Everything you need to know to outsell big biz and
outgrow big bro
By David Malmo-Levine
??? This article is my attempt at a
step by step method of bringing drugpeace to your town, with three easy
steps. This is the formula that I have followed in Vancouver, and I openly
sold pot for four months in Vancouver, despite arrest, robberies and many
??? There’s no guarantee that what
has worked for me will work for you, but at the very least it’s something
fun to do, instead of just cowering under your sheets waiting for the cops
to break your door down.
Step 1: Hempology
Started up in Vansterdam by superhempster Danna Rozek
in ’94, Hempology’s motto is “Legalization through Education.” Fundamental
to this idea is to get people meeting on a regular weekly basis. You can
talk about prohibition history, hempseed nutrition or how to grow pot,
it doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s fun and people are learning things
about cannabis, it’s hempology.
A safe place to gather and smoke pot.?
Advertising (posters and word of mouth).?
Access to a photocopier.?
Felt markers for coloring posters.?
A TV and a VCR.?
Occasional guest speakers.?
Some nice buds.
For a location, pick a place that potheads already gather (Gazebo Park
in Edmonton, The Mountain in Montreal etc).
Let each person in the group pick a different topic that they are responsible
for kickstarting a discussion on.
Make a calendar of topics. Plan lots of parties and special guest speakers.
Photocopy this “calendar of events” and hand it out.
Find a cool cafe that will let you wheel a TV, VCR and a bunch of chairs
out into the sidewalk, set up cool videos like Hemp Revolution, Cannabis
Rising, or even the Step by Step grow video, and watch how many people
stop and check it out.
Smoke lots of pot out in the open, shamelessly.
For those cold winter months, smoke lots of pot indoors, shamelessly.
If you already deal pot and some of your hempology regulars want to buy,
it’s a good idea to get parental permission for teens first. Don’t deal
at this point unless you’ve already shot a wad to your lawyer.
In a few short months you should have a hardcore cadre of drugpeace activists
who know all about the bast and the buds. It’s now time to hold a rally.
Special tips on “unarresting”
??? I’ve been “unarrested”
before, and it’s got to be the greatest high there is. The way it works
is that everyone simply hugs the person getting arrested.
??? The point is that you
could never unarrest someone suspected of murder or rape, as everyone wants
these people under tight control. But unarresting someone for a pot offence
is something that almost everyone agrees with, sometimes even the police
doing the arresting!
??? The whole trick is done
with cameras. Video cameras especially, but you can do it with a still
camera too. Just remember, cops have “Rodney-King-o-phobia”. They don’t
like being caught on film using force unjustifiably. They know a picture
is worth a million votes, and so do we.
??? Hug the person about to
be arrested as if your life depended on it (it does, trust me) and make
the cops work really hard to get you into the paddy wagon, but never touch
??? Touching a cop without
their permission is assault, in some small towns it’s legal grounds for
them to kill you on the spot. To tell the truth, hugging the person getting
arrested is technically “assaulting an officer,” but I think this kind
of assault would be laughed at in the papers and I doubt they’d try to
argue it. Always remember to be as polite as you can be.
??? Five hard-core huggers
and a loose camera can take on three cops and win, I know from personal
experience. The cops know this too, so have more than one camera with you
and hide about half of them.
One last tip, don’t always assume that the
person getting arrested at your rally is a victimless criminal. We almost
hugged an armed robber at the tail-end of Grasstown 25.
?Step two: Smoke-In.
The main point of a smoke-in is to have some fun. The other point
is to remove the shame and fear associated with pot smoking by replacing
it with the image of having fun, while being responsible and peaceful of
A beautiful poster done by the best artist in your neighbourhood that is
unmistakably ganjacentric in nature, with the time, place, date and “raindate”
spelled out in big letters. The poster should be coloured by stoned people
in such a way as to resemble a beautiful stained-glass window.
Buckets, brushes, rubber gloves, woodglue and water (for putting up your
stained glass windows all over town).
A fax machine to fax the local media.
A sound system and a power system.
Some good bands that are ready to kick out the jams under combat conditions.
A whole bag full of joints to hand out to the rally volunteers, musicians,
and hopefully, the crowd too.
Another big bag of pot to be raffled off to raise money, and a roll of
Many signs, banners, tee-shirts and buttons.
Videographers and photojournalists.
When doing a rally or smoke-in, just remember the old Yippie philosophy:
“a smoke-in is a blank canvas, just make sure your fundamental message
manages toappear in the final painting.” The smoke-in should have a major
theme (like Bill C-8 is evil and unpopular) that everyone has agreed to
focus on and “drive home”.
The activists who are designated to take on a spokesperson role with the
media should have lots of “soundbites” at the ready (lots of little facts
and phrases that can be said in five seconds or less – that’s the length
of the longest quotes).
The main season for smoke-ins in the Great White North is in summer, for
obvious reasons. July 1 (Cannabis Day) is a national day of protest and
so a good day to have a local rally.
August 7 is Vancouver’s Grasstown tough puffer convention. Perhaps
if we assert ourselves every year, people won’t forget that particular
lesson in people power.
Permits are nice but unnecessary (I’ve organized over a dozen of these
things and never had a permit). It’s usually a good idea to apply for a
permit, but don’t let them compromise the nature or purpose of your rally,
and don’t let their agonizingly slow bureaucratic process slow down your
Use your attempt to get a permit as another way of getting media attention,
and never let a lack of a permit stop you from holding an event.
Two final thoughts on permits: 1) in the Charter of Rights under the
“freedom of peaceful assembly” it doesn’t say anything like “get permission
first,” and 2) it’s often easier to get forgiven than to get permission.
Media press releases are essential. Just keep to the main points in the
poster: the time, place, occasion, a few short quotes and a “for more information”
number. Keep it to a single page or less.
Have lots of signs and banners ready weeks before the actual rally. Keep
slogans short and witty, and make them legible from a distance. “Drugwar
or Drugpeace?,” “Harm Reduction Works” and “I am Not a Criminal” are just
a few angles.
Beware of cops dressed as freaks who try to incite a riot. Get everyone
to swear an oath of non-violence and non-destructiveness at the beginning
of the rally.
Stick to victimless crimes. Causing a disturbance is arguable in some circumstances,
but the cops have been known to use it as an excuse to move in.
It’s best to have your own generator, especially in a permitless situation.
You can also play games with a long extension cord and some sympathetic
retailers or residents or even some streetlights. Have one or two back-up
power sources if possible.
When handing out pot to a large crowd, get everyone sitting down and tell
them to put their hands up if they haven’t had a toke. As the joints are
passed around, the hands will go down. Hopefully.
Groups like Food not Bombs or the Salvation Army could be asked to rustle
up some grub. Call in all favours and get the munchies happening. Rally
goers love food.
Don’t let the very stoned people lead the parade.
Step three: The Dutch Embassy
Setting up an above-ground “coffeeshop” or “herbal tearoom” or “flower
shop” or “electric breakfast” or whatever you’re gonna call it is by no
means an easy task. You should have done at least a year’s worth of rally/ad/postering
education preparation before hand. It’s OK to be a victimless criminal,
as long as everyone understands exactly why you are breaking the law.Materials
A pager or cellphone
A scale (invest in a Tanida digital scale first ? later buy a triple
beam for weighing larger quantities)
Safer, Smarter Smoking Guides
A kick-off rally, complete with ads, posters, hug-power video resistance,
music and munchies. You will be openly selling membership cards as well
as joints and baggies of pot at this rally.
A secret location to open to members the day after the rally.
A big bag of pot, preferably over a quarter pound (700-800 bucks for BC
primo in Vancouver, expect to pay more elsewhere).
An articulate idealist lawyer with experience who will give you a discount
in exchange for notoriety and some good smoke.
