Saturday, December 06, 2003


I love the first snow and was hoping for a real blizzard but, as is so often the case here, the promised nor'easter has yet to materialize. We do however, have a persistent little storm going this afternoon that's been working hard since midnight, to cover the ground and they say it will keep going for a long time. Who can believe the weatherman though, especially in New England?

I really love weather and often thought I should have become a meterologist. What a great gig. I hear they make close to a six figure income, they get to look at cool maps all day long and they only have to be right half of the time.

The streets are still navigable but there appears to be little traffic for a Saturday. Bad news for the retailers in lovely downtown Noho. It's been a slow holiday season here so far by any account and the service workers have been reporting a resultant downturn in their tip revenue at the bars and restaurants.

Meanwhile our city council has been busily drafting a noise ordinance to combat the evil scourge of musical performances. There seems to be a growing number of mostly newly arrived downtown residents who have loosely organized to complain about the sound of people having fun at night. I'm surprised that Bill Dwight, a long time denizen of the downtown scene, is supporting this obviously flawed piece of legislation and to the complainers, let me reiterate my most unpolitic stance on the subject. If you don't like the noise don't live within the eight square blocks of downtown. It's a big valley.

And it gets worse. In the interim, two venues, La Cazuela and Silent Cal's have had their music shut down on alleged license deficiencies. I had a visit from a couple of youngsters circulating a petition on behalf of Mystic Sound Systems who have been hosting the DJ night at Cal's for the last two years. I live close enough to have been bothered if they were excessively loud. They have been so unobstrusive that I barely noticed they were there. I had to look them up to figure out who they are and though I'm not much for that kind of music, I did like their mission statement.

"To bring music that doesn't get heard to the people that want to hear it."

I was the first one to sign the petition and I wish them the best of luck in restoring the event.


Speaking of noise, my favorite rabble rousers are stirring in their dens, sharpening their rapier wits for the political season ahead. Al's back from his latest journey and takes time from skewering the establishment to report on the emerging radio network, Central Air, on BigLeftOutside. One wonders if Giordano may not eventually end up infecting the airwaves with his latest manifesto from under those call letters, particularly since his long time friend and ally Barry Crimmins has signed on to the project.

Who knows how Crimmins will find the time considering he's likely to be touring to promote his new book, "Never Shake Hands with a War Criminal," due to be released in 2004 by Seven Stories press.


I just took a little break to play in the snow while the wind died down. It's bone cold and the snow is almost microscopic. Accumulation remains unimpressive but the whitening landscape illuminates the darkness and soothes something in the spirit. I hope it gets soft enough for a snowman before it melts.

The snow is coming in from the south but the news tonight comes from Canada, where they were already sitting on two feet of snow in November. This first story is kind of bittersweet. I don't know much about Grant Krieger except he's been a long time activist and provider of medical marijuana. An MS sufferer himself, he was on trial for the second time for drug trafficking.

A reluctant jury, given no choice under the judge's instructions but to return immediately with a verdict of guilty under the facts of the law, deliberated for over nine hours before returning the verdict over the impassioned pleas of two jurors who begged to be excused on moral grounds.

"I don't feel this man is a guilty man," explained the male juror who fought back tears as he spoke to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. ". . .I believe that I could not live with myself if I'm part of the conviction of this man."

In a interesting twist, Judge Chrumka then renders a sentence of one day in jail, saying Mr. Krieger's operation was non-profit and aimed to help the sick. The maximum charge for drug trafficking is life imprisonment.

The light sentence notwithstanding, Kreiger appears to be a man of principle who according to the article, feels he had "no choice but to provide sufferers of HIV/AIDS, cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease with pain-easing pot since the government had no supply. " He will likely appeal the verdict.

A brave decision that comes at a higher cost than just the strain of years spent in courtrooms. The toll now includes his family. Grant and his wife Marie will be divorcing after 28 years of marriage. Hours after the verdict, she tells,

We've been talking about a divorce for about a year. I've lost jobs over this. Even though it's legal aid, the monetary costs are soaring. Our family has been discriminated against because of this. I'm tired," says the woman who has stood resolutely beside her husband since he took up his legal battle to first take and then provide pot for medicinal purposes in the mid-90s.

"It's just that Grant thinks that the time has come when I should be protected from the costs and everything else that will continue in the future," she says.

And in that one statement comes confirmation that the business of providing marijuana to those who suffer from such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, AIDS, cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) will continue across Canada, courtesy of eight far-flung branches of the Krieger Foundation.

"We have something like 315 members across the country who are relying on us to help alleviate their pain. The foundation, which is now bigger than any one individual, even Grant, will carry on -- even in the knowledge there will be more court cases to come," she says from the foundation's HQ in Calgary.

Is justice being served by this family having been destroyed in order to prevent this man from providing a medicinal agent to the terminally ill? I think not and I'd like to believe the judge deliberately set up the grounds for appeal so the law could be challenged. We'll be watching for developments.


On a happier note, The Sierra Times reports on the latest stats from British Columbia's provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall showing the population of cannabis-friendly British Columbia is getting healthier. Coming in at number one:

Declining death rate for cancer continues, dropping to 15.7 per 10,000 last year. The rate was 17.08 a decade earlier. This statistic counters the exploding cancer rates in the US and confirms research showing that cannabis fights tumors.

The study also cites lower preventable hospitalizations and increased life expectancy. While no one denies smoking anything carries a health risk, this study surely suggests some health benefits to ingesting cannabis to me.


Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the end of alcohol prohibition. That prohibition ended because respectable middle class Americans wanted to use this substance in their homes. As Al Capone said,

When I sell liquor, it's called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it's called hospitality.

Civilized society saw the harms associated with an illegal delivery system outweighed the consequences of legal consumption and demanded a change in the laws. We can do the same for the drug laws in our lifetime. We have no choice but to try. The alternative is unacceptable.

Last word goes to a very old book tonight.

Whenever the offence inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigor of penal law is obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind.

Edward Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776


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