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Marijuana mogul offers free grow-op equipment to beef producers
January 15, 2004

It has been said that a friend with weed is a friend indeed and Marc Emery, a man who always has a considerable stash of mind-melting marijuana close at hand, wants to make friends with Alberta cattle ranchers.

The president of the Marijuana Party and publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine is donning a white ten-gallon hat, riding over the mountains from his Vancouver base and offering to help save the bacon of Alberta beef producers devastated by the mad-cow crisis. Emery is offering to give a free marijuana grow-op starter kit to anyone who has cattle on their property and is looking to get into a new racket.

The man who has made himself a legal million – or maybe ten – in the marijuana industry, says he is willing to supply soil, fertilizer, plant food, a 1,000-watt bulb, seeds and a grow manual to financially beleaguered cowpokes absolutely free of charge.

“I’ll even come out there and install it all,” says Emery, matter-of-factly. The total retail value of such a package is $500 to $600, but Emery says the basic kit can net someone with a green thumb close to $15,000 per year. “These people are in trouble and I’m just trying to be a good neighbour,” he says.

It’s an understatement to say Canada’s cattle industry is in trouble and there is plenty stacked against it: the U.S. has a multi-billion dollar import-export trade deficit and they desperately want to start balancing that equation. Their dollar is falling, meaning they’re paying more to import goods. They can no longer export their beef products and they’re singing “Blame Canada” for that sorry state of affairs. Since they can no longer export beef, they will have to consume all the beef they produce at a time when the fast food industry, which buys a large percentage of the beef consumed in the U.S., is under attack from public health advocates and Americans are, slowly, starting to be more health conscious. Fast-food companies are also facing the spectre of super-sized tobacco industry-style lawsuits by litigation barracudas. And perhaps worst of all, it’s an election year and you have a better chance of finding a virgin in a whorehouse than you do of finding a candidate for office in a beef-producing state who’s going to campaign on a platform of compassion for Canadian cattle ranchers.

Emery has tried to put himself in the dung-covered boots of Alberta’s trampled-underfoot ranchers.

“If I were a cattleman, I would not want to, quite literally, bet the farm and my family’s future on the very dubious prospect of the border opening anytime soon,” Emery says. “On the other hand, try as they might, the Yanks have not been able to close the border to our weed and our neighbours seem to have an insatiable appetite for the stuff.”

The philanthropic self-proclaimed Prince of Pot has also looked into his smoke-filled crystal ball and does not like what he’s seen.”If Uncle Sam decides to close the border to beef, as well as live cattle, it’s very likely that a lot of family farms and ranches will be gobbled up by Monsanto – or whatever multinational megacorporation is involved with livestock – and that is something we can all live without,” he says.

Brooks Mayor Don Weisbeck laughed when told of Emery’s offer.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Weisbeck said to Emery’s “very strange” offer. “Let’s hope we can be just as successful in opening the border to our product. I don’t think he’ll find many takers. People here want a more fulfilling way to make a living.”

Emery’s offer, however, may not be as bizarre as Weisbeck thinks. B.C. bud has maintained much of the province since B.C.’s forest industry was crippled first in 1997 when the Asian “tiger economies” turned out to be paper tigers and went up in flames as a result of currency speculation and then by the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with the U.S.

“(Weisbeck) might want to talk to the mayors of dozens of B.C. towns dependent on forestry exports that have survived the past six years because of marijuana money,” Emery says.

Waiting for the rainbow in Montenegro
January 13, 2010

The collapse of communism brought Montenegrins a multi-party democracy and eventual independence. But for many, the transition has been bittersweet. Along with others in the former Yugoslavia, citizens of Montenegro lived in relative affluence at the time the Berlin Wall fell. They lost it once Yugoslavia broke apart.

“We believed that we had a better form of communism, soft socialism. In the 1980s Yugoslavia had a standard of living that was equal to that of Greece,” Maja Kostic-Mandic remembers.

With a younger generation taking over from the old guard, many believed the country was poised to enter the EU.

Then it all went wrong. Yugoslavia descended into chaos as the state disintegrated and its republics engaged in a succession of brutal conflicts between 1991 and 2001, known as the Yugoslav wars.

Today, the average Montenegrin remains worse off than before, says Kostic-Mandic, 40, a law professor and former parliament member. Her father, Branko Kostic, was vice president of Yugoslavia at the time of the breakup.

“Most people had a better life then,” she says, pointing to the growing income gap among citizens, one of Europe’s widest. “There was no extreme poverty, no drugs, much less crime, more jobs. We were all, more or less equal, and it seemed that everybody had a chance.”

The affluence of those days however, rested on shaky ground. Montenegro was plagued by economic inefficiencies and depended on the federal Yugoslav government to redirect revenue from more prosperous republics. Yugoslavia eventually amassed debt exceeding 14 billion euros.

Reformists, led by Ante Markovic, saw EU entry as the solution. Joining the bloc, they thought, would foster investment and create jobs and allow the debt to be paid off. It didn’t happen.

Momcilo Filipovic, a 46-year-old father of two and a trained engineer, has had trouble plying his trade for two decades. Asked if Montenegrins are freer today, he laughed darkly and quoted an old proverb.

“All men, rich or poor are equally free to sleep under a bridge.”

According to Mihailo Jovovic, editor of the daily Vijesti, many Montenegrins simply feel they do not yet have enough of a stake in the country’s economy or political life.

“Twenty years later, the same party is in power, despite the fact the people have lived in four different countries,” he said. “The [Berlin] Wall is still in many heads, because they still think — as in the communist times — that things cannot change, this is how it should somehow be.”

Confidence in democracy, Jovovic says, will depend on the political system maturing.

“When these things change — i.e. when the power changes hands peacefully for the first time in Montenegrin history, and I am not sure that is going to happen soon — these Montenegrins will start thinking that it is worth being entrepreneurial,” he explains.

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