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Henry Rollins Talks Cannabis Culture: A Sneak Peak at Vancouver’s ICBC Keynote Speaker

CANNABIS CULTURE – Noted as a classic member of seminal punk band, Black Flag, and the driving force behind The Rollins Band, Actor, Singer, Philosopher and Poet, Henry Rollins is a beacon of breathing subculture and advocate for liberty of the individual. In addition to regular tours as a spoken word artist, Rollins is the co-host of popular podcast Henry & Heidi and keynote speaker for this year’s ICBC (International Cannabis Business Conference) taking place in Vancouver BC. When he’s not on tour, Rollins often travels to far reaching feral corners of the globe with nothing but a camera and a couple grey t-shirts in a duffel bag, he collects vinyl and home stereo equipment as well.

CC: Tell me Henry, how did you get involved with the International Business Cannabis Conference?

HR: Last year ICBC’s Executive Producer Alex Rogers contacted me, explained his outfit, and asked if I would like to keynote one of these conventions: I said “Yeah!”

I like Alex; he’s a really interesting guy. I can safely say I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s fascinating, he’s a sharp guy, and I think he’s in this for all the right reasons. He did time in a European prison for cannabis, and had his head caved in on the streets of America. I mean he’s a long time advocate, he’s not someone who just jumped on the wagon; he’s decades in. He’s a brainy guy, and so for the last year and a half or so, every few months he goes “Hey, in three months would you like to do the one in Portland”, and I’m like “Yeah!” So that’s how I got involved basically.

CC: Have you been to any other conferences like this, or is ICBC the main one you deal with?

HR: It’s the only one. This is the only kind of upright company or organization that has come to me and said “here’s some money, here’s a plane ticket, and our operation holds water”. Alex – the guy is not messing around. His game is tight and he’s getting better. And for me, it’s a political civil rights issue.

I don’t use cannabis, but I do advocate for its decriminalization and its legalization. In America everything is political, and the criminalization of cannabis is just a really easy way to throw people, especially African American males, in prison for a long time for non-violent crime. It’s totally how you get someone jumped into the system and hopefully they’re there forever, as a repeat customer. It’s an industrial complex; it’s a whole other economy, and it thrives!

You need people in those beds, or else there’s nothing for me to hurl my tax dollars at. And so I want fuller schools and emptier prisons, and I think legalization and decriminalization of cannabis is a way towards that. So I started keynoting these conventions. Then Alex said “Hey do another!” and I said, “Okay!”

Most of his speakers are on the entrepreneurial side, which is how you make your money. I’m the hearts and minds guy, in that now my sort of boilerplate speech, I’ve done four of them now, is, “Hey, you’re going to get rich. Chances are this is going to be very good to you, and don’t let it ruin you!”

I watched money ruin the major label industry where people turned into salesmen and they forgot that they’re selling music; you’re selling good things to good people. They just became vendors of stuff. So I say, I want you people to never lose sight of the medical aspect of this, and that, in my mind; your target customer isn’t the recreational user, because you’re going to get them. You already have them.

I want you to be concentrating on the little old lady who, thanks to cannabis, she can knit again, or a guy like my dad. I mean to the right of my father is Joseph Stalin and Fox News, who thinks homosexuality and cannabis use is the end of the empire. I want your outreach to be so good and so effective that he’s coming to you for a cannabinoid chewable that helps him with lower back pain. You’ve got my conservative psycho dad into this because you’re looking out for the community. Because you’re going to make the money anyway, don’t let it turn you into just a mean person.

You’re changing culture, and cannabis, at least in North America; it’s so much about civil rights and equality as much as it’s about fun and painlessness. I mean it comes tied to so many heads getting caved in, and so much corruption and so much needless violence and bigotry, to somehow not acknowledge that in the way you vend, then you’re not helping. Because if you’re just a schmuck who makes money, then you might as well just be Monsanto or a tobacco salesmen.

CC: Alcohol too, I mean these are the things that are…

HR: Lethal!

CC: Encouraged by society… Oh totally, yeah. Complete poison. And cannabis, it’s not only a social thing, but it’s also a spirit plant. You know it’s very wise in its way, and I think she’s just here to help.

HR: Yes, they call it their medicine. Tobacco and alcohol, at least in western society, is to keep the working person kind of neutralized, so they don’t rise up. The CEO makes like 3000 times more than that guy makes, as he ruins his body. I think you can always go to the pub after work and get neutralized, and then go home, crack your wife across the face and get to sleep. That is how the western world has kind of been grinding away for centuries.

I think cannabis throws a monkey wrench into Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Domestic violence…

CC: Even other industries, like textiles and forestry. It’s a major threat to those industries as well.

HR: You know years ago I had a show on the History Channel for a couple seasons, and I had to pitch A&E on ideas for a one-hour show. I would throw ideas at them, and for the most part, I was laughed out of the room, but they bought my idea on the Short History of Hemp and Cannabis in America. Which forced me to read stacks of paper, and interview lots of experts. And when you see how much they beat up on hemp…

We went to a guy’s place who makes all sorts of hemp products. He made this hemp car exterior, and me and another guy took a sledgehammer to a hemp car door. You know we’re both in shape, so we’re beating on this car door, and the most that happened was a little white dent; and we were hammering on this thing! You think of two vehicles made of hemp colliding, it would be funny. They’d just bounce off each other. All you would need is some sand paper to buff it out.

Wait a minute… I want a car made of this, but it’s just too much of a good idea. And you’re reminded once again about how the old money has a hold of the western economy, and hemp and cannabis are a huge part of that.

These entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are a big part of the change. I think they need to be political as much as they are entrepreneurial. To me, it’s almost a 50/50 endeavor where they have to go in it with an ideology that eclipses the money, because the money is almost a given. So that’s where my motivation is, because I certainly don’t use the product.

CC: Can I ask why? Have you ever?  

HR: Not interested. I smoked a joint April of 1987 in Trenton, New Jersey. Band practice was over, and my band mates were stoners and it always smelled so nice, so I said, “Let me have some of that” “You?!” “Yeah, I’m that bored” And you know, I was not immune to the effects; I was stoned!

And they said, “What do you think?” and I said, “Nah, not for me, how long does it last?” “You got like another twenty minutes”. So I just sat there, in a state of non-enjoyment, but I was never against it. I’m also not all that interested in putting smoke in my lungs. I know there are other options, but so far I just haven’t.

Every time I do the keynote speech though, we do the night before meet and great, and in a place that’s legal I’m always given lots of gifts. And I always leave them with the door guy!

In Berlin a few weeks ago, a really amazing woman said, “Hey I’ve developed a hash oil lube” and I went, “Wow, well how does it work” and she said, “It’s great for everyone, and you get high!” She gave me a bottle of it, and I left it with the door guy whose part of Alex’s team. I’m given presents every single time, and I always leave them with someone because I’m not going to put it in my room lest I get the scent of it on my luggage.

Even though it’s legal in California, it’s probably not legal even to take it across the state line from a legal state to another legal state. I get enough affection as it is, because I’m recognizable, so I’m not looking for more attention. But I have a million chances to check it out so you never know, maybe one day I will.

CC: Do you think legalization in Canada will affect the US Market?

HR: I think it will perhaps inspire a lot of your northern border states to come on board. You know how much my country loves money, I think – and this is part of my boilerplate speech where in a state that’s gone legal, I go, “you know look, don’t think that higher ups in your state have any love for you having legal cannabis. They ran the numbers, and they found that they make more money legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis than they do locking up a black nineteen year old guy, and charging you $85/month for the guy’s bed and cheese sandwiches”.

They don’t love cannabis; they love the money! So don’t think the government… they’re not your friend, they’re looking to double their money by breaking the law. They love the incarceration, but right now cannabis is sexier than the incarceration. Look out!

And so all your states like Louisiana, your red states, say that there’s an arm wrestling match, I think the local government; their arm will be weakened by the stronger arm of the commerce. And a lot of your border states… you know you might see young people going north for the fun weekend. And maybe their states will go “Wait a minute, why are we letting Canada… why is everyone driving up to Kelowna?”

I want it to be legal in America, I think the medical upside is great, it’s just an excuse to throw black people in jail, and it’s the only way I think civil rights will advance when you deprive the white power structure of ways to incarcerate. It’s not going to be good will; it’s going to be the cops are angry because the governor sold out to the money. “We use to break these black guys up, but now we can’t because, darn it, it’s against the law!”

They won’t be able to crack as many beautiful African American heads open, but they’ll find someone else to beat up. America is always looking for ways to beat up on the brown, the woman, and the gay; I mean those are our favorite food groups to wail on.

And so I think it’s going to be the allure of money that will change things, but I don’t know how much anything that happens in Canada would be an influence on a state that’s not thinking right anyway. Because no red state… I mean they don’t take Trudeau seriously. They don’t like him because he looks too good and Melania likes him too much; they can’t stand that he can bend the first lady and her daughter with one wink. So there’s a lot of resentment, and I just don’t think that anything that you all do will determine anything any tough state would do.

Too bad, I think America could learn a lot from Canada. A lot a lot, especially with health care. But you know, every country has their ticks.

Haley Nagasaki is a Wellness & Entertainment Reporter based out of Victoria, BC – [email protected]

Cannabis Culture is an official media sponsor of ICBC 2018

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