Legalize It

I stopped by ‘Coast Books’, Camp’s non-profit-bookstore because this was the busy time of year for him and that would likely make him late for our usual Thursday beer conference. On my way I passed the local pot dispensary, quaintly called ‘The Healing Shanty’. It loomed empty. I thought those purple Sativa buds would make great stocking stuffers.

Campbell, Camp to all us locals, was just about to close up. “This was one of the better days. If all days would be like today I could actually make a living selling books,” he said.

A minute later we were comfortable seated in our usual corner, even though this time of year there was nothing much to see apart from a few twinkling lights across the dark expanse of water. While Vicky set two foamy mugs in front of us I had to ask what Camp thought about the legalization of pot.

“It’s a weed,” Camp said, “that is why it’s called weed or grass. Should we regulate Dandelion tea? I hear it has a calming effect.”

“Yeah, I get it but the topic is all over the news. Quebec just announced their policy, 15 government outlets, no home growing, zero driving tolerance.“

“Therein lies the problem,” Camp pointed out, “legislations and restrictions do not make for a good business model. Zero tolerance means that if you smoked on the weekend and you get stopped on Wednesday, the THC is still in your blood. Does that mean you can never drive again if you indulge once in a while? Also, the choices, quality and price need to be equal or better then the street merchandise. In other words, the Quebec model is rather flawed.”

“Alberta announced that all their outlets will be private and you can grow up to four plants at home. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are looking at similar models. Not sure what the Minister of pot in B.C. has in mind. All we know is that the feds really want to push this legalization as of July next year.”

“That’s all fine and well but where is the standardization, especially for medical marijuana, who or where is the quality control and who are the distributers? Is it the provincial liquor boards or Big Pharma; maybe Reynolds or Philipp Morris, the cigarette companies?”

“Lets hope not,” I said, “but there will be huge business opportunities and hundreds of jobs from cultivation to distribution. I believe BC will allow ‘craft growers’, sort of like ‘craft beer’ and bigger companies like Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth Corp. who by the way have taken over the old Hershey Chocolate factory, are cultivating over a million square feet of pot already. I read that this could be 25 billion dollar bonanza with world wide business opportunities.”

“And all the millions in taxes will go to the government, hopefully to support health care and social services,” Camp said with a hint of sarcasm.

“It will go the same route as gambling and Tabaco profits. First they were designated for sports and culture, now they just go into the big pot. No pun intended,” I said.

“I also read that high profile pot advocates like the prince of pot, Marc Emry and his wife Jodie, will not be eligible to get into the business because of their criminal records – for pot offences. Kind of upside-down-backwards,” I pointed out.

“Yes, and there should be an amnesty for all those kids who were busted for pot and now have a criminal record,” Camp said. “I personally like the Portuguese model. They legalized all drugs 14 years ago and decided to treat drugs as a public health issue and not a criminal one and now hardly anybody dies from an overdose.”

“Here in B.C. we have over 1,400 overdose deaths this year, but the legalisation law will only be about marijuana, nothing else.”

“It’s a bit like legalizing beer but not Rum or Vodka,” Camp said, taking a long swallow from his beer.

“What about the kids or juveniles?” I said. “I believe it’s not a good thing to be a pot consumer when you’re in your puberty. There is research that claims it stunts your motivation and ambition. I know from my own experience in my twenties, when I couldn’t even get up to change the record.”
Camp gave me a raised eyebrow look. “I never really indulged,” he said. “I tried but it gave me a headache. My mind is too overloaded as it is. Tell me, how did an old hippie like you meet a princess like Clare. You must have really pitched a flawless game to win her heart.”
I was a bit taken aback by Camp’s rush to judgement but then I have asked myself the same question. Clare once told me that she instantly liked me because: “You were an open book and spoke your mind,” and then added with a twinkle in her eye, “Now, I wish you would keep some of your opinions to yourself .”

“That’s perfect,” Camp laughed.

“You know there are so many ways to consume pot these day,” I said, trying to get us back on track. “From joints to chilums, hukas and vaporizers, candies and cakes to oil and inhalers.”

“Yes, pretty soon we’ll be able to order marijuana infused beers,” Camp said, “like a Sativa lager or and Indica pale ale.”

“Hey, there will be a niche market for the local breweries.”

“You two seem to have a good time,” Vicky said, standing beside us with her tray smartly on her hip. “Ready for another one?”

