Vancouver: The New Cannabis Reality
Vancouver, Canada ? home of an expanding network of multi-media reality artists and alternative activist-entrepreneurs who blend wild life with marijuana politics.
Consider a hit television show on the internet network that calls itself "Pot-TV." Originating from a basement studio in downtown Vancouver, the network broadcasts guerilla video about the culture of cannabis, including shows that tell people how to grow the illegal plant.
The flagship Pot-TV show for the last three months has been "The Contest," in which professional and amateur cannabis growers from around the world send cannabis to Vancouver, where it's judged on camera by cannabis seed seller and potrepreneur Marc Emery and several of his friends and co-workers.
The show features an attractive mix of marijuana lovers who are part of a cannabis intelligentsia organization that has created its own media group, reality shows, magazines, events, political lobbying, and international philanthropy.
Week after week for 12 weeks worth of segments, Emery appears on the show reclining on a couch next to beautiful young Jodie GR, the real-life assistant editor of Emery's pioneering Cannabis Culture magazine. In this month's issue of the magazine, Jodie is in the centerfold with marijuana plants framing her body. The magazine is a vibrant mix of articles protesting drug war injustices, celebrating cannabis, and instructing gardeners in horticulture and security techniques. It contains the world's most comprehensive marijuana seed catalog. Apparently, marijuana comes in more varieties than wine does, and Emery has the biggest selection of genetics in the world.
Emery is himself a reality show. In the last decade, he's been the most innovative, visible and active worldwide cannabis advocate and financer. When cannabis advocates or medical marijuana providers get in trouble or need backing for a project, they turn to Emery, who gives away all his money as fast as he can make it. He has only a few nice suits, a leased car, and a high-rise apartment; other than that, the man who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars a year defying the drug war is like Gandhi, guided by a vow of poverty.
The guy is a victim of his own success. Last year, he served a 90-day jail sentence in Saskatchewan ? for passing a joint. The judge would not have given a sentence that long to any other defendant, but this was, after all, Marc Emery, sometimes known as the "Prince of Pot," and the judge decided to make an example of the insouciant plant promoter. Emery took the jailing in stride, becoming a prison gadfly and prisoner's rights advocate while having his assistant editor Jodie blog his penitentiary adventures on the Internet daily.
As Emery orchestrates "The Contest," he chats with other members of the cast, including Marijuana Man, a bearded, no-nonsense growing expert who displays real-time micro shots of cannabis resin crystals on his laptop, and Pot-TV manager Chris Bennett, an author, scholar, and husband of international cannabis refugee Renee Boje.
The US government is trying to take Boje away from her husband and the couple's three-year-old son. It wants her back in California where she faces federal marijuana charges stemming from a raid nearly ten years ago. If convicted, she could be sentenced to ten years to life in prison. She is accused of merely having been seen watering plants at a medical cannabis garden.
People who appear on The Contest take it for granted that they can smoke lots of pot without anybody bothering them about it, but for American audiences who watch lots of reality television (the genre usually features contrived sexual situations, general nastiness, and boring people) this show is revolutionary, and is definitely generating a buzz.
The Contest is an unprecedented reality concept: intelligent, attractive drug users portray a world without cannabis prohibition. They retain their ability to function, speak, and rate hundreds of varieties of marijuana and hashish sent to them by the best growers in the world, while inhaling hit after hit of extremely potent product and discussing an extremely wide array of topics, from current events to historical data, reflections on the Drug War, discussion about Cannabis Culture magazine, to wild personal stories.
The camera records them sampling cannabis from a variety of gardens using a variety of ingestion methods, including the visually delightful inflation of the Volcano vaporizer bag favored by Bennett.
Emery and Jodie, along with friends like gorgeous girls Rhiannon Rose and Kaara, take lung-busting hits from the three foot glass Prince of Pot bong, a Christmas gift from the organization's girls to their mentor and friend.
Marijuana Man is quietly debonair as he deftly rolls perfect joints ? with Vogue papers only ? and he silently smokes each new type of bud like a wine connoisseur would sample wine.