Tips on naming your operation
Your name is your real power. Each time your name is mentioned it must
be an educational experience. Some examples are the “Acceptable Risk
Club,” the “No More Hangover Club,” the “Not as Harmful as
Caffeine Club” – you get the idea.
Name your location something different than the club that runs it. It’s
a chance to get a different idea across, and it can be a funny way to blend
in with your surroundings. For example, imagine “The Christiania Tearoom,”
“The Mellow Coffeehouse,” or even “The Friendly Florists.”
Tips on picking a location
Pick something near a subway station or main bus route ? help your
supporters help you by being convenient to reach. This will also discourage
It’s best to find a hard-core puffin’ landlord, but one who can be bought-off
to look the other way might have to do. Subletting and lying are also options,
but try to set-up a long-term location early on.
Many non-European cultures are not cannaphobic, so check out the “multi-cultural”
neighbourhoods. You may ultimately have to lie to your landlord to save
them from being implicated in your activities.
? A typical
folks and welcome to the Dutch Embassy. Let me lock the door behind you,
please just step over here to the membership book.
is our membership card. It’s printed on hemp paper, has evidence that harm
reduction works on the back and it has a pledge that you will not operate
heavy machinery while impaired on marijuana. Our definition of impaired
is “failing an RCMP impairment test.”
pick a fake name like “Buds Bunny” or “Donkey Ho-Tee” and sign it on your
card and in our book. If you sign it on line 1735, that’s your number,
write in on your card. Have your card with you for all transactions.?
your Safer Smarter Smoking Guide. This will inform you of the ways in which
you can avoid some of the negative aspects of smoking pot and all of the
negative aspects of suffering under prohibition.
also allows you certain legal services. We are paying for a lawyer to make
sure that if you are arrested here, you will be represented. He won’t try
to get you off on a technicality, but he will try to destroy the laws you
are being pushed around with. Membership lasts a lifetime and is only ten
bucks. Replacement cards cost five bucks.
You must be over eighteen
to join, or be over thirteen and have both written and face to face parental
hours are one pm to nine pm every day. Here’s your card, here’s your guide,
here’s your bud.
care and don’t drive impaired.”
?Tips on cards and guidesMembership cards and the Safer Smarter Smoking Guide are the
“responsibility agreement and educational component” aspects that make
up your harm reduction strategy. They are essential.
The membership card (printed on hemp paper, of course) should have your
phone numbers on the front, along with a pledge not to operate heavy machinery
while impaired on marijuana. Ours also has a quote from the Dutch Government’s
October ’95 report on harm reduction called “Continuity and Change.”
The Harm Reduction Club’s Safer Smarter Smoking Guide is mostly copied
materials, such as Chapter 3 of Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine, by Grinspoon
and Bakalar, Dutch Government evidence, articles from the media, and other
stuff like that.
I got the idea from a Dutch pamphlet called “Advice on Hash and Weed” (found
on page 20 of the guide) that itself was handed out in coffeeshops. You
can make and print up your own guides, or you can order them en masse from
Tips on tearoom furnishings
Start modest and simple. You just need a few couches and chairs, a TV/VCR
and stereo, and a table for free info, Safer Smarter Smoking Guides, petitions
and a sign-up book for members.
Provide free rollies and screens, as well as drawing paper and oil pastels.
(membership has its privileges).
Buy a “budbuster” (coffee grinder) for faster joint prep.
Get a vaporizer for those who don’t like smoking but want to get high anyway.
(You might want to put off purchases like this until you’re confident they’re
not going to get stolen by police.)
If it’s a “tearoom,” buy some tea and a kettle, and serve the tea in paper
cups to get the health board off your back.
Buy a garbage can and a recycling bin.
Jazz up your place with original art from the drawing paper and the pastels,
with bud posters, rally posters and other such cafe trappings.
Get really stoned and get really creative and put everything into decorating
it and knock everybody out! Make it so beautiful the cops wouldn’t dare
bust it! Go all the way, it’s your cafe!
