Last week, I announced on this page
that we've decided to sell our house and move, away from the
DC area, probably to Guelph, a town in Ontario, Canada, in about
You might expect a bombshell like that to generate some reactions,
and it did. We got quite a few emails on the subject, and the
discussions on the Something email list might be considered a
minor Flame War. No one really questioned our decision to move
away from DC, but a lot of folks were upset by our plans to leave
the USA. Leaving the country, we are told, would be quitting,
giving up, running away, and turning our backs on a struggle
we need to be a part of.
I said last week that there were 2 upcoming events that will
sway our final decision. The first is the presidential election,
but actually, the real issue is the pending Supreme Court ruling
on medical marijuana. Even if Bush wins, we would decide to stay
in the USA if the Supreme Court declares marijuana prohibition
Such a ruling would change everything overnight, and at that
point, we'd be happy to stay in the States.
However, if the Supreme Court upholds federal prosecution
of pot-smokers, even those who grow their own and who do so for
vital medical reasons, and in a state where the voters legalized
such actions 8 years ago, then we're leaving. Period. That ruling
would be such a crushing defeat for us that we just won't want
to stay in this country any longer. If the Supreme Court upholds
total prohibition, it will give the drug warriors a mandate that
will leave us feeling unsafe anywhere in America. Even as the
eternal optimist that I am, I harbor no illusions that Congress
or the President (even if it is Kerry) will do anything about
ending the Drug War any time soon. Our only hope for a near-term
victory is for the highest court in the land to strike down these
unjust laws with a Roe vs. Wade-level decision, and after years
of waiting for them to accept a case that would give them an
opportunity to make such a ruling, a really promising case is
now finally on their docket.
No matter which way it goes, I believe this ruling will be
pivotal. Either it will open the door to personal freedom, or
it will slam that door shut for the next 5, 10, 20 years, or
more. If the Supreme Court refuses to reign in the drug war,
it will give the DEA even more power. I remain shocked by the
actions the DEA has taken in recent years... but can you imagine
how much more aggressive they'll become if the Justices let them
get away with everything they've done so far?
It's just like the bumper sticker says: I Love My Country,
But I Fear My Government. If the Supreme Court lets marijuana
prohibition stand, then we're gonna have to get out of here.
If you want to call us quitters for it, fine. But we're tired
of living in a country where we have to worry night and day that
DEA agents with assault rifles might break down our front door.
We're tired of being oppressed citizens, and if the drug warriors
get any more powerful, we might face arrest simply for speaking
out on this website as we've been doing for the past 7 years.
Some see our moving to Canada as running away from the battlefield
of our activism, asserting
that our voices will be heard less and taken less seriously here
after we move away. We say instead that we will be retreating
from deep within enemy territory in order to join the battle
on the frontlines.
I have a dream. I dream of an America where cannabis consumers
are as free to enjoy their drug of choice as are cigarette smokers
and alcohol drinkers. I dream of an America where pot-smokers
no longer live in perpetual fear of having their lives ruined
by the police, because the cops only chase actual criminals.
I dream of an America where the stoners pay sales tax, where
the dealers they buy from pay income tax, and where no one gets
murdered or imprisoned because of a plant. I dream of an America
where Amsterdam-style coffeeshops peacefully co-exist with bars,
casinos, fireworks stands, and adult bookstores. Ultimately,
I dream of opening a gaming-themed cannabis cafe of my own.
I see the coming legalization of marijuana as a tremendous
business opportunity. As both a visionary and an entrepreneur,
I can see the changes coming, and I want to get in on the ground
floor when those changes finally occur. I truly believe it will
be possible within our lifetimes to create American coffeeshops,
and being an entrepreneur, I want to be among the first ones
doing it, once it becomes feasible.