Emery and the girls make jokes and laugh non-stop, and there's a lot of flirty fun on-screen. Kaara, as the "official scorekeeper", is responsible for keeping Emery and the gang on track with each sample, and for collecting and recording their tallied scores.
What makes this show work is that these people are real, and really stoned. They'd have done this kind of partying whether they'd had The Contest or not. If you go to the headquarters of Emery's political party (the British Columbia Marijuana Party Bookstore), they're all hanging around toking. Just a group of people having fun with a prohibited plant that carries the death penalty in many countries.
And because they remain coherent and active even after smoking ounces of strong pot, they prove beyond doubt that even the most extreme cannabis use results in no automatic social or psychological harm. If a reality show featured alcohol drinkers sampling shot after shot of whisky or glass after glass of wine, you'd likely see mayhem and unconsciousness. With The Contest, you see "very drugged" people chatting amiably.
If the public wants to be involved in a pot-sampling competition, July is one of the best times to visit Vancouver. The Tokers' Bowl (www.tokersbowl.com) takes place the first July weekend to coincide with Canada Day and the American Independence day weekend. This weekend alone offers a compelling reason to visit the world-class city.
The Tokers' Bowl judges spend quality time at the BCMP bookstore, where they get oriented and properly adjusted, before heading out on bus tours to the city's attractions, such as Stanley Park, beaches, and Vancouver Aquarium.
During the Tokers' Bowl weekend, special events enhance the experiences of cannabis lovers. Emery and his team provide original entertainment, music, food, adventures, two dozen varieties of cannabis, parties with famous activists, and the chance to push the limits of cannabinoid saturation in complete privacy and safety. Every night there's a major party at reserved restaurants and venues, where cannabis smoking is allowed and the finest food and music go all night long.
The city is also activated by a cannabis cross-town axis: during Tokers' Bowl and throughout the month of July, the legendary master of pure resin gland ingestion products, the Bubbleman himself, is hosting a significant event at his well-appointed Melting Point Gallery on the famed Commercial Drive.
Bubbleman is a modern-day reincarnation of an African cannabis expert who saw people making hashish using screens in Lebanon during the 1960's, and who then introduced the screen sieving technique to Morocco, thus revolutionizing that country's hashmaking industry. Bubbleman has similarly revolutionized the hashish world. In the 1990's he wanted to smoke only the purest THC cannabinoids, which are the main active ingredients in marijuana. Cannabinoids are concentrated in tiny round resin glands that grow on top of stalks on marijuana leaves, stems and flowers.
Bubbleman wanted to smoke only the round resin glands. Most hashish made by traditional sieving and other methods contains resin glands, stalks, and traces of other plant material. Bubbleman refined hashmaking by manufacturing a set of sturdy "bubblebags" containing screens. The bags are designed for use in ice water, which facilitates removal of glands from whole marijuana, and cleansing of the glands.
Pretty soon, Bubbleman and his bags had created a new cannabis product, which he calls "full-melt bubblehash." Bubblehash is pure water-washed resin glands. When flame is applied to the glands, they melt rather than burn, delivering a potent all-cannabinoid vapor. It's a harm reduction method, Bubbleman notes, that virtually eliminates particulate entering the lungs.
These days, bubblebags are known around the world as advanced hashmaking technology. The product comes in a seven-bag kit and smaller kits; different size bags and screens remove and filter different sizes of resin glands.
Soon, Bubbleman will introduce a new bag that features another screen size. He is always trying to think of new ways to extract resin glands from cannabis. His latest invention is a Bubblebox, a screen case that makes full-melt sieved resin powder.
The July Melting Point event is a typically eclectic Bubbleman affair. It includes live music, fire spinners, and an exclusive gallery show dedicated to an endangered art: glass blowing.
Last year was the debut of Melting Point's glass pipe show, called Degenerate Art, inspired by a drug war attack on the glass pipe industry, called Operation Pipe Dreams. In issue 56 of Cannabis Culture, there's an article about how the Drug Enforcement Agency, along with state and local police, raided glass art people across the United States. There's also an article by Bubbleman, who has begun providing interesting stories and sizzling cannabis photos to Emery's publication.
