Hemp hunting in darkest Amsterdam

For the 8th season running, the infamous Cannabis Cup was held in the civilized city of Amsterdam – pot capital of the world. All paranoia was suspended and the city became one big picnic, a perfect backdrop for delegates from four continents to enjoy those fruits of the earth that are forbidden elsewhere on the planet.

Marc Emery sent a delegation of his staff from Cannabis Canada to explore this hempen zone and report back to the flagship store Hemp BC in Vancouver. Marc’s scathing review of last year’s Cannabis Cup has not exactly endeared him to the sponsors at High Times, his publishing rival.

There are some in New York City that would gladly strangle him for daring to criticize the poor planning and agenda vagueries of the ’94 cup. Marc charges that the tickets were collected, but in many ways High Times failed to deliver as advertised. High Times may be PO’d at Emery, but nobody says he’s wrong!

The 1995 Event was a much tighter show than last year’s cup. It was organized and presented with the NYC glitz and dazzle that we bush dwellers have almost come to expect from the city that does not sleep, although it is known to nod off now and then. Consider King Kong in New York – nobody checked the chains or mentioned how the flashbulbs send the big monkey into distraction.

I won the office pool at Hemp BC and went to Amsterdam. Marc stayed on at the store in Vancouver. It was no secret that most of his staff were off to Europe. The Vancouver police used this opportunity to visit his store and charge Marc’s customers with smoking pot. Short staffed, it was as easy as fishing with a gill net at low tide. Good going doughnut-eaters – point to your side for picking the right moment to move.

The Cannabis Cup is an annual event where participating potheads pay $100 for the privilege of being judges of excellent smokables. This stuff is not free; it is a fact that the judges buy it at retail prices so they can vote for their favourite variety. The winners get the coveted snappy silver chalice known as the Cannabis Cup. Is this democracy or the academy awards? Who can tell?

A decade of Yankee hype and Dutch savvy has produced a cornucopia of super high THC varieties which have caught the fancy of the world. Most of this cyberpot is cultivated in Dutch greenhouses and retailed through associated coffeehouses that cater to the delta nine dingdongs who pay dearly for the herb. I suspect that the abundant hash is not imported from afar. It is most likely produced from resins collected from bonafied varieties of cannabis which originated in districts that used to make and export hashish.

What is offered as Nepalese hash is not “product of Nepal”, it is Nepalese seed grown in Holland to produce Nepal/Dutch plants, and Nepal/Dutch hash is made in Holland from authentic Nepalese strains of plants.

After all, countries that formally make hashish are subject to vicious warfare and nasty government upheavals. They trade hash for guns. They are often overrun with DEA agents who shoot to kill. Messy. It’s easier to do it at home, avoiding all that international border stuff. Keeps the cash near the canals and the freelance smugglers away from the marketplace. Everybody’s happy – even the Dutch doughnut dunkers. In ratio, there is not such attention paid to the raw bud. It’s the other way around in North America, where bud is king, and hash is a rumour.

Behind the merry clouds of dizzy smoke there lurks a serious premise. Behold the growers and their keenness to grab the honour of “best herb of the show.” These growers/breeders hustle like stock brokers to snag kudos. To them it’s more than glory – it’s marketing, pure and simple. The winning pot means it’s the best variety, and the best variety means their seed commands the highest prices when it is offered on the market.

The Cannabis Cup is the Kentucky Derby for seed breeders – those with the trophy can sell their stock of hybrids at a premium price. Overnight, pot seed prices can double, triple, or quadruple in value. A single ounce (28g) of choice viable seed is worth many times its weight in gold. Imagine, the easiest weed in the world to grow and its abundant seeds are worth a Microsoft fortune.

Offshore pot growers gladly flip chubby wads of cash to obtain champion stock seeds. The price is of almost no concern, for once they are smuggled back home and germinated, these super seeds can grow into sparkling money bushes that fatten under the glow of high pressure sodium vapour lamps, hidden in secret gardens in the heart of every city and town on the planet.

Now that millions of amateurs grow the buds of delight, the most attractive niche is the game of developing hybrids and marketing the seeds. The throne of influence is occupied by a handful of breeders who offer a genetic edge to the legions of growers, who will bring their material gains to market in the next few months.

