with an Eagle Feather
??? Vancouver’s Harm Re-duction Club
first came to public attention on October 19, 1996, when they held a kick-off
rally in Grandview Park, openly selling over a half-pound of marijuana.
They advertised their phone number and started selling from their basement
suite the next day, and weren’t busted until December 4, six weeks later.
??? On December 20 they opened up again,
this time with a storefront in the neighbouring municipality of Burnaby.
Despite police harassment and gang violence, they managed to stay open
and sell about a half pound a day for over two months, until the RCMP shut
them down at the end of February.
??? Club co-founder David Malmo-Levine
describes what happened when the RCMP came to the club, and shares the
experiences and lessons he learned while spending a week in jail.
- “I’ve met men in jail with style. I’ve met more men
in jail with style than men out of jail.”
Part 1: Busted (Dutch Embassy)
- ??? On Friday, February
28, 1997, the Dutch Embassy Marijuana Flower and Herbal Tearoom got shut
down by the Burnaby RCMP.
It must have been about three o’clock in the afternoon. Had the police
waited about thirty more seconds, they would have intercepted a quarter
pound of primo,? found our secret stash of cash and a link to our
supplier. Lucky us.
Had they waited about thirty more minutes,
they would have been caught on tape by the two videographers I had coming
that day. Lucky them.
??? If only we had scraped
enough bucks together to buy those hidden cameras! We would have had a
Cops episode really worth watching.
??? There was an eighteen
year-old girl there during the bust. She resisted arrest, don’t ask me
why. She had two football player-sized Mounties twisting her arms behind
her and digging their knees into her back, yet she resisted anyway. I guess
the cops didn’t take the time to explain to her all the good reasons for
grabbing her body and messing up her life.
??? One of the RC’s – I’d
recognize him in a second – walked over and pulled her head back by the
hair in a real mean way, just to show her who was boss.
??? “Hey,” I said in a
calm voice. “Is that really necessary?”
??? “She’s resisting.”
said the mean cop.
??? “What’s your badge
??? Sgt Harris, the gray-haired
super-cop who was in charge of the raid and busy going through my pockets,
said to me:
??? “You don’t need to know
his badge number. She was clearly resisting arrest. I’m the officer you’re
dealing with now”
??? “Sgt. Harris, I presume?”
He ignored me and continued his search. He took my chillum, evidence of
my personal, long-term struggle with marijuana addiction, no doubt. He
then found my stash.
??? “Aha! The dope. I found
some dope on him, guys! Is this marijuana?”
??? “Why don’t you smoke
it and find out?” I managed to retort.
??? “You don’t have the
balls to admit it, do you?” he sneered.
??? What I really didn’t
have the balls to admit was that I wasn’t about to cooperate with his neo-fascist,
euphorophobic, Miami Vice wannabe robocop inquisition any more than I had
to. Not an easy thing to say to a cop – especially when you’re in cuffs
with no cameras around.
??? They got the Tanida
scales (our fourth pair, the other were three stolen in other armed robberies),
about 700 bucks worth of pot and about 300 bucks cash.
Part 2: Hell (Burnaby Lock-down)
- ??? Me, my co-conspirator
and house mate named Derek, that 18 year-old girl and some unlucky 20 year-old
guy got cuffed and paddy-wagoned over to the Burnaby Jailhouse. We were
photographed and fingerprinted, then sent to our cells to rot.
??? They let our two members
go, but Derek had to spend a miserable, cold night in jail. In order to
be released, he had to promise never to set foot in Burnaby, not to be
out after 10pm, and not to speak to me, his house mate. We later got the
last two conditions removed.
??? The reason for busting
somebody on a Friday quickly became obvious: judges don’t work weekends.
I would have to wait for Monday’s bail hearing to find out what my conditions
??? My cell was about six
feet by eight feet, three walls of concrete and a wall of bars. The toilet
hole was near the door. Beside it was the sink. A fluorescent light shined
down on the bunkbeds twenty-four hours a day.
??? The food was a welcome
distraction from the mind-numbing boredom. It was basically bread and water,
with the occasional dinner of macaroni and an unfrozen, heavily salted,
almost fudge-like edible oil product that they were trying to pass off
as cheese. It was definitely unusual, and arguably cruel.
??? It wasn’t completely
hell. If you begged nicely, they would give you some right-wing spy novel
or old newspaper to read. The guy in the cell across from me was trying
to get some pain killers for his abscessed tooth. He got some, after about
an hour of negotiation. If you were a good little prisoner, “boss” would
give you a little plastic packet of jam for your toast.
??? The real hell came
on the third night. This drunk Korean guy got himself thrown in the drunk
tank, right across from my cell.
??? “This is my first time
in here! Let me talk to my lawyer! Fucking assholes! Give me another blanket!”
??? He just kept repeating
those same few sentences for at least five hours, maybe more. It took all
my willpower and Jedi training to keep myself from throwing a cold cup
of water on him. I eventually yelled “give him another blanket and maybe
he’ll shut up.” In the morning he had two blankets.
??? I think it’s worth
pointing out at this point that there are no “pothead tanks” in jail.
??? The next day I went
before a judge. The prosecutor insinuated that we had no community support,
that there were legitimate complaints, that there was a real concern about
the Elementary school being just five blocks away, that I was a real danger
to the community who was likely to re-offend, and thus bail would have
to be set at $3-5000 bucks.
??? It is interesting to
note that during our first month of operation there were no complaints.
The complaints we did hear later on were not based upon any harm done,
just that we were breaking the law and that “no one is above the law”.
??? My argument was that
I had done nothing wrong, I had harmed no one, I hadn’t even broken any
promises to the police, since the last time the authorities let me go without
even making me promise to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
??? Besides, I argued,
I thought providing a “safe point of sale” and moving from a “punishment
approach” to a “health approach” was keeping the peace and was the very
best of behaviours.
??? No dice. Racking up
additional charges while awaiting trial is a breach, our lawyer Paul Hundal
told me, and the prosecution had me by the short and curlies. Bail was
set at $4000.
Part 3: Purgatory (Surrey
Pre-trial Secure Custody)
Next thing I knew I was in the back of a paddy wagon headed south to “Surrey
Pre-trial”. I thought I would just hang out there for a day or so until
my former employer, Marc Emery, could succeed in posting bail.
As we traveled south, my fellow passengers passed around a small, hand-rolled
cigarette, smuggled in from the “outs”. Normally, I’m a cranky non-smoker
with no tolerance for second-hand corporate death, but while I was cuffed
I fully supported and even “kept six” (kept a lookout) for these rebel
addicts, getting their illicit nic fixes on the sly.
We arrived during lunch. After yet another photo session, they gave us
our red prisoner jogging outfits and we chowed down on a comparatively
delicious lunch of egg salad sandwich, grape juice and apple. Then I was
taken up an elevator to the fourth floor. My new home: Unit H.
There is a vast difference between a pre-trial jail and a post-trial jail.
Surrey Pre-trial had a games room complete with a pool table, table tennis
and foozeball. It had a weight room and gymnasium, and they even had a
hackysack for me! There was a SuperNintendo 64, the most advanced game
system I have ever seen. There was soft porn movies on the TV, and some
guys had a TV set in their cells. You could even smoke in your cells.
Not a bad place to spend time, provided you weren’t a vegetarian non-smoker
who liked privacy, non-fiction books and dental floss.
I’m sure there are men who live just to get sent to pre-trial. Three squares
a day in the most exclusive men’s club south of Planet Hollywood. If our
rulers were only as kind to the people on the outside. All I wanted to
do was survive and get the hell out of there ASAP.
My hair was providing me with a bit of a challenge. I think it was the
first time most of the guards and prisoners had seen green dreads. There
was a lot of teasing and threats of haircuts, but it was soon looked upon
like a tattoo: a bit of self expression they couldn’t easily steal from
The rules of survival were simple. Don’t whistle, don’t take anyone’s food,
don’t go into anyone else’s room uninvited, don’t ask questions about anybody’s
legal matters and don’t piss anybody off. Don’t forget the part about not
whistling, it’s very important.
I just kept repeating
the mantra: “Be cool. Survive. Don’t piss anyone off.”
It paid off. My nickname was “Greenmachine”. Considering some of the other
guy’s nicknames were “Asshole” and “Buttfucker”, I think I got off quite
It didn’t hurt to have a high-profile, trumped-up waste-of-time-and-money
pot charge either. In jail, marijuana trafficking was almost universally
regarded as a harmless activity. After a few consciousness raising sessions,
Unit H had reached a near consensus on the issue – guards included.
I met one other person who I knew for sure was a drugwar prisoner. He was
a Canadian musician who got caught smuggling his personal stash of heroin
(one gram) over the border. “Stupid” I hear some folks say. I think it’s
more ignorant of us to waste tax dollars persecuting the users of nature’s
best (and most benign when legal) pain reliever.
Part 4: Heaven (The Smudge
- ??? Mealtime was a marketplace.
??? “I’ll trade you my
milk for a cigarette.”
??? “A cigarette? Throw
in a dessert with the milk for the apple I lent you last week, plus an
option on your turn at SuperMario.”
??? It was a small economy,
but it was ours.
??? I traded my meat in
and managed to get quite a few vegetables in return, unless it was a vegetable-free
dinner, which was often.
??? By the second day I
was getting a little impatient. I called Marc.
??? “What do you mean they
wouldn’t accept your $4000 bucks?
??? “They wouldn’t accept
it from me because I’m facing trafficking charges myself. They want a surety,
property that isn’t going to move, worth over four thousand dollars, owned
by someone who isn’t themselves up on charges, and who lives in the community.
Do you know anyone who fits that description?”
??? “My Dad does, but I
think he’s determined to let me deal with this by myself.”
??? “That’s nuts! Perhaps
when he hears about these outrageous conditions, he’ll change his mind.”
??? “Talk to him, would
you Marc? Use all your powers of persuasion.”
??? “I’ll try.”
??? It’s funny, but had
I gotten out then, I would never have had the following magical experience.
??? On my third day at
Surrey Pre-trial, I had learned that there was to be a smudge ceremony
for the aboriginal prisoners, with the help of a volunteer coordinator.
Male-bonding aromatherapy for warriors.
??? I had heard that the
famed Defenders of Gustafson Lake, Bruce Clark and Wolverine, were going
to be there, so I asked the guy that was going down from my unit if I could
tag along. I promised I would be respectful and shut my mouth, I just wanted
a chance to meet my heroes.
??? We went to a little
classroom on the lower floor. There was tobacco and coffee for everyone.
I myself chose the chocolate chip cookies (I was chocolate-jonesing bad)
and the orange juice. What a considerate volunteer smudge-coordinator we
Bruce and Wolverine arrived soon after
I did, and I got a chance to talk with them about their trial. The Canadian
government never bothered to sign a treaty with these people, they just
wanted them to give up their land willingly and without a fight. Apparently,
everything they’ve been charged with is on videotape, yet the judge won’t
admit the tape as evidence!
??? I also heard that the
contempt charges Bruce was then serving were a joke. He had thrown some
papers down in anger at being denied his right to be heard as an expert
at this type of treaty law, and was also being pushed around physically
by the bailiff, and so he called the court a kangaroo court. The judge
didn’t like that.
??? I listened to Wolverine
and his son talk about the right of a sovereign people to defend their
land – their lifeblood – from blind corporate earthrapers… by any means
necessary. Wolverine felt he had done no wrong in firing shots at the tires
of the army armoured personel carrier that was trying to run him over.
He stated that it was pure self-defense, and that the army was the aggressor.
I had nothing but respect for these men.
??? One of the Defenders
had puffed with me at one of the? Vancouver Smoke-Ins. Figures. There’s
a real connection between the systematic persecution of the natives and
of the potheads. The natives are survivors of the first and largest witchhunt
in Canada. We potheads are the witch flavour-of-the-month.
??? After the chit chat
about everything under the sun, we all got in a big circle and Victor (the
volunteer) lit a candle, turned out the light, and then lit the sweetgrass.
??? We each took turns
spreading the sweetgrass smoke over our heads and into our eyes and ears
and mouths, and over our arms and legs and bodies. Then Victor spread it
over our backs with a huge eagle feather.
??? Finally, when each
of us stunk of sweetgrass, Victor passed the eagle feather to Wolverine,
who said some words in his own language. Wolverine passed it on to Bruce,
who said nothing and passed it to the next guy in line, another white person.
We European guys were all silent.
??? The feather got to
a native. He had a song. The next guy had a prayer. Then came a song. Then
something in English, then something else in a different native Canadian
dialect and so on.
??? The feather went around
once. The light came on but we stayed in a circle. A few more songs and
we were just about to break up when I decided I had a couple of things
??? I told everyone what
Jack Herer told me about tobacco: how it was once “dark leaf”, a hundred
times less addictive and a hundred times more hallucinogenic, but it became
a white persons crop – “bright leaf” – because that strain didn’t interfere
with worker productivity as much.
??? I also told a quick
story about one of the rallies in Edmonton, Cannabis Daze ?95. The
story was that we were having an open microphone, similar to the eagle
feather in some way, and a drunken Indian came up and asked for the microphone.
I gave it to him. He said he had a joke. He said:
??? “Why did the white
man go to the moon?”
??? We all said “Why?”
??? “He heard the Indian
got some land up there too!”
??? The joke went over
well and the smudge ended on a high that lasted for days, as long as the
smell of the sweetgrass.
??? Marc managed to convince
my Dad to bail me out. Thank-you Marc. Thank-you Pa. Thank-you step-Ma
(who had to travel from Vancouver Island to Vancouver while very sick,
just to sign for the stupid bail).
??? “Are you sure you don’t
wanna finish this game of Risk?” my new friends asked.
??? “Uhmm… no thanks.
I think I’ll leave while I’m ahead. See you on the outs!”
??? With an international
salute for smokin’ – the thumb and pointer to the lips – I was outta there.
Within four hours I was back at Hemp BC smoking the big spliffs for real.
Part 5: The lessons
- ??? The estimates you see
before you are a bit rough to say the least. For many of us (including
me) this was our first attempt at coordinating such a venture. None of
us were trained accountants, and I don’t think I’ve passed a single math
class in my life. It’s all just a distant smoky dream to me now.
??? The biggest problems,
aside from landlords, police and armed robbers, were 1) The 0.1 gram bonus
in each bag. Over time, that generosity adds up. 2) The cab rides. Start
with a car, or at least start near the major bus or train ways. 3) moldy
pot can be a bad investment and/or a serious medical hazard.
??? We didn’t put nearly
enough into the legal fund, which is now a major problem. We also should
have started with the hidden, remote recording cameras installed on the
door and on our members… it would have gone a long way towards identifying
thieves and scaring away police. A picture is worth a million votes, but
good home movies are worth a billion.
??? A friend pointed out
the advantages of creating a protest poster in advance of a bust, which
could be left with associates in the case of a police raid. When it goes
down, just insert the date and other details the evening of the raid, photocopy
a few thousand and pass them around like crazy. Then fax the media and
watch what happens.
?? Aside from that, I like to
think of the whole thing as a smoke-in that cost three thousand bucks to
kick off, but which just kept going for five months, paying for itself
as well as six newspaper ads and thousands of cards and guides. There was
also lots of media attention, most of it positive.? Everyone who worked
there ate really well, everyone got really high, and the grams we sold
were fat and sticky.
??? I never made a red
penny off my $3000 investment, and I still have some serious phone bills
to take care of. The first trial (me, Chad and Jeremiah for possession
for the purpose) begins in February 1998. The second (me and Derek for
trafficking and possession for the purpose) begins December 3. We will
be seeking a jury trial. We want the jury to be aware of the constitutional
and international obligations Canada has to respect basic rights and fundamental
freedoms to act in ways that don’t harm others.
??? If you’ve already given
some bread to Chris Clay and you want to diversify your investment in your
freedom, I still have some major debts to pay off. Help me out, and I promise
that my associates and I will continue to tell the truth, expose lies and
irk the powers that be twice as good this time around… in a “town hall”
??? All perfectly legal,
just like California and Arizona. Personally, I’m in no hurry to go back
to the kennel.
For More Information..
Contact David Malmo-Levine at (604) 669-9069
email [email protected]pbc.com.
?Oct 19 – Nov 1 (.25 lb/day) $4,160
?Nov 2 – Nov 15 (.5lb/day) $9,620
?Nov 16 – Nov 22 (.75lb/day) $6,360
?Nov 23 – Dec 3 (1lb/day) $15,800
?average $800/day for 70 days? $56,000
Rent, home sale location: (Oct – Mar) $3,900
Rent, Dutch Embassy (Dec 20 – Mar) $1,700
Legal fund $1,000
Terminal City ads $1,700
Burnaby Now ad $950
Cell phone $1,750
Home phone/utilities $720
Dutch Embassy phone $500
Post-bust ?pot by donation’ attempt $750
Pipes and bongs $355
Membership cards $440
Safer Smarter Smoking Guides $2,000
Movie rentals $600
Pot seized by cops $3,000
Pot nabbed in transit $210
Pot taken in armed robberies $3,000
Cash seized by cops $1,000
Cash stolen by other gangs $2,000
Pot lost because mouldy/wet $1,000
Cost of removing stems (2g/day) $2,300
Cost of providing cheap medical pot $200
Embassy wages $4,500
Cab rides $4,625
0.1 gram bonus (2g/ounce sold) $28,240
Overweighed due to seized Tanida scale $2,000
Food ($100/day) $13,000
Free pot ($150/day) $19,500
Misc. expenses $3,900
Membership Dues $15,000
Pot sales profits at home location:
Pot sales profits at Dutch Embassy:
TOTAL PROFITS: $106,940
TOTAL EXPENSES: $104,985
Monies Unaccounted for: $1955