The Coy Ploy Being Played On The Pot Nation


Given that the Harper Regime sitting in power now is an illegal and illegitimately-implanted government and their policies are all based in acrimony and madness, and given that their rigging of elections pretty much guarantees their majority rule for another decade at least, let’s talk about the hypothetical future, and the Liberal Party’s proposed plan to “legalize” marijuana.

To be fair, the LPC is a third-place party and they are not really obliged to come up with a marijuana policy at all, yet. But they opened up this can of worms, so here we go.

Their proposed draft plan looks more like “Tobacco 2.0” than actual “legalization”, but that hasn’t stopped the media or the CPC from suggesting that that is exactly what Justin Trudeau is proposing. In fact, even Marc and Jodie Emery seem to have been taken in by Justin’s coy ploy.

People say things like “baby steps” and “step in the right direction” and then accuse me of being “negative” because I point out that a known public liar is publicly lying once again. Or, if he is not lying, then the plan he offers is nothing like the “legalization” we have collectively envisioned for decades.

One example that makes me wary is Marc Emery’s assertion that he smoked pot with Justin Trudeau many years ago – an assertion that Trudeau flatly denies. I believe Emery was telling the truth, and that Trudeau is lying. Now they are teaming up? I don’t get it.

I do agree that people should vote Liberal or strategically in the (ostensibly) coming federal election for no other reason than to get Harper out, but to suggest that Justin Trudeau is actually going to legalize marijuana is – in my opinion – a bald-faced lie. No matter who’s mouth it comes out of, I cannot look at the past forty years of LPC shenanigans and still be credulous about this marijuana issue. Nor, I think, should anyone else.

Jodie Emery and others point out that having a federal leader speak like this is a huge positive, and, I would agree if I thought he were actually telling the truth. But I don’t. I believe Elizabeth May when she says it, and sort-of believed Jack layton when he said it, but I simply cannot believe anything that comes out of Justin’s mouth.

In fact, I seriously doubt Justin Trudeau has any real intention to even table a marijuana-legalizing legislation. I think it is merely political expediency to distance himself from Old Mean Dad Harper on this issue. I expect Trudeau will keep promising and promising, right through the election, and if he actually gets elected PM (what with low voter turnout and CPC-rigged elections), “legalization” will be repeatedly shelved. The promises will continue, however, as busts and incarcerations continue to increase every year. 

But even if Justin himself is sincere about this issue – which I find impossible to believe – I doubt his party will let him do it. About half the party still thinks that pot should remain illegal, and because individual MPs have personal loyalties to police and other “shareholders” in their constituencies, I expect Justin we be fighting his own party on this issue just as hard as he has to fight the public, the media, the opposition, or the Tory-stacked Senate.

If Justin manages to win, and if he does actually table a legislation that he will call “legalization”, what can we expect? Well, based on their proposed draft platform, and things The (um) Great (like) Orator has said publicly, this is what I see coming:

– Strictly-limited home-growing, for medical use only, but the cops will be all up in your business often to “regulate” it. The long wait times and paperwork screw-ups that Medical Marijuana users have endured for more than a decade will continue, of course.

– Arbitrary restrictions on carry-around amounts, plant numbers, and home storage limits will be enacted and enforced heavily. Your neighbour can still store up enough booze for 20 years if he likes, but pot users will be limited to an ounce or something ridiculous.

– Police lies about marijuana and prohibition will continue unabated, and unchallenged by the media.

– Arbitrary and non-scientific driving restrictions that will face Charter Challenges the first day they are used.

– Limited large-scale growing. Limited to corporations, I mean. Onerous taxes, security protocols, inspectors, cops… and people growing tons of seedy, twiggy, chemical-rich weed that will likely be weaker and more expensive than the extra-legal products sold on “the street”. 

– Commercial sales to adults in stores, with huge markup and onerous taxation that will, like the tobacco situation now, facilitate increased contraband production and sales, especially to minors. The pot will be lacking in potency and purity, driving people to the extra-legal market.

– Arbitrary new restrictions and rules against dabbing wax, hash, tinctures, high-concentrate oils, and pretty much anything other than “dried marihuana”…. will be subject to busts and sanctions.

– Cops will be granted new, broader, Charter-ignoring powers of intrusion and coercion – especially when it comes to driving, and they will get corresponding budget increases “to fight the added dangers” of marijuana “legalization”. “Stop and Frisk” – which is already unofficially standard operating procedure in every single police department in Canada, will become official.

– Stiffer penalties for people who sell pot to kids. Even teens will still face jail time under Justin’s “legalization” scheme. Which means it isn’t legal at all, is it. Because if one person can go to jail for pot possession or growing, then it isn’t legal. It isn’t.

