Exploring the Interior Design of Los Angeles Weed Clinics
If you own a store that looks great and people feel comfortable shopping there, nice work. If you’re operating that store under constant threat of raids and total shutdown, years of stressy politics, in-fighting, and a host of thug-life problems associated with selling a product that was until recently only available on the black market, then by all means take my seat on the bus. It takes a specific type of courage to run a good vibes medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, and it’s time this was acknowledged.
Ever since Proposition 215 legalized medical marijuana 17 years ago, Los Angeles City Council and the State of California have been shuffling regulation responsibilities back and forth, resulting in a constantly shifting patchwork of laws that make it pretty much impossible for marijuana dispensaries to draw up a solid business plan, much less think about feng shui. So it’s no wonder the typical LA dispensary has all the charm of a check cashing place: located in a mini-mall; sad, off-brand ATM in a linoleum corner; marker-stained dry erase board; bulletproof glass; a pleather couch, etc. Most dispensary owners just do not feel up to the task of interior design.
But luckily, there are some out there who do make the effort, and they give us a glimpse of what the future would look like if all the hasslers would just give it a rest and let dispensary culture evolve past the perpetually adolescent state of fighting for the right to exist. We took a tour of some of LAs more stylish dispensaries to see how they’re staying fabulous in the face of adversity.
“Everything you see is from Craigslist and is reupholstered with Duct tape every six months,” said Mandy atLA Confidential, a charming, nook-heavy hash bar on Melrose. They have a piano, jazz on Sundays, and a tiny stage where patients have been known to do some post-dab performing.
Dr. Sona Patel’s (aka Dr. 420) clinic in East Hollywood is the Versailles of Los Angeles marijuana clinics, complete with chandeliers and about a zillion gilded mirrors.
BC Bud, Part 1
With a reported value of over six billion dollars, it’s no secret that marijuana in British Columbia is big business. However, due to the recent legalization of weed in Washington and Colorado, the draconian crime laws pushed forward by the Canadian Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill, and recent changes to medical marijuana regulations, the entire industry is suddenly facing an identity crisis. VICE Canada decided to head out west to talk to the people directly affected by these recent events: from the legalization activists and the large and small scale growers, to the illegal traffickers and law enforcement, we talked to the people on the front lines of the battle for control over one of Canada’s most undervalued resource.
Watch the video
The Fugitive Reporter Exposing Mexico’s Drug Cartels
These are the opening paragraphs of Dying for the Truth, a book written about the infamous Blog del Narco, which fills Mexicans in on the (often bloody) activities of the murderous local drug cartels, where the nation’s mainstream media has failed:
Shortly before we completed this book, two people—a young man and woman who worked with us—were disembowelled and hung off a bridge in Tamaulipas, a state in the north of Mexico. Large handwritten signs, known as narcobanners, next to their bodies mentioned our blog, and stated that this was what happened to internet snitches. The message concluded with a warning that we were next.
A few days later, they executed another journalist in Tamaulipas who regularly sent us information. The assassins left keyboards, a mouse, and other computer parts strewn across her body, as well as a sign that mentioned our blog again.
However, we refuse to be intimidated.
As you can see, the people who keep the blog running risk their lives to do so. The book, which will be published in both English and Spanish by Feral House, will include a selection of the most relevant posts and pictures published between March 2, 2010, when the blog first started, and February 2011. Choosing to remain anonymous for safety reasons, the blog’s editor finally agreed to talk about her work, and the threats and trials she and the site’s programmer have faced in order to keep this project alive for so long.
According to the book, in 2012, their website—whose aim is to collect uncensored articles and images about the Mexican cartel’s extreme violence, their activities, and the government’s fight against them—registered an average of 25 million visits a month. According to Alexa, it is one of the most visited sites in Mexico. Although criticized by some media outlets for publishing gory images and information that’s given to them by cartels (such as executions and video messages aimed at rival organizations), the blog has become an essential source of news for journalists, citizens, and visitors.
