It’s 3 p.m. on a cold, gross Saturday afternoon in November
and I’m stationed at the World Beat centre on St-Laurent
to wallow in the wonder that is the first-ever Quebec Cannabis
Cup. I feel privileged. The cost to attend this gruelling competition
is a whopping 200 bucks, but I, as an official hanger-on of
celebrated American pot guru Ed Rosenthal, have managed to hustle
my way in for free. Praise the Lord.
event is going down all weekend and today all of us participants
are scheduled to receive the hefty canisters of doob that we
will dutifully taste, smoke, fondle, and, ultimately, judge
for the awards ceremony planned tomorrow evening. It’s
a beautiful world.
for one thing. The all-important goods have yet to be distributed.
And everybody knows that if there ain’t no official reefer
around to judge, then you’ve got yourself one bogus Cannabis
Cup. Word has it the police came by the World Beat yesterday
to check things out and, though they were relatively cordial
and gave the Cup their unofficial blessing, nobody really trusts
them. Imagine that.
the organizers, HempQuebec, have opted to feel out the cop situation
a little while longer before doling out the competition doob.
I don’t blame them. Close to 500 enthusiastic weedheads
have bought tickets to this event and, with each one of them
due to receive an official Quebec Cannabis Cup canister stock
full of choice pot, I suspect HempQuebec could be looking at
a few fairly nasty criminal charges should the Man choose to
bust in and spoil the party. So we wait.
mood inside the earthy and smoke-filled café is a contrast
of blissful celebration and apprehension. I overhear a couple
of restless potheads at the table next to me bitching about
having to hang around so long to score the promised booty. I
don’t know why they’re so irritable. Since I’ve
been paying attention they’ve probably smoked about five
Cheech-and-Chong-style joints and they’ve got a giant
bag of weed sitting on the table in front of them. Everyone
is getting high. There certainly doesn’t appear to be
any shortage of reefer in the World Beat this afternoon. No
ROSENTHAL: A QUICK PRIMER
doing my best not to partake in the goings-on–pot almost
always renders me completely useless–and simply hang close
to Ed, whom I find holding court upstairs in the lounge area.
He’s been brought here by Heads magazine to cover the
Cup and lend his celebrity presence to the affair. In the world
of marijuana culture, Ed Rosenthal is king. A crack horticulturist
since the age of 10, Ed has been working his marijuana magic
since the 1960s, back when he was involved with the Provos–a
high-spirited activist group who provided much of the inspiration
for the Yippie movement a few years later on. “The Provos
recruited a bunch of us researchers and scientists to go back
to the farms and develop new and better highs,” Ed tells
me as a fresh army of sycophants storm our table to bathe in
the master’s wisdom, “and I guess I’m still
working on it.”
has written close to a dozen books about marijuana and for 17
years was the man behind “Ask Ed,” an especially
popular advice column in High Times magazine. A talented and
articulate marijuana activist, Ed is the undisputed authority
on all things reefer. Scores of admirers interrupt us to shake
his hand, give him pot to sample, and to maybe pick up a few
botany tips from the master. “I only resent that I wasn’t
a rock star,” Ed leans over to tell me. “Those guys
get all the free drugs but they also get the girls.”
two of us are having a marvy old time sitting around discussing
everything from the current U.S political scene to his old associate
Abbie Hoffman. “I would have killed myself too if I ended
up having to live my days hiding out in a chicken coop in rural
Pennsylvania like Abbie did,” Ed chortles.
far as I can tell, I think Ed likes me. He’s a smart,
charismatic old coot who laughs at most of my jokes–unlike
the other PC potheads at our table who I’m pretty sure
just think I’m an asshole. Our interview is going great.
I’m taking copious notes and I’m well on my game:
animated, witty, and thoroughly offensive to the hippie fucks
who relentlessly cling to Ed like crabs to Grace Slick’s
pubic area. Sheesh, I’m having fun.
do you smoke?” Ed asks after noticing that I keep passing
on the joints making their way around the table. I tell him
that while I’m no stranger to recreational drugs, pot
just totally knocks me out, to the point where I can hardly
even talk when I’m high, let alone conduct an interview.
it’s the poor quality of pot you smoke,” one of
the hippies slyly offers. “Try this herb, brother. Trust
me, it won’t fuck you up or give you a bad trip.”
which point in the afternoon everything becomes a little hazy.
Within a few minutes I noticed that while Ed’s lips certainly
seemed to be moving, the only sound coming out of his mouth
was a guttural honking, not a whole lot unlike Charlie Brown’s
schoolteacher from the old Peanuts cartoons. Ed was looking
me straight in the eye and telling me something no doubt noteworthy,
but I had stumbled into the other dimension, a place where words
could not reach me.
the time I realized I’d been dosed with some unspeakably
strong pot by a hateful hippie who just wanted to shut me up,
it was too late. I had blasted off and wasn’t due to land
any time soon. I vaguely remember drifting away from the hippies
and Ed and making my way over to the munchie table, where I
stuffed about three dozen brownies in to my mouth, thinking
that the food might help me come down a little. But it didn’t.