– Dealers continuing to sell to kids outside corner stores and in schools and in playgrounds because the kids won’t be able to buy it at the store themselves.

teen justin

– Endless DARE and MADD-generated science-free propaganda aimed at kids, telling them how evil and dangerous marijuana is and what a gigantic danger it presents to road safety.

– Increased teen pot abuse, and by “abuse” I don’t mean “use”, or even getting high often… I mean kids using their pot-use as an excuse to ditch school or not exercise or not participate in life like a non-stoner. The message (under the LPC plan) that pot is legal for adults and totally not for kids will further entice them to use it.

– Zero advertising of the medical program. Sick people will have to hope they get lucky enough to hear about it on social media. You won’t see any “Health Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program Is Here To Help You” posters in bus shelters, but you will likely see a lot more DARE and MADD posters. And commercials. 

– Increased hassle and scrutiny for doctors who prescribe marijuana – far more onerous than what other doctors who prescribe Oxycontin will face. The Liberals, I expect, will do like the CPC have done, and just keep letting police write their public health policy, and all the canoes full of science will do nothing to sway them.

– Taxpayer-funded, forced-rehab based in abstinence teachings will be inflicted on teens. Any and all under-age pot use will be considered “abuse” and subjected to jail or “treatment”. If the past is any indication, the “treatment” will be what is has always been: pharmaceuticals and indoctrination. The kid eating 17 Slim Jims and a 2L bottle of Coke at lunch will continue to be free to do as he pleases.

Then, after a few years of this ridiculous mess, the police will say it is “no longer feasible” and we all “need to go back” to prohibition. They will go out of their way to bust every single teen pot user they see, then use those increased bust-numbers to justify their balderdash propaganda about how “legalization” is making their job too complicated. Then Justin will smile and shrug and say “Um, well, like, y’know, um, I, like, um, tried….”

Anyone with even half a brain can see where this plan is going to end up. There will be pot sold in stores to wealthy people, but black people will get pulled over and charged even more often than they are now. Pot-using teens will face even more hassle and scrutiny from school and police, and school suspensions and criminal charges will be given to pot users – for doing something safer than the kids who are illegally smoking contraband tobacco on school property. Police corruption will continue to increase. The disproportionate sentencing – where a native or black kid gets sent to jail for the same “crime” that gets the white kid a “rehab” stay – will remain in place, of course, because the courts cannot be trusted to dispense justice.

To my astonishment and disappointment, The Prince and Princess Of Pot seem ok with this plan, calling it “a step in the right direction”. But it isn’t. It is, at best, a lateral move, and at worst, a complete bamboozle. If Justin wins, and if this policy is implemented, marijuana users will still be treated as second class citizens, stigmatized, and forced to deal with police officers in ways that coffee-drinking and tobacco-smoking teens won’t.

Now maybe the Emerys can convince Trudeau to draft a sensible legislation, but to me, that is like someone walking into a pig barn in a white suit, declaring that they will not only clean the barn, but emerge without a single smudge of pig faeces on them.

Yeah, well, Obama seemed pretty awesome before he became President, and look how that turned out.


Posted in 420, Activism, Harm Reduction, Justin Trudeau, Marijuana, Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Police, Politics and mental illness, protest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Breaking The Law To Save Our Lives


Christine and I have informed our doctors (in writing) that we would not be signing on to the MMPR, for the following reasons:

1) It is outrageously expensive. The help we have been receiving over the years was able to keep us going because of the MMAR. Without the MMAR, the same level of help – which would still be offered – won’t take us even 1/20th the distance we need to go each month.

2) The regulations limit the users to 150 grams per month, each, or roughly 5 grams per day. That is less than half of Christine’s prescribed dose and about half of what she uses now. It it less than one third of mine, so even if we signed on, and even if we could afford it, we can no longer manage on doses that low. Nor should we even be asked to. In fact – due to certain issues – I only get 12 of the 16/day I’m been prescribed!

3) If we signed on, we would have to commit to one grower (like being told you can only shop at one grocery store). We cannot trust that the company we sign on with will even still be in existence in a few months. The program is so onerous – for growers and patients alike – that many closures and bankruptcies are expected. Then what? Wait weeks or months for paperwork to clear before we can buy from the next grower?

4) We can trust the extralegal growers to produce better, cheaper product for us. Some growers might even donate some for free (or have before). MMPR growers are not allowed to offer price reductions for bulk purchases, and they must charge tax. We calculated the monthly cost under the MMPR would be $1500-2000, each. Or $75,000 – 82,000 per year, depending where we purchased.

5) The medicine these companies produce promises to be second-rate, at best. If Prairie Plant Systems’s “product” is any indication of what the other MMPR growers are likely to produce, thanks anyway.

6) Principle: Our right to grow our own medicine or have a designated person grow it for us has been taken away and handed to corporations! Some of them aren’t even in Canada! So even if we could afford it (and only needed five per day), we would still boycott it, because a) the prohibition of marijuana us unjust and absurd, and b) the regulations are nonsensical and unjust. We simply cannot bring ourselves to participate in absurd and unjust things, and obeying laws pertaining to plants is like…. well, convincing ourselves that Santa Claus is actually real. It is beyond absurd. Juvenile and ridiculous.

Breaking unjust laws to get the medicine we need feels more sensible, to us, than obeying stupid laws designed to harm us. It is as simple as that.

We still have some medicine saved, enough to last us until about the first week of May, and other people have offered to get “care packages” to us, but we fully expect the RCMP to come search our home on – or shortly after – April 1st to make sure we are complying with the new regulations. Or intercept our mail to stop the medicine getting to us.

No – really. We are literally expecting to be arrested sometime in April or May, even with our MMAR possession permits lasting until April (for Christine) and June (for me), we still expect an arrest and confiscation of medicine. We doubt the OPS would bother, but we do expect the RCMP are pretty chuffed about the fact that they get to go tearing out people’s hard work and making sick people cry.

The only hope, at this point, is that the judge in John Conroy’s court challenge can extend the MMAR program for a while, allowing us the possibility of continuing to survive. Or – even better – force modifications to the MMPR allowing for more than 5 grams per day, and adding a DIN# so that ODSP can pay Company X for the pot they send us. Then we could maybe sign on. But as the MMPR regs stand now… no way. We are screwed.

Frankly, we have both resigned ourselves to the idea that this is how it will all end. Because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. We will run out of medicine eventually, the seizures will come, and I will buckle under the weight of that horror and start drinking again. And then we will both fade out. That is what we expect for this coming summer/fall. No hyperbole, no joke.

We will accept charity, but ask for none. We bring this to your attention, because if this could happen to us – if our rights can be arbitrarily modified or taken away at the whim of a government minister – then no one in Canada is safe.

Russell Barth & Christine Lowe


Ok… so, according to Chris Goodwin of Vapor Central, I am wrong about a number of things.

“Hey Russell Barth, Im only a few points in your blog, and they are all wrong so far…

1)  $3 to $6 a gram, it’s half the price of compassion clubs in Canada, which is odd to me.

2) The regulations limit the users to 150 grams per month, WRONG, the limit is 150g per order…

3) If we signed on, we would have to commit to one grower, WRONG, You can sign on to all 8 current companies if you want.

4) MMPR growers are not allowed to offer price reductions for bulk purchases, and they must charge tax. WRONG, LP’s can charge bulk rates, and there is NO Tax.

5) The medicine these companies produce promises to be second-rate, at best. WRONG… Do I even need to explain this one…

6) Principle: Our right to grow our own medicine or have a designated person grow it for us has been taken away and handed to corporations! WRONG, there was no right to grow, only a permit to do so, and you can still grow, the regulations dont disregard court decisions. And your DG was a corporation, and can now grow for all 400K patients, instead of just you and Christine.”


Well….. still, we can’t afford it, and my our grower was not a corporation.

So, despite my many glaring mistakes, the fact remains: we can’t afford this, period.

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Marijuana, Tickets, and The Trouble With Finding Good Hired Help These Days

On the morning of August 21st, 2013 I awoke to the news that The Canadian Association of Chiefs Of Police had suggested handing out tickets for marijuana users instead of laying charges or issuing warnings… and something inside me just popped.

I sent this open letter to the Association:

An Open Letter To The Canadian Association Of Police Chiefs,

Recently you suggested handing out tickets for marijuana users instead of laying charges. Here’s a better idea: Leave marijuana users alone and go do some real police work, you lazy cowards.

Seriously, women are being sexually assaulted and going missing, kids are living with monstrous villains, people are sick on the street because prohibition has made the cities awash with smack and meth and crack, human trafficking abounds, corporate criminals are destroying the planet and evading taxes, and you clowns walk around wasting almost 80% of your time handing out marijuana fines or charges or warnings. It is disgusting and embarrassing and you should all be deeply ashamed of yourselves.

On top of that, every grow you bust subsidizes the guys you DIDN’T bust. You know this. Your own data proves it. Any 8 year old could figure this out, but you continue to publicly lie and tout prohibition as the solution to all of the problems caused by prohibition. It is disgusting, and your lying should be illegal.

Meanwhile, little kids walk around drinking Red Bull and Monster, getting fat on junk food and often smoking tobacco right on school property, and you let that all go. Because it is legal. But someone smokes a joint in public and they suddenly have to deal with some officer who usually treats us like we are second class citizens.

 Well, we’re not second class. Actually, marijuana users are better than non-users: healthier, sexier, smarter, more creative, and longer-lived. History and science shows that. That isn’t an opinion, it is fact: we’re better than other people.