Tips on picking a mode of organization
Like the Yippies and Christiania, the Harm Reduction Club is another attempt
at a collectively run organization. Decisions are made at Monday-night
staff meetings (try picking a yummy food spot to ensure attendance), or
in emergency situations by a majority of those who are present at the time
the vote needs to be cast.
Why have a democratic workplace? As my favorite anarchist officer George
Orwell pointed out, it takes just about as long to explain yourself as
it takes to turn someone into your robot slave. Friends will work harder
with you than slaves will work for you.
Of course, because I’m the sole investor, people listen to my opinion
carefully?but I can still be, and often am, outvoted.
My co-workers and I have agreed to work for less than minimum wage, to
remove the “profit motive over health concerns” argument from the equation,
which is the real problem with the alcohol and tobacco industries. Attempting
to get official non-profit status will compromise the anonymity of your
Tips on the media
When the media are around, cops and politicians jump to their best behavior.
You may wish to do this as well.
Let the media direct the action and frame the issue the way they want,
unless they are completely confusing the issue. In this case politely provide
them with sourced evidence to contradict their angle.
Tips on police
Establish congenial relations with the police early on. Once you’ve had
your out-of-nowhere massive blow-out “opening day half price sticky stinky
joints sale,” be as up front and unsurprising as you can be.
Popping by police HQ with a press release that you want “some help with
the wording,” or to ask some non-violent security questions may give them
an incentive to cooperate with you further.
If you see cops hanging around your location or harassing your customers,
photograph or film them.
Tips on other security problems
Get some safe spots, some secret stashes, some tricky holes, some drop-offs,
some runners and some hidden panels. Never have more pot unhidden than
you can afford to lose (from both cops and robbers).
Lock most of your stash in a room or trunk a block or so from the operation.
Don’t be obvious about where it is.
Separate your grams and eighths weigh room from your ounces and pounds
weigh room. Separate both weigh rooms from the club members smoking salon,
with good metal doors if possible.
Video and audio surveillance with a remote recording system will deter
both cops and robbers from messing with you, without the need to resort
to violent means. The ideal would be to have hidden cameras with offsite
recording, in three or four different places inside and outside the tearoom.
Tips on buying and selling pot
Don’t buy anything with a chemical taste. It’s poison.
Whenever possible, buy certified organic, which means no chemical pesticides
or fertilizers, preferably grown in real soil. Find out what the grower
eats, as those who are into unpoisoned pot often have unpoisoned food.
Avoid wet pot totally. In the “semi-above ground” pot business, you’re
going to be selling it the same day (often the same hour) you buy it. Growers
must learn to wait until it’s almost but not quite bone dry. Never buy
water for dollars per gram.
Watch for mold in the flowers and inside the stem. Don’t ever buy or sell
even “slightly” moldy pot. If you one day find yourself with some and you
don’t want to throw it out, make damn sure it’s totally bone dry and dead
before you dare to smoke it. Lung infections may occur with mold. It’s
best to just chuck it out.
Don’t buy a lot of wood. Bug your suppliers to trim them woody pieces off.
Weigh out each gram to 1.1. This covers your own dryage and wood, and it’s
Buy a pocket 30X microscope from Radio Shack. If you can’t see lots of
crystals on the leaves with this thing then don’t buy the pot, because
no-one else will either.
Never sell shake. Sell loose buds or brown pot in pre-rolled joints. Selling
loose buds, no matter how potent, is bad advertising. Strangely, nobody
likes brown pot. Purple is good, but brown is bad. Go figure.
Roll up most of those brown nugs (or some “deceptively potent” outdoor
strains) and sell them in gram joints. Have a few choice outdoor strains
in baggies for medical users and other health-minded folks (most outdoor
Your reputation is all you have, so be scrupulously honest and generous
in all of your business dealings.
Tips on hash
Take a small nerd off and stick it between your tongue and the roof of
your mouth. Wait a full minute. If it goes blond real quick, the word on
the street says it’s cut. If it tastes like sugar or salt or Vaseline or
anything chemical, it’s cut. Never buy or sell cut hash.