I believe it is inevitable that it will someday be legal to
grow and sell marijuana here in America. Until then, we refuse
to take the risk of growing anything ourselves. In fact, the
only time I've ever even SEEN a live cannabis plant was while
I was in Amsterdam. Alison has
a Master's degree in Horticulture, and we'd love to be able to
turn her loose in a marijuana garden, but the risks here and
now are way too great. However, that will someday change, and
even though we currently have absolutely no experience with the
growing of pot, we fully intend to open a commercial pot-growing
business just as soon as the laws will allow it. We'll call it
Alison's Happy Flowers, and it'll be like a micro brewery for
But even if I'm right about the pending Supreme Court ruling,
the idea of a commercial marijuana grow-op is still a distant
dream -- at least in America. The most favorable ruling I could
imagine would only permit direct consumption of that which you
grow yourself; it wouldn't allow commercial sales, as those would
still fall into the category of "commerce." Congress
would still need to legalize sales in order for us to launch
Alison's Happy Flowers.
But they're way ahead of us in Canada. As I reported last
July, Toronto already has a "smoke-easy" style
coffeeshop, where open consumption of marijuana is being tolerated,
and in Vancouver, cannabis cafes are starting to get away with
the actual selling of smokables. I expect that legitimate commercial
cannabis operations will be possible in Canada a lot sooner than
here in the States, which is why were so keen on going to Canada.
Sometimes you've got to move if you want to be in the right place
at the right time.
Even if we do go to Canada, we aren't planning to renounce
our US citizenship. Looney
Labs will remain a US-based corporation (our Canadian location
would simply be the Creative Management Office), and we will
travel back to America frequently. Our warehouse and fulfillment
partner (a company in Lorton, VA called PMC (formerly known as
ACMS)) will continue to store and ship our products for us. We
will continue to attend all the usual conventions we go to now.
(In some cases, it will actually be a shorter drive!) Those who
know us only from our games, our webzine, and our public appearances
will still have just as much contact with us as before. Canada
isn't that far away, after all. We will still be in North America.
And maybe we won't stay in Canada forever. I believe Canada
will legalize first, and when that happens, it will be a major
turning point in the attitudes down here. Eventually, the laws
will change in America too, and at that point, if we haven't
settled in too deeply, we might move back. It might not even
take that long. Maybe we'll have the grand adventure of living
abroad for a year, or 4 years, and then we'll return. Nothing
is set in stone... this is about expanding our options, not narrowing
Even if Kerry wins, we plan to move to Canada if the Supremes
uphold prohibition. But if they legalize personal use (and given
the way the case will be argued, I don't think they can only
legalize doctor-approved use) we'll probably re-think Canada,
even if Bush does win. The idea of moving to New Hampshire and
signing on with the Free
State Project is undeniably appealing... but pointless to
us as long as federal drug laws are allowed to trump state laws.
But all of this begs the question: what are our criteria in
selecting a new city to live in? What are we looking for in a
new home town? Well, here's a quick Top 10 List:
- No Earthquakes, Volcanos, or Hurricanes, please... coastlines,
faultlines, and floodplains are out of the question
- Far from DC, but not too far (ideally, within a one day's
- A small/medium-sized city, within a one-hour drive of a big
- A place with a lower cost of living than the DC area
- A hippie-friendly community (with good recycling, mass transit,
vegan restaurants, gay rights, head shops, etc)
- A place without harsh marijuana laws, where our coffeeshop
would be welcomed (or at least tolerated)
- An intellectually-oriented community (we like college towns)
- A climate Alison likes (i.e. good for her plants)
- A town with a cool name (or at least one that isn't lame)
- Trees and hills and parks and murals and fountains and a
groovy downtown area where street festivals are held, and you
know, stuff like that
In closing, let me say something I should have said last week:
I love the United States of America. Current management aside,
I think we have a great country here and I'm glad to be an American.
(If you haven't seen it yet, check out Early
American Chrononauts; I think it's a testament to my patriotism.)
But I'm also a citizen of the Earth, and I've often fantasized
about living some portion of my life in another part of this
huge and fascinating world, if for no other reason than for the
experience itself. Just because I love America doesn't mean life
in another country isn't also appealing, and living elsewhere
won't stop me from visiting frequently and paying attention from
afar to what's going on at home. I'll even continue to vote,
in all applicable elections, and I'll always consider myself
an American. In many ways, I'd prefer to stay in the good old
USA. But at this point, the decision is up to the Supreme Court.
If they endorse the war on medical marijuana users, we will no
longer feel safe in this country, and no appealing to national
pride will change that.
Here's hoping the Supreme Court has the guts to uphold the
Constitution and declare an end to the war on pot-smokers!