 So, on behalf of every pot user in Canada, I hereby reject your offer to lengthen our leash. We want equality with coffee drinkers, and we will not settle until we have it.

 Russell Barth
Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana User

I also sent it off to many editors across the country, and it was published in the Guelph Mercury.

I posted the letter on Facebook and linked to it with Twitter, and quickly started getting calls from the media for further comment.

On the morning of Sunday 25th, I found a message in my Facebook email from a guy named Patrick Smyth. Smyth is from Whistler BC, and apparently works with Olympic snowboard star and medical marijuana entrepreneur Ross Rebagliati. Smyth told me he was a pot grower and supplier, listed off a bunch of accomplishments and history from his family in the military and the RCMP, mentioned how I am so lucky to have freedom of speech and that if it wasn’t for the police I wouldn’t have it…. then made a veiled threat to come to my door in September.

I notified the local police but plan to follow it up with Whistler Police this week.

Monday, I got this email from a representative of the Association:

Russell – I have read your comments in various ‘comment sections’ of newspapers throughout Canada. You have made your points well known and it is positive we get to express our views in such ways. I will, however, take great exception to your characterization of police and I will not respond further other than to say that during our Winnipeg conference, I heard a detective describe his investigation into the rape of a 16 month old child and having to watch the video of the crime. “It haunts you 4 life, I will never forget the screams.” Think about that when you wish to promote your views not only about marijuana, but your obviously skewed vision of policing,

Timothy M. Smith
Government Relations and Strategic Communications
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police


I will admit that I am at a loss at this point. How this officer makes the mental leap from “leave pot smokers alone” to “our officers are busy trying to stop baby-rapers”, is a complete mystery.

I can see how dealing with that sort of heinous crime could damage a person. I can see that it takes a special kind of person to put themselves through poison like that more than once. I can see that I, personally, would not have the stomach for it, nor would I have the patience to wait for the courts to deal with the suspect in question. That is why I never considered police work: the first time I see an abused woman, child, or animal, I would be extremely likely to take the law into my own hands. I would probably be in cuffs before my first shift was over.

But I don’t see how real cops fighting real crime in any way justifies busting pot users. Are the police suggesting that these guys were high on pot when they raped children? Are they financing their child-porn with marijuana sales? Are pot growing-gangsters now involved in the making of child porn? Do they think that smoking pot makes you want to rape kids or view videos of kids being raped…?

If so, then they need to present evidence to support these assertions, otherwise, they all serve as valid reasons for taking marijuana out of the hands of gangsters and putting it into stores run by tax-paying citizens. If not, then this is all the more reason to think that police should forget about pot smokers entirely and go fight real crime.

Notice also that Mr. Smith pointed out that he has seen my comments around the net (suggesting that they have been watching me). Was this meant to frighten me? I expect so. Over the years, I have noticed that cops – and the families of cops – love to bring up freedom of speech whenever someone critiques their blunders or policies. I have had more than one “freedom of speech” finger wagging in my face for pointing out that cops are helping gangsters with prohibition, and lying to the public while doing so.

I honestly get the impression that police don’t like the fact that we all have freedom of speech, because that means “nobodies” like me are free to point out their lies. They love it when people praise them, but as soon as you critisize them, they become condescending, aloof, and occasionally threatening.

And boy oh boy, do cops like to lie when it comes to drugs. It is almost like they are incapable of telling the truth about drugs! They claim that needle exchanges and safe injection sites cause more addiction and crime. They say marijuana is addictive, more dangerous than booze or tobacco, and inevitably leads to hard drug use. When asked to show evidence to support such claims, the refuse. When confronted with evidence to prove them wrong, they ignore or dismiss it.

Meanwhile, the media – knowing that they won’t get access or comments or any co-operation from police if they report something that shows the police in a less-than-flattering light – simply let police say what they want, and almost never ever dare challenge it. Cops will say “we got a major amount of drugs off the street”, but no reporter will bring up the fact that the bust will have zero effect on the availability of drugs in the community, or that by busting one grow house or drug ring, all the police do is subsidize the ones they haven’t busted. If they did, they would never get a chance to ask a cop a question ever again.

So we, the public, are fed a daily diet of cop-sucking tripe, where Canadian police are referred to as “heroes” simply for putting on a badge every day. “The brave men and women of the police”, and all that. I scoff at this notion because statistically, police work is among the safest jobs around. When you compare the numbers (how many officers, how many man-hours they collectively do in a year, and how many deaths or injuries occur in any year), you see that police work is not that dangerous. Far less dangerous than most manual labor jobs, and, unlike manual-laborers, police have an assortment of weapons, special training, armored vests, super tough and fast cars, a radio to call a dozen heavily-armed friends at a moment’s notice, and a union that protects them whenever they break the law, which is often. Soon, they will get tazers, which terrifies me.