Tips on making money
Let me quote Marc Emery for this one: “get people to spend money with you.”
Have your two most intelligent and principled co-workers keep track of
these three very important numbers: 1) pot and cash at opening 2) pot and
cash at closing and 3) daily expenses.
If you, like me, are buying for two hundred an ounce and are selling for
two-eighty (ten bucks a gram), you can make more than a few bucks a day.
In the beginning, the amount you can make is ridiculous. No (formal) competition,
millions in free publicity and a limitless market. It’s really like walking
up to a mountain of money with a bucket. Spend that money wisely.
Know the amount of cash that you have on you at all times. If the police
catch you with lots of money and you don’t know how much it is they have
an excuse to call it “drug money.” Tell them you won it at poker.
Tips on spending money
You’ll be running out of hemp membership cards and Safer Smarter Smoking
Guides sooner than you think, so buy lots.
Pay everyone sub-minimum wage, including yourself. When the war is over,
pay yourselves the wage you deserve-with back pay.
Shoot early profits quickly into your lawyer’s hands, to be kept safe from
the police. Keep your lawyer happy.
At the beginning, don’t bother buying anything nicer than a regular glass
bong for the club, the cops and/or the robbers will just steal it. Instead,
plow those excess bucks into a “joint” account (a drugwar chest) that you
and your lawyer can dip into.
Later you can think about opening another shop or publishing a newsletter.
Imagine taking out an anti-crimestopper ad!
Use your money to teach people what the term “harm reduction” means. When
prohibition is over, stay non-profit and keep spending money on reducing
other harms in your community.
Tips on getting busted
Just think of it as your union dues. Stay non-violent, and ride it out
as best as you can.
If possible, have some hidden recording devices ready to capture the moment.
If they let you out without making you promise not to deal, I would advise
dealing again, as soon as possible. How much more trouble could you get
You shouldn’t let them make you promise not to deal. If you do promise,
then you can break the law again and be a bad-ass, or you can go underground
(where there’ll be lots of heat and no light) or you can do something else
that’s educational but less illegal, at least until you win your case.
Tips on your upcoming trial
I don’t know about your trial, but for my trial I’m arguing that smoking,
dealing and growing marijuana are protected activities under the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The freedom to think, believe, express, assemble, associate, communicate
and to be secure and protected from unwarranted search and seizure are
all guaranteed under the charter, and are all denied by marijuana prohibition.
It doesn’t say anything about “except the relaxed and hungry folks” in
The government’s usual answer to that is that “we’ve signed all these
international anti-drug treaties.” My answer to the government is that
we’ve also signed international human rights treaties, and anti-genocide
Within this framework, the two most powerful arguments I’ve come across
are the caffeine argument and the “it’s working in Holland” argument.
The caffeine argument goes like this: Find a medical expert or references
to honestly assess the potential risk of both properly smoked (organic
bong-filtered) marijuana and caffeine. Compare overdose potential, withdrawal
symptoms and long term overuse hazards and risks. Pot comes out safer in
The “it’s working in Holland” argument is self-explanatory. I highly
recommend reading “Drugs Policy In the Netherlands ? Continuity
and Change.” You’ll soon find out why I called North America’s first out-of-the-closet
pot store “the Dutch Embassy.”
|?A note on the parental permission policy|
I feel bad turning kids away into the black market, but for now I figure
this is the only way to maintain the relative lack of shame reflecting
the relative harmlessness of pot, while separating the issues of parental
authority and the cost/benefit trade of a safe point of sale for teens.
Besides, the little rugrats can earn their own freedom.
David Malmo-Levine can be reached at the Harm Reduction Club: tel (604)
253-6357; email [email protected]; regular mail can be sent care of
The Dutch Drugs Policy Report “Continuity and Change” is available through:
Hageman bv, Postbus 281, 2700 AG Zoetermeer, Amsterdam; tel (31) 079-361-11-88;
fax (31) 079-361-39-27.