One pot plant can produce $5000 worth of buds – or $50,000 worth of seeds. Holland is a compact nation that operates on the principle of profit per square metre. Seeds for would-be pot ranchers are a big ticket item, and the Dutch are not fooling around. They might do for cannabis what they did for tulips. History shows they can, and demand encourages them to try.

The breeding and heritage of high-end pot is conducted at a level of sophistication that reminds me of moon rocket research. It is amazing that an industry of such magnitude, forbidden everywhere around the world, is able to conduct such glorious advances in research and development. It’s a mystery who’s behind it all, who guards the prize, who really profits. Having the world marijuana market deemed illegal is the shrewdest promotional ploy the human brain has ever cooked up. This is something new – capitalism without the burden of advertising. It’s vulgar, but it is a step forward in evolution.

Amsterdam is head office for the “Sensi Seed Co.” and a host of other concerns wheeling and dealing seed. These folks can afford to produce slick packaging to hold a few seeds. Snappy logos, condom quality cellophane bag, gold foil overprinting – all to present a few Frankenstein lab seeds that would be a slim snack for an anorexic canary. How much is substance and how much is hype? I can’t tell.

Lucky Mother's home of the hempburger: hempseed meal, tofu, and vegetable paste formed into a patty and fried. Yum on a bun!

Lucky Mother's, home of the hempburger

The winning entries of the ’95 Cup were rather delicious. It was all lightbulb pot (Cannabis sativa indooricus). The samples were fluffy and fragrant, but the joints tend to become so greasy as they burn that they go out. The buds were remarkably brittle – obviously charged with unmetabolised fertilizer salts. The very high ratio of ash supports this analysis.

The Europeans tend to mix their cannabis with tobacco so that combustion is not a factor. North Americans, who tend to smoke their cannabis neat, shudder at the idea of blending pot with the wicked nicotine. All that anti-cigarette brainwashing seems to be working after all, n’est ce pas?

One can only get so zonked; it’s like sports after a while. At a coffee shop I tried a hempburger – it was excellent. Hempseed meal, tofu, and vegetable paste is formed into a patty and fried. Yum on a bun! The lettuce and red pepper rings are products of local Dutch greenhouses. No crates of wilted produce trucked 2000 km like in Canada. These Dutch are clever farmers and the cities support them 100%. There is a lot we can learn here. Perhaps we should adopt their cyber agriculture to feed ourselves. Heaven knows, their herb shows it can be done!

One of the most entertaining social aberrations I witnessed was Americans going cold turkey off TV. Holland is not a video worship culture like most of Europe and half of Canada: people actually talk to each other in the evening hours between supper and bedtime. The Americans, God bless them, see life in half hour segments, and anything they discovered to be socially interesting was deemed worthy of “being good enough to be a video.” I suppose this is a compliment of sorts.

I overheard many schemes of copycat pot palaces. Setting up smoke zone cafes in the US of A is viewed by all as pretty well unobtainable, at least in this century. The news that Canada is somewhat hip and that dynamite bud is available and semi-tolerated by the Feds in Vancouver and Toronto astounds our American neighbours. Here is the new gold rush looking over the brochures and flight schedules. Remember that Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows? and now gets bent in the land of hemp, why, God only knows?

The stateside hempcloth carpet baggers would love to move to Canada (Mexico North) and make a million dollars selling pot. Sort of like Ronald McDonald with dreadlocks. You’ve been warned, gentle reader, here they come. The fact that Canadian cannabis (hemp and herb) is the best in the world is not lost on these people, even though the same message falls on deaf ears here at home.

The Californian Americans are now used to popping big coin for the privilege of obtaining some premium weed smuggled in from the sasquatch stomping grounds of BC. By comparison, the BC product is better, far better than Nepalese hash. Take note: well grown Canadian bud surpasses exotic imports, even the classic stuff!

When the Cannabis Cup events wrapped up each day at sundown the judges, exhibitors, smugglers, and scholars retreated to any of the hundreds of cafes sprinkled throughout the city of Amsterdam to chat and roll Eurospliffs or become numb with fun from the electric inhaler pipes that are more common than telephones. Most of the more prosperous cafes were set up to capture the armada of pot loving visitors, vying with each other to irrigate their cashboxes with the river of guilders these visitors bring with them.

Europe just loves hash! Stocks of the joyful resin were in good supply. Varieties of gourmet bud mud that have not been available in the New World for decades winked from menus in the groovier cafes. Cheerful Dutch bartender/apothecaries stood before their collection of tupperware buckets holding fragrant slabs of hashish, deftly whacking off crayon-sized chunks like sushi chefs, as the drooling tourists pressed three digit currency across the counter. Much was immediately smoked in the booths, just steps away – lots more was mailed home, as were seeds.

The cafes offered buckets of buds, easy to get as potato chips. Bubblegum, Citrus, Shiva, Super Skunk, Northern Lights, AK-47? the list goes on.

It is my personal policy to never buy or sell cannabis. No exceptions, no matter what. However, I was able to mooch little hits of most of the varieties passing by and still stay somewhat sea level to observe this four day marijuana marathon.

Endless Dope

Here was pot gluttony at its most stratospheric extreme and I can report that warp 13 levels of intoxication didn’t kill anyone, harm anyone, endanger or even alarm anyone. Consider the fist fights that go with beer festivals, car crashes associated with wine and cheese events, body counts from the cocaine wars. Now look at Amsterdam full of thousands of stoned strangers, getting along like little kids at a Christmas party. They just love cannabis flowers.

Here were laboratory animals on vacation from legal vivisection, and nothing bad was happening, or was even suggested. Everyone forgot to look over their shoulders and didn’t bother to fasten the deadbolts on the door. Cannabis minus fear equals koo-koo fun.

The Cannabis Cup was originally a festival of pot that nourished and accommodated the Hemp Nut fringe and helped them spread their message of hemp as the future. The parade of strolling stoners began to take notice. This year, the Hemp People formed a goodly portion of the show, and Hemp talk dominated the conferences and workshops at the Cannabis Cup. The contrast between the Delta nine obliviates and the crisp and eager Hemphogs was remarkable. The dopers were merely dumplings, simmering in the savory stew of industrial hemp that is cooking up good things at a rolling boil.

Here was the cream of our planet’s hot blooded hempsters, with tangible evidence that the weed of wonder doth yield many good gifts. Industrial Hemp is raising its noble head above the clouds of smoke and ashes, ignoring the prejudice of dope to bring real hemp to the real world.

It’s happening fast, and it’s here for keeps. These people are the industry, and the proof is evident in their samples, colour catalogues, and snowstorm of business cards of hemp manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers from all over the globe.

However, let’s not forget that it was pot that inspired the modern hemp farms, and that it was pot smokers investing pot money into these hemp shops that are popping up like dandelions in dozens of world cities.

In my opinion, the Germans are the most intense hemp hunters. They manufacture the best hemp clothing and develop the best hemp products. They are the makers of hemp oil detergent and eco-kosher soaps, cosmetics, art supplies, and doo dahs. The Americans make the most amusing hemp toys, sundries, gothic hemp costumes and giftware. The Brits make super fine hemp paper from UK grown hemp, while the Scots weave the most beautiful hemp and hemp blend textiles. The Canadians design the most wonderful livable hemp fashions, and the Australians are the most loveable and creative hemp hustlers of them all!

Media people from Brazil were taking the hemp harvest to heart. The Japanese took lots of photographs and sneaked joints without ever relaxing. TV crews from Europe and freelance documentary film artists clogged the halls like so many sacred cows at rush hour.

The arrival of the CBS “60 Minutes” crew sent glamour blushes across the souls of every American in the building? after all, they’re still one nation under God, but on several TV networks and many different channels. The couch potatoes will be amused in the weeks to come. How long will it be before Barbie dolls are issued with little hempen tunics?

The lineup of speakers and seminars was impressive. Mari Kane, editor of Hempworld Magazine, brought on a round of coughing when she coolly denounced wholesale legalization of marijuana. Her reason? A certain reluctance to hand over the reins of power to “the Hemp Suits” – aka the handful of alternative wannabe pot czars jockeying for position in this multizillion dollar nether industry.

I have to agree that the ponytailed doobie kings are not morally equipped to do the job, any more than the buck-lusting private sector corporations or even DEA and RCMP goon squad bosses. Kane was enthusiastic about the flowering of industrial hemp, but kept her support strictly within this latitude.

Robert C. Clarke, recluse author of “Marijuana Botany”, made a rare public appearance to give a talk-and-slide-show about the art and science of cannabis genetics. This was high end stuff – how some of the now famous strains came into being.

In an ocean of mystic voodoo, Clarke is one of the few authentic thinkers in the field. Many pirate growers went into trances as Clarke played out his theories, as most of them knew almost nothing about the ABC’s of breeding, and seemed way out of their element. Clarke had prepared a handout sheet of the specifics, but I don’t think many people there could follow logic. They may have sold pot in high school, but they obviously didn’t do their science homework. Clarke did, and boy does it show.

If knowledge is power, Ed Rosenthal is General Electric.

Ed Rosenthal

Clarke is a director of the International Hemp Association, and his projects will someday be appreciated for the leading edge they are. Think of Mozart conducting a room full of air guitarists.

Ed Rosenthal, the grandpappy of American pot growers, worked the crowd like a carnival hawker. He can do no wrong. He burps and it’s in High Times. Ed gave me a private audience the evening before his show and not only is he informed, but he is a funny guy. He shrugs off the worshipping the pot fringe constantly lays at his feet, and endures the clamour of the earring jingling devotees who follow him everywhere.

As grand poo-bah of closet cultivators, Ed, the famous Ask Ed, is a simple guy who just likes to get high. He is an entire set of encyclopedias when it comes to growing pot. If knowledge is power, Ed Rosenthal is General Electric. He looks like Captain Kangaroo and talks like Einstein on acid. If he was presented to President Clinton, he’d have a joy buzzer in his palm.

He is well aware of the impossibility of America ever cooling to the concept of decrim, and looks to Canada as the only nation that will embrace sanity, tolerance, and order concerning pot and hemp. Curiously, he is one of the few Americans who are aware that hemp is being grown in Canada for legitimate industrial purposes. I guess he can read without the TV on: that’s genius material for America. Elvis may be dead, but Ed Rosenthal is very much alive.

Health and success to thee Mishka,

a truth will prevail.


My favourite speaker was a charming French woman known only as Mishka. She has conducted original research into cannabis for many years and has published many thoughtful papers and books in French. She is in academic shit because she called the bluff of key researchers that various governments hold up to bolster their position of prohibition. She too has done her homework, and is not a howling pot fiend in any way.

Her comments irritate the establishment, and she is being sued for libel by prominent government scientists for daring to criticize their glib conclusions. Rather than retract her points, she welcomes the opportunity to prove her allegations in court. She is calm, informed and determined to pop their windbag rhetoric once and for all.

We met for tea after her show, and I was captivated by her style and completely taken by her arguments. I learned she is Canadian born, and toils away in France. She tells me that even though France grows hemp, the official policy there is to discourage hemp culture. It’s illegal to promote cannabis in France, and even displaying the image of the leaf brings heat. Sound familiar?

Watch for Mishka and get ahold of her books. An English translation is in the works. Her arch enemy, Dr. Gabriel Nahas and his National Alliance Against Drug Addiction, is losing a lot of sleep because of Mishka. He will retire in disgrace, for he cannot defeat Mishka’s logic with his swashbuckling antipot blabbing. Health and success to thee Mishka, the truth will prevail – stupidity will go down. Think of Joan of Arc vs Godzilla, and that’s Mishka vs Nahas.

In conclusion, the Cannabis Cup was a mixture of dope heaven, broadway show, infomercial, medicine snake oil, niteclub, virgin meadow, hobby, industry, -past, present, and future. It was fun, it was informative, and something like it should be held in every city that is tired of soccer, hockey, or football.

The walls between art and science are falling down. Set your alarm clock for the 21st century, slip into your hemp jammies, and dream on.