Police get better health care than the average citizen, and whenever they get into trouble for, say, killing an unarmed and cornered man in a street car or beating the crap out of a woman and cutting her bra off with scissors, they get to stay home and get paid. They also face far weaker penalties than any civilian would for similar or even lesser offenses.

Two more facts to consider: crime has been dropping every year for 30 years and we are now living with the lowest per-capita crime rate in 40 years. Meanwhile, busts for simple marijuana possession have increased 68%. So it should be obvious to even the dumbest kids in class that the police have very little to do with their time, in regards to fighting crimes like, say, searching for missing native women or stopping people who make baby-rape videos.

If the police are spending so much time busting marijuana smokers, while all of these other real crimes go unsolved or uninvestigated, then they must know something about prohibition that the rest of us don’t.

Posted in Activism, Harm Reduction, Marijuana, Ottawa, Politics and mental illness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Last week you were quoted as saying  “Marijuana is not a health food supplement. It’s not great for you.”

This is a demonstrably untrue statement, scientifically inaccurate, and detrimental to the public good. Shame on you.

Studies indicate that marijuana is, indeed, a health food supplement, more powerful, effective, and safe than many of the other things on the shelves at health food stores like ginger and kava kava and so on. But I doubt you will “believe” that. I suppose you have a different “opinion”, about it. But, sadly, facts say one thing and your opinion says another. You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

You said that your thinking has evolved, that you have been reading more science on the subject of cannabis. Did you stop at 1992? Because if you had read some of the more recent studies showing how cannabis shrinks tumors, treats things like Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and how it stimulates the growth of new neural tissue, you would likely be saying “Marijuana is a powerful medicine that needs to be studied at length. Not only will a Liberal government legalize marijuana, we plan to study, refine, and promote it globally as a health-benefit.” THAT is what you should be doing, IF you want to base you marijuana policy on science and fact instead of conjecture, hyperbole, fear, ideology, and “accepted wisdom”.

But then, THAT position would be in keeping with the science available today. By the time you are elected in 2015, other countries like Spain and Israel will be so far ahead of us in the researching of cannabis-therapeutics, there might not be much left for us to discover. Not that you will ever have anyone in the Canadian Media challenge you on any of your mis-speaks about cannabis. You’re safe there.

Which leads me to believe that you are not entirely honest about actually legalizing marijuana. Yes, I believe you are sincere when you say that you think legalization is a better way to fix the problems associated with marijuana, but I doubt you can actually make it happen, even if you wanted to. You think pot should be legal, but your comments indicate that you still think pot is a bad thing, the use of which (like tobacco and alcohol) needs to be reduced in society. This opinion flies in the face of science and history, but, luckily for you, it is landing well with the misinformed, media-addled rubes that you are trying to entice into voting Liberal.

But by denouncing pot as a bad thing, by comparing it to almost-useless recreational substances like tobacco and alcohol, and by using anachronistic terms like “pusher”, you demonstrate a breathtaking lack of understanding about the culture you are trying to get on your side. I found this lack of understanding to be even more astonishing, considering that you have (I have heard) met with representatives from NORML and Educators For Sensible Drug Policy.

Try to imagine a Tory saying something as outrageously offensive as; “Homosexuals are all mentally ill – we know that. But that doesn’t mean we should jail them. They deserve rights.”, and you get the idea of how offensive your comments were to me. Marijuana got me out of a wheelchair, Justin. It keeps me and my wife out of the hospital, and out of the grave. It keeps me from drinking and drugging myself stupid, or bingeing on junk food. It pretty much cured the erectile problems I have had since my teen years. I don’t get high, I barely get a buzz – but I do get symptom alleviation the likes of which I cannot get anywhere else.

I know the bridge between you and I was burnt long ago – ostensibly because of my relentless badgering on Twitter for you to enter the 21st century on this issue – so I won’t bother asking to meet with you. But I think you and your advisers need to talk directly Canada’s biggest-name activists, and very soon: Dana Larsen, David Malmo-Levine, Matt Mernagh, Allison Myrden, Eugene Oscapella, and Jodie Emery. These people will set you straight. There are others, but these are the ones you need to see first.

The weirdest part of all this is how the public and media are trying to portray you as a “radical”, with radical “new” ideas about legalizing pot, as if it were some crazy idea. It is absurd. It is actually sort of amusing, or it would be, if it were not so life-and-death frightening for my sick wife and me.

You said “Marijuana is not a health food supplement. It’s not great for you.”… but it IS. I am living proof. I use 12 grams every day and my health only continues to improve. But this will come crashing to an end in April of next year, because Health Canada is taking away our designated grower permits, so we will have no affordable source of medicine after April 1, 2014.