“Twist my rubber arm,” Camp grinned.




Salmon Talk

I took off my rain jacket and sat down across from Campbell, or Camp as I call my friend. He was once again staring into his smart phone, violating Rule # 1, which states: ‘Don’t mix leisure time with screen time’ or simpler put: don’t websurf while sharing a pint with your buddy.

“There is nothing to see outside,” Camp grumbled. “It’s dark at 5PM so I check the news on my phone. Listen to this: According to the ‘Paradise Papers’, the rich are parking their money in offshore tax havens, avoiding taxes, once again,” he mockingly elaborated.

“We always knew that the rich have ways to hide their money from the taxman while the working class pays taxes until they bleed,” I said, while at the same time signalling Vicky who was already on her way with two pints. I swear she is telepathic.

“Two pints on the tab boys. Enjoy.”

“On another money issue, do you know what Bitcoins are?” Camp asked, pocketing his phone.

“Not really, it’s some kind of virtual money I think.”

“Bitcoin is a digital currency.” Camp explained. “It cuts out the middle man in payments like banks or credit card companies, which means no transaction or exchange of fees. Like Uber, it’s here to stay. But here is the catch: With the electricity each Bitcoin transaction uses, of which there about 300,000 daily, you could run a fridge for one year. It takes 45 times more energy than a Visa transaction? This is according to Alex de Vries, who is a crypto-analyst, in case you didn’t know. All together the yearly energy footprint of Bitcoin transactions is about 24 terawatthours, which equals the energy demand of Nigeria. Switzerland uses about a third of that..- today. In 2011 one bitcoin was on par with the US dollar, today the same Bitcoin is worth over $ 10’000.

“Blows my mind,” I said. It sounds complicated and unstable and I don’t think we’ll have to worry about paying for our beers in bitcoin.”

On that note we both concentrated on our mugs.

“I bbqued some wild Salmon on a Cedar plank last weekend and Clare raised the issue of Wild Salmon vs. farmed Salmon,” I said. “When I owned the restaurant we had to serve only wild salmon. Nobody wanted farmed fish. Now the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way. It’s about conserving the wild fish stocks now. It’s very confusing.”

“You must have heard about the Cypress Island fish farm collapse back in August resulting in tens of thousands of Atlantic farmed salmon escaping into Puget Sound down in Washington or what about ‘Marine Harvest’, the Norwegian company, which operates over 100 licensed fish farms in B.C.’s coastal waters. I suppose the debate is about if these farmed fish infect wild salmon with sea lice and other diseases and the amount of effluent 4’500 tons of farmed fish produce, or the red pigment they add to their food in order to enhance there natural grey and unappetising colour?”

“Yeah, all of that,” I nodded. “I think the Chileans have 30 times as many aqua farms than B.C. We should just concentrate on ecologically raised fish in closed net pens that minimize harm to wild salmon and the surrounding environment. It could be a lucrative niche market,” I said.

“For the ones who can afford it,” Camp said. “Muriel doesn’t have that problem; she doesn’t like seafood. We should all be glad that we have a choice of what and when to eat and not if,” Camp said, downing his pint. I did likewise.

“What do you think about this latest feeding frenzy over sexual assaults by these celebrities?” I asked, knowing I get a spicy opinion out of my friend.

“Well I don’t doubt it goes on in millions of homes and work places,” he said “and we all know that the glamour business pushes sex and allure. I just don’t believe that we, the public, need to know about all these allegations. We have laws and courts for that. A charge about a drunken sexual advance 30 years ago against somebody who is now rich and famous seems a bit suspicious. Wasn’t it in the nineties when suddenly everybody had a sexual childhood trauma that they could only remember under hypnoses but that explained their present stunted emotional states.”

“I remember. It was almost contagious. You think this current wave of sexual harassment claims is like that?”

“I don’t know but you put those celebrity claims up against the horror of tens of thousands of Rohingyas, who are being raped, maimed and killed and driven from their homes in Myanmar, as we speak. Yes, Harvey Weinstein is a pig and so is that Alabama Senator Moore, but the real tragedies are unfolding in Myanmar, the Congo, Lebanon and Yemen, not so much in Hollywood,” Camp said, shaking his head.

“You have a point there, Camp. Just be glad you don’t own a TV.”

“It just makes it clear to me that we can’t really complain about our corner of this world,” Camp said. “We don’t really have problems here, just situations. We can bitch all day long about the weather and the ferry but then we go home and turn up the heat.”

“Are you two ready for another one?” Vicky asked. “It’s the lack of sunshine that seems to affect you two. It’s called SAD, ‘Seasonal Affected Disorder’. My mom suffers from it.”

“How does she deal with it?” I asked, being one of those afflicted.

“She takes Vitamin D and goes to Hawaii for a month.”

“Must be nice,” Camp grumbled. “How about some sunshine in a glass?”

“Coming right up.”

The Pain of Addiction

“Remember that song ‘Addicted to love’ by the late Robert Palmer? With the catchy refrain ‘you might as well face it, you’re addicted to love,” I asked Camp as soon as I sat down at our usual Thursday table at ‘Gramma’s Pub’. The song was stuck in my head, playing the catchy refrain over and over, driving me crazy.

“Yeah, I sort of remember,” he said warily, “where is this going?”

“Well, if you change the refrain to ‘addicted to pain’ you’re right in line with the latest epidemic. I’m talking about the opioid crisis in the US and also here in BC where over 800 people have died from overdoses this year alone. It’s a crises as big and more complicated than Aids, some experts say.”

“I take it the pain you refer to is threefold: First there is the real pain which gets dulled with ever increasing pain meds, which can lead to the pain of addiction itself; the stigma attached to it and then follows the pain of loss; loss of self, loss of money and loss of relationships and eventually loss of life itself.”

“That’s putting it pretty crassly Camp,” I said, sipping my beer.

“By the way, Americans, who are 5% of the world’s population, take 60% of the world’s painkillers. Americans are the most drugged people on earth,” Camp stated and then went on, “according to an article in ‘Guardian’ over 90 people die each day from opioid overdoses in the US.”

“It’s incredible,” I said, “and how does all that heroin get from Afghanistan to the US each year?”

“Well you can start with the CIA trained Mujahedeen which later turned into the Taliban and who outlawed opium production in 2000. Then the US took the war to the Taliban in 2001 and after 2,300 US soldiers were killed and thousands maimed, Afghanistan in 1995 was once again the producer of 90% of the world’s supply of heroin. Figure it out.”

“And as long as millions of people need and want these drugs, somebody will produce and deliver them. The war on drugs should be a fight against addiction with medical, social and judicial resources, not guns, military and cops. I still don’t know how all these illegal drugs get into the US and Europe.”

“From the south they come in mostly by sea in everything from pleasure boats to submarines, also by cargo containers and tunnels and even catapults and air canons are used to send drugs across the border. Heroin from US-occupied Afghanistan gets in by airplane. People getting on and off military and CIA aircrafts aren’t searched. It’s as simple as that.“

We both sat quietly for a few beats, contemplating the enormity of the mess. Time to change the subject, I thought.

“Camp did you hear about New Zealand’s new prime minister ? She’s 38 years young and tweets as a kitty cat named ‘paddles’ ?”

“No, that news item escaped me.”

“Well, I’m glad I got something new for you. Her first tweet after being elected was: ‘You asked fur it.’ Get it?”

“And here in Quebec they elected Valerie Plante as the new mayor of Montreal. I can tell you Muriel is ecstatic and for my money women can run the world. Get rid of all the old men who are in power the world over.”

“You’re preaching to the choir Camp, we’d all be better off I believe. You know the first thing Jacinda Ardern, the new Kiwi PM, wants to do is stop the sale of New Zealand properties to foreign buyers, because the housing market is through the roof and has become unaffordable for middle-class kiwis, with more and more homeless people on the streets. Kind of reminds me of Vancouver, except here everything is still up for sale. If someone from Timbuktu wants to, they can buy ten properties at once.”

“Yes, this is a problem, even here in Gibsons, property has become unaffordable for young people,” Camp agreed.

“How do you guys want to pay,” Vicky, who suddenly appeared, asked. “I prefer cash or would you boys like the machine?”

“How about a tab Vicky? Could we start to run a tab?” I asked.

“And where would my tips go ?”

“Oh, they’re separate, due each Thursday,” Camp laughed.

“Under what name would you boys like to start a tab”

“Thirsty Thursdays,” I said and Camp pulled out a fiver for Vicky’s tip.





