The Ganja Games

The Vancouver Olympics tried to redeem itself in my eyes after the hideous opening ceremonies by closing with Neil Young (we’ll not mention Avril Lavigne) doing Long May You Run. While I won’t hold Neil’s performance against him anymore than I will Hawks and Doves, it didn’t win me for the Games. It seems that one of the qualifications for having a country represented at the Winter Olympics is that it had to own colonies at one point in its existence, while the Summer Olympics are opened up to all of those living slightly south of the border who were the colonies. The Winter games have always been a party for the rich nations and this year was certainly no different.

And speaking of parties; I was interested to see how the world media would pronounce on the very well developed and tolerated, if legally ambiguous, British Columbia marijuana mores. Forget California, much of the change in minds around marijuana over the last decades started with movements (and capital concentrations) in British Columbia. B.C. is a byword for quality herb and, relatively, chill enforcement with weed joining health care, curling and community theater as signposts of Canada’s more civilized society despite all of the similarities between them and us, the barbarians next door. With a wink and a nod Canada, more or less, let the heads alone during the games with only positive effects all around it would seem. But then, left to their own devices, pot smokers don’t cause much in the way of problems. In any case, weed was kind of made for a cross-country ski, wasn’t it? You might not win the race, but who cares?

I have to ask, however, if it were the Summer Olympics instead with streets of Nigerians and Brazilians passing spliffs rather than sedate Scandinavians, would the response would have been the same? To ask is to answer. Though I know which party I want invited to.

The media, always lazy, didn’t bother to look beyond Marc Emery’s Hastings Street compound for the story. The self-appointed “Prince of Pot” has always seen himself as the poster boy for the “marijuana movement”. Why? Because it’s free advertising for his numerous business interests. Of course the marijuana industry is full of every level of shady character, but most of them are content to stay in the shade. Not Emery. He passes himself off as the center of the party, hoping you don’t notice the fee attached. He’s even started his own political party to represent the interests of a “marijuana magnates” now cropping up as the curtain of legality is lifted just.

Emery is a parasite; an entrepeneur whose every moment is open to commodification. Because of the idiocy of US weed laws, he is the victim of an extradition case over the selling of seeds in the US. To Emery the case is just another opportunity for him to sell his product, himself. But this is symptomatic of what is going on in the underground economy across much of North America. As the legal status of pot is debated many involved in the billions of dollars industry are making forays above ground. And with them come all of the parochial interests of capital, whether that capital be legit or not. One can easily see the outlines of the coming legal industry, and it looks a whole lot like every other industry. Emery is only the most egregious example of this process.

Weed’s coming out party and the parameters of legality is being left to the big dealers, suppliers and growers. Amsterdamers complain bitterly about the lack of variety as the “free market” limits the choice to the strains with the most efficient turn around in just one of the many examples of capitalism killing a good thing. Some of the new proposals being entertained for state legislatures, and supported by the Bhang Barons, explicitly prohibit some home-grown, while seeking to regulate the big, commercial trade. The nature of the situation means that weed workers, consumers, home and small time growers can’t openly fight for their interests leaving the argument to those who can afford to buy their way in. Money talks. It will be the small growers, pot proletariat and the consumers that lose out, as usual.

Marijuana has come a long way since it was forced to make itself into a joke in order to be public, but if Emery is to be the icon of the new ganja zeitgeist then give me old-school stoner Jeff Spicoli any day of the week. Spicoli was all about riding a wave, Marc Emery is only about making a buck.

Matt Siegfried can be reached at: