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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

FREE THE WEED 33 A Column by John Sinclair

Highest greetings from London, my posting for the next month except for a brief two-day excursion to Amsterdam for the beginning of the annual Cannabis Cup festivities and my performance at our annual Viper Madness party with an all-star band of Vipers.

I’ve been attending the Amsterdam event for the past 15 years—since my initial appearance as the High Priest of the Cannabis Cup in 1998—and for the past 10 years I’ve been traveling back and forth from Detroit to Amsterdam with side trips all over the western world, then back to New Orleans and many other spots in the United States where my work as a poet, performer, journalist and internet broadcaster may take me.

I have a daughter in New Orleans and a daughter and granddaughter in Detroit and stepdaughters and more grandchildren around Atlanta and hundreds of friends all across the country, so it pleases me in my old age to travel from place to place to see as many of them as I can.

I’ve been living by my wits for the past 50 years and never had a real job, so I depend on my family and friends to provide my social security, augmenting what I can earn with my work—not much!—and furnishing room and board, a warm place to stay and something for breakfast in the morning. I don’t have a place of my own, a car or any obligations, so my concerns are pretty much centered on daily food & drug administration issues and the incidentals of travel.

I don’t have a travel allowance of my own, so I depend on invitations to key entry points with plane tickets attached to get me around, and it seems to be working pretty well so far. Right now I’m comfortably ensconced in the Blackheath studio of my pal Nick Smith in London, home of his internet radio station called The Fuck You Sound—broadcast every Sunday morning on—and I’ll be here until almost Christmas, when I’ll be able to return to Amsterdam for the holidays and the month of January.

My dad used to say how he’d come a long way from the bean farm in Kinde where he grew up in the Thumb, and I often like to think of how far I’ve ranged from my origins in Davison, Michigan and my intellectual apprenticeship in Flint more than half a century ago. It’s been a long, strange, exhilarating journey and I’ll stay on the road I’m on as long as they let me.

That brings me back to my present predicament: when I arrived at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam just after Election Day to settle into what I thought would be a worry-free three months of relaxation and uninterrupted intellectual work in Holland for the winter, the customs man calmly informed me that I’d spent most of my allotted 90 days in the Euro Zone in Amsterdam during the summer and had only four days left until I could come back at the beginning of the next six-month period.

I’ve been traveling back and forth from America to the Netherlands and other points in the Euro Zone for the past ten years, but somehow my schedule has worked out so that I’d never spent more than three months at a time in Europe and I‘d never heard of this 90-day limit.

But evidently the law is that a visitor to what they call the Schengen Area—26 European countries that have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders—may spend no more than 90 days in the Area within a six-month period, a privilege that is renewed at the start of the next six-month period and not before. It turned out that I’d spent 86 days in Holland during June, July, August and early September before I came back to Detroit. They would let me in, but I could stay only four days and then return inlate December.

Wow! This blew my mind to smithereens. But when the gentleman pointed out that neither the UK nor Ireland were members of the Schengen Area, I could see my way to a stay with Nick Smith & his peoples in London as my immediate salvation. There was a big party scheduled in Amsterdam for November 24 that was centered on my participation, so I decided to stay two days, take the train to London, come back for the 24th and split back to London until my six month sentence was up.

I hadn’t been to England since the end of my little tour with Howard Marks in Ireland, Scotland and the UK early in the summer of 2012, an adventure which began with getting rousted at the British entry point in St Pancras train station where they seized my Dutch medical marijuana container with eight of my prescribed ten grams of smokeable cannabis inside and threatened to throw me in gaol as a drug smuggler.

The UK customs geek sneered at my Dutch prescription and official medical container and kept threatening me with arrest until I told him I’d relish the opportunity to challenge the British law against medical marijuana. Then he evidently checked me out on Google in the other room and came back sort of shame-faced, begging me to make a £50 pay-off and get on my way without being charged. He even had a pre-printed form to acknowledge receipt of the £50, which made me realize that this was just a traditional shake-down trick used to generate revenue for the government, so I paid up, signed off and split.

When I told Howard Marks (”Mr. Nice”) about the incident, he took my receipt and had it projected on a screen behind us when we came on stage at all our gigs and used the story as a springboard into a discussion of our illustrious careers on the other side of the marijuana laws.

So it’s not like being in Michigan, where you can go with your card to a compassion club and get your medicine without incident. And it’s not at all like Amsterdam, the foremost outpost of civilization where you can buy your weed over the counter in the coffeeshop without a doctor’s order or state card and sit right down and smoke it in peace with your friends.

But it’s where I am for the next month, and I’ll just have to treat my medical problems while I’m in England the way I have in the States for so many years: through the power of black market action and sympathetic delivery systems. At least I’m not exiled here for a marijuana violation—I’m merely an American schmuck who’s outstayed his welcome in the Schengen Area until this six months is up, and then I should be free to roam the European Community at will for another 90 days.

When I return from Europe in early February I’ll be flying directly to Colorado to take part in the annual Neal Cassady birthday party in Denver and spend a couple of weeks studying the state of legalized marijuana in Colorado., where they’ve had the good sense to FREE THE WEED.

November 20-21, 2012

© 2013 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.


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