Curiously, I just got progressively more disoriented . . .
to get far away from Ed at this point. His face was freaking
me out. I made my way downstairs to the main hall and sat down
to watch some dreadlocked white Québécois reggae
band sing about revolution with fake Jamaican accents. I knew
I was in trouble when I started thinking they were actually
pretty good. I was suddenly struck with a strong urge to leave
but couldn’t feel my legs anymore and didn’t want
to take the chance that I would try to get up and end up rolling
around on the floor like a crazy person–tears welling
in my eyes, alternately laughing and crying. I opted to sit
tight for awhile. I noticed the remnants of a big fat joint
sitting in the ashtray at my table. It seemed like a good idea
to smoke it.
happened next is anyone’s guess. I know I lost all track
of Ed. All I can remember is several hours later being at home
in my living room eating a giant BBQ chicken–a bird I
have no recollection of buying and which I’m concerned
may well have come out of a dumpster. I fell asleep shortly
after with one thing on my mind: I had to get back to the Cup
and find some more of this incredible dope.
vibe at the World Beat today is one of righteous indignation.
Apparently, the police raided the joint last night but I, first-rate
journalist that I am, was too stoned to notice. Some potheads
tell me that the cops dragged Alain Berthiaume, the head dude
over at HempQuebec, out into the street and arrested him on
three counts of trafficking shortly after the competition doob
was distributed–something else I regrettably missed while
in my stupor. Alain is going to be stuck in jail until Monday
or Tuesday. Some of the more dedicated activists are going to
march over to the Guy street police station this afternoon to
hold a vigil and voice their displeasure with the Man.
it’s probably a good idea to track Ed down and see if
he’s got any pertinent details this reporter should know
about. I find him upstairs near the munchie table mulling over
some giant contraption some pot grower guy has brought in that
makes hash oil–or something along those lines. Ed and
the pot grower are deeply involved in conversation about germinology
and soil and a whole bunch of other horticultural shit that
no one but a dopesmoking gardener could possibly care about.
to ask Ed if he intends on going to the protest this afternoon.
“Damn right, of course,” he tells me, a little incredulous
that I would even ask the question. “I hope you’re
planning to demonstrate as well.”
yeah, sure,” I say a little weakly, not all that confident
my commitment to the cause is strong enough to march all the
way over to Guy and René-Lévesque on a freezing
cold November day just to let some marijuana guy know I’m
thinking about him. “I’ll see you there.”
know,” Ed says patiently, recognizing a liar when he sees
one, “this kind of police action is not just an assault
on marijuana, it’s an assault on dissent. The authorities
are not just trying to control what people think, but the way
people think. Marijuana smokers are very individualistic people,
and that’s something the government really doesn’t
want. Alain organized this wonderful party and now he’s
sitting in a holding cell because of it. I think it’s
important to show some solidarity.”
starting to feel guilty. I liked Alain when I met him yesterday.
I want there to be more local Cannabis Cups in the future. I
want pot to be legalized so I can cop the incredible grade of
smoke that’s been going ’round the World Beat this
weekend every day for the rest of my life. I want to fight the
Ed continued a little more gently, “these events are very
meaningful to the people who go to them because they’re
the celebration of a culture which has been under a genocidal
assault by governments for 30 years or longer. And it’s
important for people to celebrate in spite of government repression.”
the time Ed has finished his spiel he’s inspired an Oprah-sized
righteousness in my soul. The arrest has totally messed with
the weekend’s festivities. I’m told that since the
bust the chances of getting my hands on my canister of potential
prize-winning doob are now slim to none. I’m bummed and
angry at a world that can allow an injustice of this calibre
to occur. The awards ceremony has been called off. Fewer than
200 people have bothered to come back today and a good chunk
of them are heading out to the vigil. So much for fun.
downstairs and out the door to witness Heads editor and Bloc
Pot hero Boris St-Maurice rounding up the troops for the big
march. “Screw the Man!” I cry out to nobody. Some
of the marchers are passing joints around while we wait for
our cue to go put the fear into the cops. Within a few minutes
I am totally fucked up and shocked to discover my passion for
organized protest increasingly diminished with each gust of
cold air creeping up St-Laurent Boulevard.
who is right up at the front of the line, starts telling me
excitedly about a master conspiracy he is organizing for next
August that will cause a total breakdown in the American legal
system. “The courts are going to have too many people
to process and then they’re going to find out that they’ve
arrested some people that they shouldn’t have arrested.
I can’t tell you anymore right now, for obvious reasons,
but believe me, it’s going to be big.”
I believe him when he says it’s going to be a milestone
in the struggle against prohibition but, more importantly, his
teeth are freaking me out. So are all of the protesters. I’m
having trouble remembering what decade I’m living in.
My resolve to protest is weakening by the second. I notice that
the sidewalk seems to be kind of moving. I conclude there is
no way I can make it to the vigil and opt to fuck the march
and head back upstairs to listen to Jim Zeller’s band
and smoke more pot. I hang out for awhile, alone, but quickly
get bored, and while Berthiaume languishes in jail, I decide
to head back home to enjoy my BBQ chicken. Thanks for
the party, Alain.
manage to hook up with Ed one last time before he flies home
to Oakland, California to reconvene his jihad with the U.S.
pot prohibitionists. He gives me a copy of his latest print
offering, The Big Book of Buds, an aluminum pipe, and all of
the unfathomably strong pot that was donated to him over the
course of the weekend. I am eternally grateful. I’ve gotten
high every day since. Bless you, Ed Rosenthal, for you have
shown me the light.
Berthiaume of HempQuebec was released last Monday on $1,500
bail. He says he is confident he will beat the rap and plans
on holding more Cannabis Cups in the future. “I want to
open a full-time hash house in Montreal within the next year,”
he told me over the phone earlier this week, “but the
police treat me as though I am some kind of criminal. Tell me,
what was so criminal about what we tried to do over the weekend?”
His trial for trafficking is scheduled to begin on January 21.
by Chris Barry: