The lead singer of Fucked Up explains how marijuana will change your life.
Damian Abraham, the lead singer of Toronto-based band Fucked Up, is also a professional stoner. For the Vice video series “Canadian Cannabis,” he visits grow-ops and compassion clubs to interview the key players in Canada’s marijuana system. It’s a ragtag group of felonious activists, politicians, and super-friendly counter staff at varying levels of sobriety. As we learned from chatting with Abraham shortly after the premiere of the latest episode “The Cash Crop,” it doesn’t matter if you smoke weed. Your life will inevitably be affected by the politics and economics of marijuana, one way or another.
Recently, a set of proposed regulations for Vancouver’s retail marijuana business has created tension between the city and federal government. Vancouver wants to enforce rules for the grey-area industry but Canada’s Health Minister Rona Ambrose says that there’s no grey zone and the dispensaries should be shut down. As the law currently stands, Health Canada legally licenses cannabis growers but they can only sell to their patients by mail, no storefronts.
And yet, there are storefronts. Vancouver has approximately 80 dispensaries, representing half of the dispensaries in Canada. “In Vancouver, they’re fun,” Abraham said. “It’s Cheers for the millennial set. We have dispensaries in Toronto, but they operate in secret. Mine is in a hidden location and I promised not to tell people where it is. I keep that promise because they don’t have the same protection as other businesses.”
Abraham’s involvement with Vice‘s “Canadian Cannabis” series stems from his recent public advocacy for medicinal marijuana use. The former straight-edge punk discovered weed’s healing touch when he took a toke as a “Hail Mary” attempt to stop an anxiety attack while on tour in Holland. “I was on anti-anxiety pills for 10 years. I came back and told my doctor that marijuana was better,” he said.
He’s an affable host who maintains his composure even while smoking weed onscreen—not the case for every Vice host (case in point: Thomas Morton for Noisey Atlanta). Abraham’s bushy bearded face navigates the landscape of cannabis culture from growers to smokers. He asks the appropriate questions, but for the most part his vibe is more “live and let smoke” than investigative into medicinal marijuana claims.
Even if you don’t believe in marijuana for medicinal use, the documentary series makes a strong case for the plant’s economic contributions. As H.L Mencken said, “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.” Abraham, along with many of the advocates and activists he interviews, are worried that Canada will be too late to the market. “We’re known for B.C. bud,” he said. “We’re known as the good weed producing part of North America but we’re going to lose that industry if we don’t change laws.”
In “The Cash Crop,” Denver serves as an example for Vancouver’s future, but the kinks haven’t been completely ironed out yet. Security is still an issue for legalized marijuana markets like Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been sold since January 1, 2014. “There’s a story that didn’t make it into the documentary,” Abraham explains. “Councilman Charlie Brown told us that he was talking to a woman who owns a dispensary and she was walking around with $30,000 cash because it was pay day. She has to pay her employees in cash. How can that be safe? Denver is risking horrific and grisly robberies because of the cash business.”
After his time filming in Vancouver and Denver, Abraham believes that Colorado’s system can be replicated in Canada. “It’s already happening [in Canada]—but without any government involvement. [Canadian] society isn’t benefitting from cannabis. In Colorado, the most shocking thing was the job creation. There were 10,000 new jobs but that number doesn’t account for adjacent industries. Plumbers and electricians for grow-ops, there are whole new fields of work emerging.”
Abraham predicts the money of marijuana will be the catalyst for legalization as it ripples through cities. “[Legalization] is coming. If we had a Conservative government for the next 25 years, in those 25 years, I guarantee we’ll have legal cannabis because there’s too much money.”