VICE had the opportunity to speak with Lucy (a pseudonym she has chosen to protect her identity) about her blog, her new book, and what’s next for Blog del Narco.
VICE: Let’s start from the beginning. How did Blog del Narco come about?
Lucy: It was a way to show we were angry with the authorities and the media who had forgotten their number one responsibility, which is to keep the public informed. I’m a journalist, and my partner does both social networks and programming—so the idea was born, and on March 2, 2010, we went live with the blog.
Was there anything in particular that made you act?
Stories from people like, “I went on vacation to Tamaulipas and they were saying absolutely nothing on the news. I walked into the lion’s den and the gangs stole my vehicle, they locked me up for two days”—that kind of situation. People who had nothing to do with this, but ended up being affected due to a lack of information.
Why weren’t the media reporting what was going on?
They had been gagged in two ways: the federal government had told them, “You won’t say anything, there’s nothing going on here,” and on the other hand, there was the pressure from the criminal organizations.
81 Years for Weed?
Here’s how absurd the war on drugs has gotten: firstly, an activist from Keene, New Hampshire, is facing 81 years in prison for dealing marijuana; and secondly, even though he’s admitted on camera that he did sell about a pound of pot to an FBI informant, he’s still fighting the case in court in hopes the jury will acquit him.
The man’s name is Rich Paul, and his ordeal started last May, when he was arrested for selling weed and LSD (he claims he sold a legal chemical compound that wasn’t LSD). Instead of being charged with a crime, he wrote in a Facebook note about the incident and was taken to see an FBI agent named Philip Christiana, who threatened to throw the book at him unless he turned informer on his friends. According to Rich, Phil wanted him to wear a wire into meetings of a local political group he belonged to called the Keene Activist Center, lie to them about his arrest, and encourage them to commit crimes. Rich said no, and shared his story with the public—even going so far as to explain on video that he had been busted after selling ounces of weed to a confidential informant on multiple occasions.
There are several odd things about this trial, which started today. (Follow live updates through this Facebook page.) First, it’s not clear why the FBI, or this particular agent, was so keen, pun intended, to go after the KAC. Although the organization is “liberty-minded” (in other words, not fans of the police or other forms of government), it’s also explicitly nonviolent. Those kind of libertarian/anarchist/whatever-you-want-to-call-it politics are common in New Hampshire—in fact, groups like the Shire Society and the Free State Project encourage people who are tired of being hassled by the Man to move to the state, and the Keene area in particular. Acts of civil disobedience by the KAC and other activists are relatively common; Rich himself organized 4:20 PM “smoke-ins” at Keene’s Central Square to protest drug-prohibition laws.
In an email to me late last night, Rich said that his prosecution is an outlier. “Local law enforcement in Keene has always been extremely respectful, courteous and professional. Many of them, I will not say which, sympathize with us on many of our concerns, though most do not condone civil disobedience,” he wrote.
Does Don Draper Want to Legalize Heroin?
I’ve been reading about how bad the war on drugs is for so long that I’m not actually sure what the arguments in favor of prohibition are other than, “Drugs are bad, mmmmkay?” The government’s efforts to use law enforcement to get people to stop getting high costs of billions of dollars a year, results in nonviolent people being sent to prisons that ruin their lives and, in many cases, stick them in a cycle of recidivism that’s nearly impossible to escape, decimates poor and minority communities disproportionately and deprives many children of fathers. The war on drugs is racist, cruel, expensive, and it doesn’t even work, since people are still getting high—in the past few years, illegal drug use among kids has increased, while legal drug use (in the form of tobacco and alcohol) has declined. We need to get people out of an overcrowded prison system and back to productive society and their families, and we can do that by releasing those convicted of drug-related crimes. Fuck the law-and-order conservatives who have pandered for votes for decades by describing a world full of violent criminals who need to be locked up for life; fuck the for-profit corporations and prison-guard unions who make money off of human misery. Close the prisons, legalize drugs, stop trying to solve every societal ill with a badge and a gun, end the war on drugs. And so on and so forth.
You probably agree with a lot of the above paragraph—according to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, and Michele Alexander’s great, bestselling book, The New Jim Crow, brought widespread recognition to the idea that mass incarceration and the war on drugs are racist as well as massive failures. But it wasn’t until the past few days that the movement to end the drug war achieved the mark of every mainstream political cause in America—a bunch of celebrities attached their names to it.
The Vet Who Wants to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Dogs
Now that it’s possible to legally buy and smoke marijuana in many parts of the US, it’s safe to say that weed and its by-products will be ingested freely throughout the country in the next decade. But have you ever shotgunned a blunt into your dog’s face? If you have, you’re an asshole and should never do it again. But that doesn’t mean your pooch doesn’t like to get high, especially if it’s sick. Veterinarian Doug Kramer is among a small number of experts who believe THC could help canines cope with debilitating and chronic conditions just like it helps humans. I called Dr. Kramer to see how his crusade was going.
VICE: How did you first think to treat sick pups with pot?
Dr. Kramer: A client first brought it to my attention. She was a bit eccentric, but she was a very intelligent woman. She had a pet that was not responding well to any of the pain medications or the steroids that we were giving it, and she wanted to talk about getting medical marijuana. The other vets at the practice were pretty dismissive, but she saw that I was willing to listen.
I read somewhere that at some point your dog, Nikita, was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. You had tried pretty much everything, right?
She had gone through all of the traditional pain medications, even steroids. When it became clear that she was nearing the end, that’s when she had nothing to lose, as long as it didn’t hurt her. At the first dosage, she was up and around. I didn’t cure her. It was just a question of increasing her quality of life and putting off inevitably euthanizing her.
HARMONY KORINE ON JAMES FRANCO AND GUCCI MANE
Harmony tells us some stories from behind the scenes of Spring Breakers, with personal production photographs by Annabel Mehran and never-before-seen footage from the set by producers Chris and Roberta Hanley.
North Korea Smokes a Lot of Weed
Long-time VICE contributor Alex Hoban has been covering North Korea for us for years, but it turned out he had so much to say on the topic he decided to start a news site dedicated to the country. NK NEWS is the result, and since its relaunched last September it’s been running great daily stories like the one we’re featuring here by Ben Young. So go check out the site, follow them on Twitter, and, if you’re feeling super daring, they’ve also got this mysterious sign-up sheet that offers you a chance to join them on their next adventure inside the hermit kingdom.
North Korea, the most tight-lipped, conservative, and controlling country in the world is also a weed-smoker’s paradise. Despite the government’s deadly serious stance on the use and distribution of hard drugs like crystal meth (which has a notorious legacy in the country), marijuana is reportedly not considered a drug. As a result, it’s the discerning North Korean gentleman’s roll-up of choice, suggesting that, for weed smokers at least, North Korea might just be paradise after all.
NK NEWS receives regular reports from visitors returning from North Korea, who tell us of marijuana plants growing freely along the roadsides, from the northern port town of Chongjin, right down to the streets of Pyongyang, where it is smoked freely and its sweet scent often catches your nostrils unannounced. Our sources are people we know who work inside North Korea and make regular trips in and out of the country.
There is no taboo around pot smoking in the country—many residents know the drug exists and have smoked it. In North Korea, the drug goes by the name of ip tambae, or “leaf tobacco.” It is reported to be especially popular amongst young soldiers in the North Korean military. Rather than getting hooked on tar and nicotine like servicemen in the West, they are able to unwind by lighting up a king-sized bone during down time on the military beat.
Despite the fact the government doesn’t crack down on the use of marijuana (or opium) and its prevalence among the common people, traveling weed enthusiasts eager to sample some NK bud will likely be disappointed. If a Western tourist asks his or her guide where is the best place to get the “special plant,” as it is euphemistically referred to, the guide will most likely eschew the question. Most of them are educated enough in Western legal attitudes toward marijuana to not feel the need to promote anything that might attract negative press. Then again, bring them a bottle of Hennessy and they might be more willing to help you out.