Heaven with an eagle feather

with an Eagle Feather

David Malmo-Levine

??? 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.”

-Charles Bukowski

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.”

    ??? “Done.”

    ??? 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
    to share.

    ??? 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
    (extension 17)

    email [email protected]

Harm Reduction Club



(From October 19 to February 28 – 134


    Membership Dues $15,000

    Pot sales profits at home location:

    • ?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

    Pot sales profits at Dutch Embassy:

    • ?average $800/day for 70 days? $56,000

    TOTAL PROFITS: $106,940



    • 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

    • Scales $895

    • Pipes and bongs $355

    • Baggies $300

    • Rollies $200

    • 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

    TOTAL EXPENSES: $104,985

    Monies Unaccounted for: $1955