So good luck in 2015. Doubt I will be around to see it.

Russell Barth
Caregiver/Medical Marijuana User/PTSD Survivor

Posted in 420, Activism, Harm Reduction, Justin Trudeau, Marijuana, Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Politics and mental illness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Nearly 11,000 People Help Set New Attendance Record At 420 Ottawa Fill The Hill 2013

We arrived at Parliament Hill at around 11:30 am, and there were already a few people there. Roadies were unloading the sound equipment, and organizers John Fowler and Kyle Walton were talking to the RCMP. It was cold and windy and Christine and I were under dressed.
An RCMP officer named Tim walked over to me and said “Hey! Russell. I know you from the video. You’re famous!”
“Oh, uh…” I replied.
He starts telling me what’s what about how he wants the crowd to behave and so on, no shenanigans, and I smile and say “Well, John and Kyle are the organizers, you should really be talking to them.”
“Oh, no.” says Tim. “I want to talk to you. You’re famous.” He then waves his hand slowly across the crowd who will be there in five hours: “You have more appeal.”
“I, uh…” I reply.
So I spent some time talking to the Tim and other RCMP officers over the period of the day, pointing out a few security problems that they or I noticed with a few people getting rowdy. It was all very cordial, and they couldn’t have been more gracious.
The other organizers, Claude Galipeau and Graham Kittmer, were suddenly there and we greeted each other happily.
John or Kyle or Graham would get onto the microphone every once in a while to encourage everyone to tweet and text and call all their friends to come on down, to tweet pictures, and to yell happily. Myself and other helpers would mingle in the growing crowd, handing out ribbons, buttons, magazines, and so on.
At 2:30 or so, Christine and I went across the street to see the press party (and use the washroom), and boy, did we look out of place. We met Precious Chong and some of the others speakers, and headed quickly back to the site.
By the time the speaking started sometime after three, the crowd was already rivalling last year’s in size. At about 3:35 or so, Precious Chong took to the stage and was funny and charming. She had the crowd – by this point numbering around 7,000 and growing rapidly – very enthused, and she was genuinely having a good time herself.
One by one the speakers took the podium, while Precious did some comedy and rabble-rousing in between.

Here are the videos as a playlist.

And as individual videos…
1) Precious Chong Opens The Show.
2) Justin Reist, Green Party Of Canada Speaks.
3) More Precious.
4) Maryanne Kampouris, National Policy Chair, Liberal Party Of Canada.
5) More Precious.
6) Andrea Matrosovs, NORML Women’s Alliance of Canada.
7) More Precious.
8) Joshua Kappel, a lawyer from Colorado who helped get pot legalized there speaks.
9) Precious closing the show.

I have to admit, I was wiping away tears by this point, because the RCMP told me that they estimated our crowd size to be over ten thousand.
There was a short break for music shortly after four PM, then at about eight minutes after or so, Christine and I got up to give away our book, Mommy’s Funny Medicine and other prizes, in front of over ten thousand people:
Then it began to snow, sort of…. Then the big moment arrived:
Here is a time-lapse of the the whole thing.
With the snow and everything, we decided to leave immediately.
Ottawa has a city’s population, but it is spread over a large area in suburbs and lots of green space, and our bus system (in my opinion) is not reliable. There is also Gatineau/Hull right across the river, meaning many fans came over from Quebec for this party. So unlike Toronto or Vancouver – where getting 10,000 stoners together is like shooting fish in a barrel – bringing over ten thousand pot people to one place, during a day with less-than-inviting weather, was a spectacular accomplishment.
The people of Ottawa should also be very proud of themselves for resisting meh, and actually participating.
It should also be noted that almost all of the video was shot by Claude Galipeau, with only Part Eleven being shot by me.
Until next year.


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Is 420 a party or a protest? Actually: Both

Hill Times Article, used without permission:

A full explanation of the origins and history of 420 can be easily found online, but the short version is this: In 1971 in San Rafael, Calif., a group of high school students known as The Waldos would meet after school at 4:20 p.m. to smoke pot together. They would use the term “four 20” amongst themselves as hallway code for “Let’s get high today, usual time, usual place,” which was by the statue of Louis Pasteur on school property. Over the years, with the help of High Times magazine and The Grateful Dead tours, that story spread. 4:20 p.m. became a sort of marijuana-users daily “tea-time,” and gradually the date April 20 was commandeered as some sort of International Marijuana Day.

I know—it’s ridiculous. But then so are most annual events that humans still celebrate. Easter springs to mind. How did a story about the crucifixion and resurrection of a deity’s son 2000 years ago turn into hiding coloured eggs and eating chocolate bunnies? Well, that story can also be found online. You might want to look up “The Psychedelic Origins Of Santa Claus” while you are at it.

Every year for the past decade or more, Ottawa, like many other cities around the world, has had a 420 celebration of some sort. And in true Ottawa fashion, we don’t do it anywhere near the same as any other city. Most cities have a single central location that is agreed upon beforehand. Up until last year, 420 Ottawa was an organically-formed event where the majority of participants went to Major’s Hill Park (right across the street from that eyesore of a U.S. Embassy) for the huge party/drum circle that occurs there, while another crowd would form on Parliament Hill to break the law on the front lap of the seat of power.

Both locations have their appeal. Major’s Hill is a huge park with space and trees where the Ottawa Police Service have, up until 2012, let the whole thing carry on with very little supervision. It was free, open, and loose. But Parliament Hill is where our federal government is. Toking on the front lawn, while surrounded by dozens of Horsemen and god-knows how many CCTV cameras, sends a message: “We are protesting this unjust law. And we are not afraid.” It is called “civil disobedience.”

And no other city has this distinction. Nowhere on Earth do thousands of people openly break one of the country’s most-often-enforced laws this close to their federal government’s main offices. You don’t see this in Washington, London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, or Berlin. It doesn’t even happen in Amsterdam, as far as I know. Only in Ottawa.

Depending on the weather, each location can have anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people, and many people would drift back and forth between the two locations, as they are only a 10 to 12 minute walk from each other. But it wasn’t until last year that the two crowds came together to form the biggest crowd of stoners (approximately 5,500 people) that Parliament Hill had ever seen.

Usually, this event is under- or mis-reported by Canada’s “media.” In 2010, I caught Kevin Newman reporting on Global’s evening news that “a few hundred” people showed up, and that “the police dispersed everyone” shortly after 4:30 p.m. What actually happened was 2,500 to 3,000 people were there, and the RCMP did absolutely nothing to disperse anyone. Everyone just left by 5 p.m., like always.

But 2012 was the first year—that I know of—that anyone took it upon themselves to attempt to organize an actual event for 420 Ottawa. There have been many organized marijuana protests on Parliament Hill over the years, but no one had organized a 420 event for Ottawa before. Posters were printed and stuck to poles around the downtown, a permit for amplification and power was cleared with Hill security, sound gear was rented and set up, the press were invited, and a Facebook page was created and managed.

On Feb. 25, 2012, before this all happened, I put up a YouTube video, urging people to volunteer, make signs, and do whatever they could think of to get everyone to avoid Major’s Hill Park and go to Parliament Hill. I talked about “achieving critical mass” with one crowd instead of two. It was, I thought, a futile effort, like herding cats (stoned cats, at that) and that maybe only a fraction of the attendees would likely ever see the video. But as it turned out, there was a spike of more than 1,900 views on that video for that day alone, and more than 1,200 people had seen it in the seven weeks just before the event. As to how many of the 3,000 viewers actually attended, and how many of those 5,500 attendees saw the video, I’ll never know.

Around 3:15 p.m. on April 20, 2012, my wife and I entered Major’s Hill Park expecting to see hundreds of teens and assorted freaks of various ages gathering early for the day’s fun. What we found was about 20 very-organized Ottawa cops telling small circles of kids to leave the park and go to Parliament Hill. Maybe the police saw my video and decided that one big crowd on the RCMP’s turf was better than (yet another) messy free-for-all in a city park.

Well, we can’t thank the OPS enough, because when we got to Parliament Hill a short time later, what we found was 1,200 to 1,500 people sitting in groups, chilling, while throngs of people continued to stream in for the next 90 minutes. There is even a time-lapse YouTube video from The Hill Cam showing a five hour period from about 1:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. on that day, not to mention countless other YouTube videos from above, beside, and within the crowd.

The most noticeable thing about the videos is the average age of the crowd. Other than myself and a handful of others, hardly anyone there was over the age of 19, from what I saw. The crowd consisted almost entirely of teenagers. Now, imagine if the police suddenly started arresting people. What do you think would happen?

Since this year’s April 20 falls on a Saturday, the event promises to be even bigger. The organizers have been busy postering and arranging guest speakers, busses full of people from other cities have been chartered, and if the weather holds, I think we can easily expect to see 8,000 to 10,000 people in attendance.

This should not frighten parents. Their kids are probably safer in that crowd than they would be simply walking around the Byward Market. The RCMP are quick to get rid of creeps, and because of the high number of uniforms in the general area, the really bad guys seem to want to keep their distance anyway. If I had kids, I would feel a lot safer knowing my teenager was going to attend an organized and supervised 420 event on Parliament Hill, than I would be if they were just going to some gathering in a park, or a concert, or a house party.

In fact, if parents in this town were smarter, they would come along. They’re the ones who are not only paying for the prohibition that their kids are there protesting, they’re usually paying for the pot their kids are smoking while they do it.


