Getting Dot-Bombed in Vancouver

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 31, 2001.

  1. By Jackie Cohen
    Source: Wired Magazine

    As the job market continues to shrink, many unemployed techies are choosing travel over couch-potatodom. One destination that's beginning to appear on these itineraries is Vancouver, especially for those who like to party on the cheap.
    The city is well on its way to becoming the Amsterdam of the Pacific Northwest, with liberal stances on marijuana and other vices attracting hordes of pot-coms looking to get dot-bombed.

    "Silicon Valley libertarians are very well received here. Vancouver is much less oppressive than many parts of the U.S.," said Richard Cowan, editor of Marijuana News. "There are obviously a lot of people in the cybercommunity who also use cannabis, particularly the more creative types."

    Roughly 80 percent of the 2.7 million U.S. visitors came to the Vancouver area from the West Coast in 2000, according to Tourism Vancouver.

    In addition to easy access to marijuana, people come for the flora and fauna; skiing and hiking; and that familiar Pacific Northwest vibe. Throw in a strong U.S. dollar and low airfares (Air Canada offers a round-trip flight from San Francisco for just $154) and you've got a pretty appealing vacation package -- especially for recently laid-off techies looking to slack off until the economy improves.

    "What a fun-loving city. I'm going up there with a bunch of my friends who are unemployed," said Ted Roberts, who was laid off from Third Age Media in San Francisco. "Vancouver is closer and cheaper than Amsterdam, so we can stay there longer."

    Vancouver's drug laws aren't as liberal as Amsterdam's, but a recent survey found that 69 percent of Canadians want cannabis decriminalized, and 92 percent want medical marijuana legalized, according to Compas, a social research firm based in Toronto.

    Possession and trafficking of marijuana are prohibited by Canada's federal government, which specifies penalties of up to seven years in prison for possession and life imprisonment for selling it. However, possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use is very rarely prosecuted in Vancouver, said Anne Drennan, constable and spokeswoman for the Vancouver Police. She said that trafficking is prosecuted.

    With Canadian cops looking the other way, patrons of Blunt Brothers, a cafe and head shop just a few blocks from Vancouver's trendy Gastown neighborhood, smoke openly without much fear of getting busted.

    Cannabis isn't actually sold on the premises -- for that you need to step outside, where a dealer will approach you within five minutes. Numerous other establishments tolerate pot smoke, including the aptly named Sister Sativa bed and breakfast hotel.

    Attitudes are similarly relaxed about prostitution: The act itself is legal, but soliciting it isn't. A majority of residents want brothels to be licensed by the government, with taxation and mandated testing for diseases. Legislation or not, sex workers are easy to come by, with many of them running carefully worded ads in the local newspapers.

    The papers also display full-page ads for the B.C. Marijuana Party, which held a convention last weekend at its new headquarters, two doors away from Blunt Brothers. At the confab, 79 candidates shared joints while discussing their campaign platform for B.C. elections this spring, in which another 30-plus left-leaning parties are also running.

    The B.C. party first formed online, as participants in a newsgroup at MAP protested the anti-marijuana stances of the candidates in Canada's last elections, and decided to be proactive about it.

    The resulting political group continues to use the Net to broadcast its message, at BC Marijuana Party. The site is linked to online properties owned or funded by the party's president, Mark Emery. These include his self-named marijuana seed company, along with media outlets Cannabis Culture magazine, Marijuana News and Pot TV, which together claim about 750,000 hits per week, and a significant number of visitors from the U.S.

    "Pot is the biggest growth industry in B.C." said Robert Adams, the Marijuana Party's online committee chair. Adams, a political candidate in the logging town of Squamish, pegs the industry at $6 billion (Canadian) in annual revenues, if not more.

    Legalizing it could mean a $20 billion windfall for B.C.'s economy, with a considerable chunk of that likely to come from taxation and increased tourism -- although some worry that it might damage the city's reputation and thus stem the flow of family vacationers, said Paul Vallee, senior vice president at Tourism Vancouver.

    While the city isn't likely to become overrun by hash-selling coffee shops and live-sex emporiums any time soon, there's enough of a red-light scene that some people call it Vansterdam.

    Source: Wired Magazine (CA)
    Author: Jackie Cohen
    Published: March 31, 2001
    Address: 660 3rd Street, 4th Floor , San Francisco, CA 94107
    Copyright: 2001 Wired Digital Inc.

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