The Degenerate Art show increased public awareness of this underground art form and served as a safe, legal venue for glass artists to display talent and vision. This year's show is called "Regenerate Art," and features the work of legendary glassblowers such as Marbleslinger, Cool Liquid, Gateson Recko, Pedro Smiley, Ease, Paco Bell and Bear Claw.
Visitors to the Melting Point enjoy scrumptious munchies at The Living Source Caf?, Vancouver's only totally raw food restaurant, which is located inside the Melting Point. The caf? is a raw food delight; it offers 100% organic vegan gourmet food and all-natural drinks.
Bubbleman says the caf?, the glass show, and his devotion to full-melt are part of a lifestyle that includes yoga, healthy foods, and a quest for purity.
He tells of recent visitors to his store, one of whom was carrying 30 types of full-melt, another who was scarred due to an explosion that took place when he was trying to make a cannabinoid oil extract using solvents. Bubblehash is far safer to make and safer to inhale; solvent extract products almost always carry residues of the chemicals used to create them.
At Tokers' Bowl, Bubbleman holds seminars and does individual consultations regarding the benefits and processes of coldwater resin extraction and the creation of full-melt bubble. He demonstrates water extraction methods that leave audiences in the bubblezone, with glassy eyes and happy smiles accompanying his educational sessions.
He talks the gland gospel, this boy does, with fire in his eyes as he watches a bubble form and melt, then expand and glisten into a clear dome. He has 40 hits of pure cannabinoids per day, but it does not befuddle or slow him down.
He is still coherent, vital, alert, ready for more bubble. The boy has never been able to inhale "too much" cannabis, but most novices, taking one inhalation of full melt from Bubbleman's glass pipe, find themselves in psychedelic stratosphere.
In Vancouver this summer, spend a lovely afternoon discussing resin glands while eating a delicious feast of totally tasty raw foods inside the Melting Point, then go to the beach to play Frisbee. After that, go back to the reality show at Tokers' Bowl, where you find yourself happily snorkeling the outer reefs of stoned reality within a few minutes of arriving at Emery's ocean.
Meanwhile, if you're watching The Contest on Pot-TV, the boys and girls finish up the last episode of their show, with some members of the crew barely able to hold back tears. The show has seen the Emery media empire rise up to a new level. Always pioneering, with stacks of originality and original productions, the Pot-TV network has of late been producing media content far more interesting and honest than big budget shows offered on nationwide networks and cable.
And it isn't just entertainment. Emery uses shows like The Contest to refute resurgent reefer madness assertions of cannabis opponents, such as US drug czar John Walters, who claim marijuana leads to mental illness and violence. Emery and people on screen with him easily handle all the cannabis a person could want. Stoned they are ? but not abusive, loud, weird, lunatic, pathetic, or weak. Just very stoned.
They have a good time, they giggle, it's very comfortable between cast members, there's no pretensions or camera-consciousness, no gossip or back-stabbing as on The Apprentice, nothing gross or dangerous like on Fear Factor.
The Contest uses digital effects and creative camera angles, along with music that includes classics and new tunes. If you're into television, it sure beats West Wing and Survivor.
Just before Tokers' Bowl starts, the crew finished taping the final segment of The Contest and announced its ratings and winners. A type of cannabis called "Southern Afghani," grown by Mr. Green Genes, is the overall champion. The Contest cast and crew by then has gotten stoned hundreds of times on buds representing the amazing spectrum of cannabis flowers, many grown from Marc Emery seeds.
Whoever he is, Mr. Green Genes has managed to top every other grower, winning an all-expense paid trip to Vancouver's Tokers' Bowl, courtesy of Emery. Other high-ranking bud farmers have won incredible gifts totaling $6,000; this spring, Emery ran other promotions and contests that awarded thousands of dollars in fabulous prizes.
It all seems like one big party, combining politics, personal liberation, and youth culture with mind-altering plants.
Some say drugs only help people escape reality. For the visionaries and visitors in the Vancouver marijuana scene, marijuana creates new reality, and a new, more entertaining type of reality television.