Posted in 420, Harm Reduction, Marijuana, Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Politics and mental illness, protest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I’m Not Falling For Liberal Promises To Legalize Cannabis

Re-printed with no permission from Hill Times, March 4, 2013.

OTTAWA—Recently, the leadership candidates for the Liberal Party of Canada have promised varying versions of cannabis “legalization” if their party returns to power.

Some are calling the party’s new position on cannabis law reform “bold.” I would agree, if this were 1973. True, hearing a national party actually talk about legalization is a step in the right direction, but it is one small step where 10 large steps are needed.

As someone who relies heavily on cannabis to manage my symptoms, and as a 24/7 caregiver to a sick wife who needs it even more, I want to believe them. I really, really do. But I find myself unable to.

Like Charlie Brown continually falling for Lucy’s football ruse, the media and much of the public seem to be falling for it, but I’m not.

Why so incredulous, you ask? Well, maybe it is the fact that I am 43 years old and have been hearing the Liberals promise cannabis-law reform every few years since the 1972 Le Dain Commission, only to watch them increase penalties when they are actually in power. People are quick to forget that the contracts for all these new jails were tendered under the Paul Martin administration. The Liberals knew back in the 1990s that the flourishing American Inmate-Manufacturing Industry was looking to move North, and they did what they could to help.

Or maybe it is the fact that they used our tax dollars, and every trick they could think of, to keep people from attaining the legal right to use medical cannabis at the turn of this century. Court battles were hard enough, but to hear Liberals like Anne McLellan talk nonsense in the press week after week was excruciating.

Maybe it is the fact that, after losing this battle, they dragged their heels, balked at court rulings, ignored the Charter, and implemented Health Canada regulations that they knew beforehand were onerous and likely to be challenged (expensively) in court.

Perhaps it is the fact that some Liberal MPs now tout Health Canada’s medical marijuana program as something “that was started under a Liberal administration,” even though they were forced—kicking and screaming—by the courts to implement it, and worked very hard to keep it from people as long as they could, they now try to take tacit credit for it. They also did as much as they could, while in power, to keep the program dysfunctional.

Or it could be the fact that when they did come up with an ironically-named “decriminalization” legislation, Liberal Dan McTeague took the bill down to the U.S. to run it past their government before it was even tabled in the House of Commons. The bill itself, as you may recall, would have replaced a criminal record with fines, a system often called “net-widening,” where far more people get caught, but get softer penalties.

Or maybe I see the fact that a Tory-stacked Senate will allow almost nothing that a Liberal government proposes to get through. I doubt that a Liberal government is going to waste time, effort, and the public’s goodwill fighting the Senate on pot-law reform, when other far less contentious bills have a better chance of getting passed.

Politically, I don’t think this is a hill the Liberals are prepared to even fight for, let alone die on. The argument can be rationally made that there are many issues that are more pressing that legalizing cannabis, but the billions saved and generated annually simply by legalizing cannabis would do much to help finance those issues.

Or it might be the fact that the party still considers cannabis a “drug,” the use of which—they feel—needs to be greatly reduced. They largely ignore the fact that countries like Israel and Spain are years ahead of us on cannabis-therapeutic scientific research, and still maintain a Reagan-era attitude that pot is bad and abstinence is best. Couple that with Justin Trudeau’s unscientific worries about cannabis’ mythical potency and “links” to mental illness, and his use of anachronistic terms like “pusher” (as he did in a recent phone interview with the Cornwall Free News), and what I see is a Liberal Party that is still meandering behind the parade on a crucial issue. And, as usual, they refer to this behind-the-pack position as “leadership.”

Today, we are presented with a collection of new leadership candidates, who, let’s face it, are all trying to beat Trudeau. Some of them are talking “tax and regulate,” but they fail to offer any really coherent platform as to how that would work out. Some are talking about “liquor store” models and arbitrary limits on amounts that people can possess, but I think they are empty promises. I don’t think it matters who the next leader is, as far as cannabis goes, because the party, once in power, will likely shelve this “legalization” talk on the first day. They’ll gladly pander to “youth” and sick people to get themselves elected, but once in power, it is the lobbyists who will have their ear.

So, what can we expect from the Liberals? I think we can expect more flowery promises (pun intended) to legalize pot, right through the leadership race and right up to election night, followed by years of continued promises to “get around to it” as soon as other, “more pressing” issues are settled first. The mandatory minimum sentences for growing and “trafficking” that were implemented in November by the Harperistas will remain in place, of course. You can count on that.

In the meantime, they will wait for a court ruling to legalize pot for them (see abortion, same-sex-marriage, and medical cannabis for details), then legislate after the fact. Then they will take credit for “legalizing” pot.

Posted in 420, Activism, Harm Reduction, Marijuana, Military, Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Politics and mental illness, protest, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments