent 12 years in the USDA infiltrating Manhattan drug rings, destroying jungle cocaine labs and training anti-narcotics agents. The climax of his career was pulling the curtain back on drug-smuggling by the Nicaraguan Contras with links to Lt.-Col. Oliver North and the CIA.

From the Amazon to the slums of Mexico City to the ghettos of America, Castillo has had a front-row seat on the western hemisphere’s drug world and come to the conclusion it’s time to abandon our current approach.

Mexico is again considering legalization because of the violence and social upheaval caused by illicit drug trafficking, and Canada should be headed down the same path, he says. So should South America and, of course, the U.S.

The money is too corrosive.

“The corruption is everywhere — every month we arrest a law enforcement official, every month,” he insisted, “whether it’s a border patrol agent or a customs agent or a DEA agent or an FBI agent. We arrest a law enforcement officer once a month, It’s huge. The amount of money is just so big. ‘I have a mortgage to pay, I have to send my kids to college.’ That’s always the excuse.”

He shakes his head.

He explained that in his state, drug couriers once arrived with suitcases of cash to deposit in local banks: “Now they buy the banks. Especially now with this upheaval. Who else has the ready cash?”

He laughed.

“But that’s actually how they’re money-laundering today — they buy a bank,” Castillo added. “There’s no way we can keep up.”

In retirement, Castillo has become a featured speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an association of former police, corrections and judicial officers who want to change drug policy.

“There’s more production, more product and more of everything than there ever was. The war on drugs doesn’t work,” he said.

“All I’m hoping for is people to start to listen and educate themselves about what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I know first-hand. I’ve seen it from an agent’s point of view.

“It’s affecting and destroying a lot of families. For 40 years we’ve been trying this John Wayne approach and it’s not working. The bottom line: There are a lot more drugs today than we had 40 years ago.”

‘THESE ARE THE DEALING TABLES’

Dana Larsen ushers me into his new marijuana dispensary in the 800 block of East Hastings Street.

The former NDP candidate, who stepped down during the federal election when his recreational drug use was publicized, has renovated the run-down storefront and is promoting a new compassion club.

Like Nash, he thinks the medical pot market is about to expand exponentially and legally.

“There’s no smoking in here,” he said as he showed me around the spartan office. “But there’s a vapour lounge two doors down in the Seed Bank where you can light up after you leave.”

There is a modest reception area and a large back room. It’s clean but unfinished.

“These are the dealing tables,” he said, pointing to a handful of folding tables separated by office screens to provide a measure of privacy.

He laughed.

“I guess I should call them dispensing tables.”

Larsen, who used to be the leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party and Prince of Pot Marc Emery’s lieutenant, thinks the time has come to move into the medical field.

“I think there’s enough of a market in town to support another dispensary,” Larsen said.

“There are more than enough patients who need reliable, quality cannabis products than the current two clubs in the city provide.”

His menu of cannabis products included six strains of dried marijuana, four kinds of hash, two pot products in capsules and double-strength bon-bons — cannabis-infused organic chocolates.

The pot ranged in price from $7.50 a gram for Pine Cross up to $8 a gram for Sweet Tooth; pressed Kif (soft hash made with a sieve) went for $8 a gram; and very potent Bubblehash, which was extracted using water and ice rather than a sieve, went for $25 a gram.

In Oakland, Calif., the private dispensaries that support the state’s medical marijuana program are said to be generating revenues in excess of $70 million a year.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA COULD HELP THE SICK

Michelle Rainey is one of roughly 2,500 Canadians with a licence to possess and use marijuana. She’s also a celebrity in the medical marijuana world and on YouTube.

Rainey has Crohn’s disease and finds her home-grown pot an effective replacement for her previous expensive regimen of pharmaceutical drugs.

She believes the country’s health-care system could save a fortune if there was a working medical marijuana program, and those who could benefit from cannabis could easily shift away from other medications.

The roughly 110,000 Canadians suffering from Crohn’s disease and the 90,000 living with ulcerative colitis, for example, are estimated to spend $162 million a year for prescription drugs.

Many of those people are already benefiting from marijuana, Rainey said, but many, many more could be.

Consider too that many battling cancer and HIV/AIDS find edible cannabis products work to stimulate the appetite, but they’ve got to buy them on the street.

“We have a huge problem with physicians being apprehensive about signing for patients even though the proof is there,” Rainey said.

“Our seniors, for instance, are spending their pensions on big pharma only to end up with more aches and pains when all they may need is a puff or a brownie!”