Global to Local


We’ve been having glorious, ‘Indian summer’ weather lately, but last night the wind howled, black clouds rolled in and it looked and felt decidedly like November. Car windows are fogged up, frosty dew on the ground and all the deciduous trees are dropping their leaves. Halloween, The Day of the Dead and Hallows Eve are thankfully over and already a lot of businesses are switching to Jingle-Bells and Christmas décor.

“I hope the pub holds off for a while with the usual Frosty the Snowman window decorations. All this pre-Christmas cheerfulness doesn’t really brighten up my gloomy November and it brings out the early Grinch in me, and my friend Campbell, Camp to all his cronies, feels the same way.

“Santa Claus sounds like Mr. Amazon from the North Pole. A regular mail order business, disguised as a free gift giving enterprise, replete with a fantasy delivery commercial and no warranties. Baloney and Marzipan,” Camp grumbled, “except it’s the best time of the year for a bookstore.”

“Santa goes global Camp. Everything from cars to smartphones, from kitchen gadgets to appliances to electronics is made globally with parts made in China, Japan, Mexico and then assembled maybe in India or even in the US. We just bought a washing machine and it’s a South Korean brand but with parts and pieces in it from around the globe.”

“You must know that globalisation or the outsourcing of jobs has been reversing for the past 10 years, something few people are aware off,” Camp pointed out.”

“Really, I thought it was just one of Trump’s empty battle cries.”

“Not exactly. Caterpillar, NCR and GE built new factories and brought thousands of jobs back form China, Hungary and Japan. Foxxconn, the world’s largest electronic sub-contractor with clients like Microsoft, Apple and Nintendo is creating thousands of new jobs in the US. Tesla built the biggest new car factory in California and their battery factory in Nevada is gigantic. All in all, over 350’000 jobs have been repatriated into the US since 2010, not because of Trump but because wages and transport costs have risen in 3rd world countries and market stability is better close to the consumers which are still mostly in the US. All this bellyaching about unfair trade deals is just so much window dressing. The CEO’s of the world’s biggest companies are ominously silent about this trend and nationalism, a cousin of protectionism, is here to stay.”

“Well, here in this small town we now have 3 local breweries and one distillery. I guess it’s a microcosm of the big picture,” I said. We both sipped our beers, looking out at the grey, gloomy harbour, almost like they painted the whole scene in black and white and took all the colours away.

“Camp, you’re a councillor, what do think about the latest court injunction to stop ‘The George Hotel’ development on the Gibson’s Harbour?”

“It’s just the latest frivolous misuse of the courts by a fringe group who want to subvert the democratic process. Back in 2014, 63% of the town’s voters have elected representatives who support the project. The accumulated costs for defending these abuses of process have cost the local taxpayers over a hundred thousand bucks so far.”

‘It’s a shame. The money could be used to move the breakwater.”

“Don’t get me started, that is also being challenged by certain people who don’t want more boats, more people or even more tourists in this town. They don’t want any change. In fact these people want the ‘good old days’ back or their skewed version of a past that didn’t exist in the first place. Luddites, every one of them.”

“Oh, boy that calls for a drink,” I said. “The local politics are every bit as fascinating as those in far off places. Have you been driving in the city lately,” I asked Camp, changing the subject. “It’s absolute chaos and a game of chicken every time, no matter what time of day, it’s gridlock everywhere. Instead of adding more bicycle paths to the already congested roads why don’t they do what Zurich (Switzerland) has successfully accomplished.”

“What’s that,” Camp wanted to know. “Did they ban cars?”

“Not quite , but they built a brand new three story underground parkade right under the center of Zurich at the Bellevue and topped it with an open event plaza, where people can roam and congregate. The cost for parking downtown? A whopping $ 25 an hour. That keeps a lot of cars away but on the other side of the equation they made all public transport like trams, buses and even some cable cars, free for all. Now that’s what I call thinking out of the box. The teens were riding for free anyway and now they can save all that infra structure like ticketing machines, controllers and policing.”

“It’s going to be cold day in hell before they make public transport free around her. Imagine free ferries. Now that’s a wish Santa won’t be able to deliver,” Camp said, shaking his head. “I do have a good news item I’d like to share with you. It’s a quote by the late Ojibway writer, Richard Wagamese, at a lecture to a white audience, referring to the disastrous residential school policy, which devastated and traumatized so many first nations families. He said: “You can’t undo the past and you don’t have to apologize for the past, or even feel guilty about it, all you have to do is say YES, yes this happened.”.

“It’s a great sentiment,” I said, I’ll drink to that.”