Rainey has facilitated more than 70 exemptions for local patients, 30 suffering from Crohn’s: “I receive dozens of e-mails from people suffering every day from all over the world who have discovered cannabis alleviates pain and nausea. The government should not be preventing people from getting access to an effective medicine.”

The courts agree.

In its decision, the Federal Court of Appeal did more than simply hand Ottawa a legal loss. It said the government had been knowingly dragging its heels since at least 2003.

As a result, lawyer Kirk Tousaw told B.C. Supreme Court that this decision renders the criminal law invalid based on that history of jurisprudence, which ties enforceability of the criminal law to the existence of a constitutionally adequate medical access scheme.

He said the judgments in Ontario courts and now the federal court mean the state of the law is unclear and therefore criminal sanctions cannot be imposed.

In this latest case — called Sfetkopoulos et al v. Attorney General of Canada — some 27 patients with exemptions to possess marijuana for medicinal use applied to Health Canada for authorization to designate Carasel Harvest Supply Corporation as their marijuana producer.

Health Canada refused, saying that violated the regulations that restricted growers to supplying only two patients at a time.

But the Federal Court Trial Division agreed with the patients and declared section 41 (b.1) of the MMAR was contrary to s. 7 of the Charter because it threatened their liberty and security of the person by preventing them from choosing their marijuana producer.

The judge accepted that sick people should have access to marijuana for the treatment of serious medical conditions and they should not be forced to risk imprisonment to buy their medication on the black market.

He interpreted the constitutional guarantee of security of person rights to include access to medication without undue state interference.

Ottawa appealed and lost.

COURT REBUKES GOVERNMENT

The appeal court agreed with the trial judge — the medical marijuana scheme was constitutionally deficient — and rebuked the government.

The three judges said the Crown had brought forward a case dismissed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2003, that nothing had changed and the marijuana access regulations remained flawed.

In the unanimous 2003 decision, the justices similarly complained about Ottawa’s failure to deal properly with this issue.

In their terse three-page decision a fortnight ago, the justices refused to suspend the impact of their ruling to give the government time to amend the regulations.

Health Canada spokesman Phillipe Laroche said the department was still studying the ruling and had not decided on its response.

Now, Tousaw has argued that those charged or convicted while the medical marijuana access scheme was deemed unconstitutional should have their convictions overturned or their charges stayed. That’s thousands of Canadians.

In particular, Tousaw says Ryan Poelzer should have his conviction overturned.

Poelzer was charged May 18, 2007 and there is no disagreement about the facts. He was smoking a joint on a B.C. Ferry as it pulled into Langdale and that offended an off-duty cop who called the RCMP. As he stepped off the ferry, Poelzer was arrested and in his backpack police found 78.3 grams of marijuana, 8.6 grams of hash, and assorted paraphernalia and pro-drug literature.

In spite of Tousaw’s argument that the cannabis prohibition was invalid, or alternatively that the status of the prohibition is so confused that prosecution constituted an abuse of process, the provincial court judge in the case decided B.C. jurisprudence had declared the medical marijuana scheme valid and therefore the criminal law was fine and Poelzer in clear violation of it.

But Tousaw says the B.C. precedents are wrong and fly in the face of this latest ruling.

The Crown disagrees.

Federal lawyer Peter Eccles said the MMAR requirements are reasonable given the legitimate societal interest in controlling the distribution of a “potentially harmful drug.”

“They ensure only those with a bona fide medical need for marijuana, verified by appropriate medical declaration, obtain legal access,” Eccles said. “Mr. Poelzer is not such an individual.”

Perhaps.

Two B.C. justices will render their opinions soon on whether there actually is a criminal marijuana law in force at the moment or whether de facto legalization has occurred because the medical access scheme is unconstitutional.

Market issues ‘need to be addressed’

The question is how will Ottawa respond to the federal court decision.

Since the impugned marijuana access scheme is a product of regulation rather than statute, the government can quickly promulgate new rules.

“They could make cosmetic regulatory changes,” Nash acknowledged, “which would force another court challenge. But I think the judges are pretty fed up with them doing that.”

And for good reason — sick people should not have to deal with the black market.

Nash said it’s time to get medical marijuana out of the courts, properly regulated and controlled.

“It comes down to consumer choice,” Nash said. “We have people across Canada who want our organic product. Patients want different price ranges, they want different strains, they want different hybrids. There are market issues here that need to be addressed. When you go to a pharmacy do you want to be told you can only have Bayer?

“This is about patients’ rights and a legitimate need.”

imulgrew@vancouversun.co

Note:

Ian Mulgrew is the Vancouver Sun’s legal affairs columnist and the author of several non-fiction books, including Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry (Random House, 2005).

See also:

Choogle on podcast interview with Dana Larsen: Party at the Vancouver Seed Bank – Choogle on #59

Fresh batch of happyfrog “Pond casts” from the Health Show

You know i dig making my wee little audio documentary interviews and … at the recent Vancouver Health Show at Canada Place, i interviewed four entrepreneurial women for podcasts posted at happyfrog.ca’s Frog blog. Thought i’d share ’em here for posterity:

Know your Local Water
Vancouver has exceptional drinking water but there is many reasons for concern – chlorination, excessive water laws, groundwater protection and finding a filter made for local water. Mary of yourwatermatters.com also invites you to speak your mind by contacting the Ground Water Advisory Board.

Grab a Stylish and Durable Bag
Bringing your own bag is easier, more stylish with Moukisac.com. Marie tells about her durable 6 in 1 bag system which starts as a fanny pack and turns into a shopping bag with a variety of small sacks for bulks, produce and even sprouting.

Dried Fruit for Washing Clothes

Soap Nuts are a fruit for washing clothes – the waste water is non-polluting, the soap packets are compostable and the smell is like lemongrass. The fruits are grown, dried and prepared in India and fairly traded to green consumers in Vancouver. Learn more about Sapindus (aka soap nuts) at Wikipedia

Healthy Food and Packaging to Change the World
At the Vancouver Health Show, Dave talks to Alex a mother and entrepreneur who, with her partner Colin, produce dried whole foods packaged in cellulose, glass and with no glues. They discuss carbon footprint, local sourcing and creative distribution. Visit madewithlove.ca.

B.C. Green Web Community Adds New Ways to Share

Attention BC-based eco-savvy folks, Vancouver-based web community start-up – happyfrog.ca – releases social networking features for green minded enthusiast to share tips and reviews of local businesses and organizations.

In the beginning, happyfrog.ca was created to help green-minded citizens find businesses and organizations which fit their values and displayed the results sorted by proximity to conserve transportation resources.

Then, happyfrog invited the public to add reviews to the thousands of listings, as well as engage in a community Q&A project to share tips and solve problems.

Now, all the frogs can “auto-magically” share their green favourites with the public with Myhappyfrog. Here’s the low-down …

Sharing your eco-smarts

Meet daveo

All registered happyfrog members now automatically have a Myhappyfrog page with a unique address to share with friends.

Once you login to your happyfrog page, you’ll see all the reviews, questions & answers, and blog posts you’ve submitted so far.

To see the new page, just click “Myhappyfrog” on the happyfrog navigation bar – Your personal address looks something like mine: http://happyfrog.ca/user/daveo

Meet the new tools!

Show off your favourites

see my happyfrogYou can add any listing as a “favourite” and share your preferred coffee shop, yoga studio, or market with the public – handy for you and useful for others. Add a badge to your blog or site to let people know about your happyfrog page with all your faves.

Meet new friends

See daveo's friends

Outreach to talented, interesting people seeking to exchange tips, share best practices, or get involved in new activities. Add your pals and see their blog posts and other content right on your happyfrog page.

Write a blog article

Have something to say? Step up and let it out on your happyfrog blog. You’ll have an instant audience, a unique address and RSS feed, and your best stuff will be promoted to the “Frogblog” for even more readers (and accolades).

Share your knowledge

daveo's blogs, reviews and answers

Your brilliantly written reviews, probing questions and wise answers are now grouped together on your personal page to show off your wisdom and show people your contributions for fame and fortune.

Haven’t written anything yet? Getting started is easy – you just need something to say!

Getting Started

Check out the Myhappyfrog help desk with annotated screenshots and step by step instructions to use each of the new tools.

What’s next?

Many “frogs” and listed businesses and groups already have a blog, and some bloggers only write about happyfrog relevant content on occasion, so we are crafting a way to import your feed and display on your Myhappyfrog page or directory listing page.

Also on the list is personal tagging to help finds frogs with similar interests. Stay tuned and of course, we love hearing your opinion.

Thanks for your help

We appreciate your help reporting bugs and oddities so we can make your experience even better. Drop happyfrog a note with your observations and thoughts.