Jamaica Bans Smoking Tobacco, Marijuana Is Another Matter

Smoking
Project Zaldivar26/Flickr

Banning smoking in public places is not all that uncommon as popular destinations worldwide look to promote a healthy environment for visitors to enjoy. But to some in the Bob Marley-induced culture of Jamaica, tobacco smoke is not the issue.

The new law of the land goes into effect on July 15, when visitors will no longer “have to involuntarily inhale tobacco smoke, with its over 40 carcinogens,” said Jamaica’s minister of health Fenton Ferguson in a Jamaica Observer article. Jamaicans get that, responding with support for the move to ban cigarette smoking.

On another smoke-related front, Jamaica’s Ganja Law Reform Coalition (GLRC) argues that marijuana is a plant with various uses, including environmental and recreational. They propose for marijuana to be taxed and regulated, something not on the agenda of minister Ferguson.Choosing instead to address other health concerns including excessive alcohol consumption and identifying the contents of fast food, Ferguson insists that “tobacco is the one that a little bit of smoke, a little puff every now and again is dangerous for you.”

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam…

Amsterdam Restaurant Offers Tables Only For One

10 Random Observations About Slovenia

Slovenia
Sean McLachlan

Now that I’m wrapping up my series on Slovenia, there are a few bits and pieces that are worth sharing but didn’t fit in any articles. While these observations won’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the country, they were amusing to this first-time visitor.

1. As this photo shows, guys will always know where to go. Luckily the urinals are much more modern than the sign indicates, and you don’t have to be naked to use them.

2. When you buy a return bus ticket, it comes with a little schedule of the return buses for your route. Brilliant! Why don’t all countries do that?

3. Maypoles are popular in Slovenia. You see them in most of the smaller towns and villages.

4. Slovenia has the weirdest drug laws I’ve ever encountered. It’s illegal to buy, sell or possess marijuana. Pretty standard, you might say, but get this – it’s legal to smoke it. How you can smoke it without possessing it is anyone’s guess. Also, it’s legal to buy, sell or possess seeds but you can’t grow them into plants. Huh? Wait, let me rephrase that – HUH????

5. If you hike to the top of Triglev, Slovenia’s highest mountain, you are considered a “true Slovene,” but not before you are spanked by birch twigs to celebrate the occasion. It’s not clear if this is a real tradition or something invented by Slovenia’s S&M community.6. Slovenians love ketchup. It’s served with practically everything, even pizza. Apparently the tomato sauce on pizza doesn’t give it enough of a tomato flavor.

7. Slovenia’s national anthem was adapted from a poem about drinking wine. It’s perhaps unique among national anthems in that there’s no nationalistic chest thumping. Instead it calls for world harmony.

8. Don’t call it Slovakia, and don’t call the region the Baltics. I managed to avoid these common errors, but once when I was in Estonia I flubbed it and called the Baltics the Balkans. This slip of the tongue will get you razzed by the locals in either region.

9. If you’re going to have a food festival, why do something boring like celebrate wine or cheese? The Slovenians get creative with Bean Day, Chestnut Sunday and a Cabbage Festival.

10. As you can see below, if you’re entering the loading dock of a Slovenian supermarket, make sure you have some stuff.

Check out the rest of my series, “Slovenia: Hikes, History and Horseburgers.”

Slovenia
Sean McLachlan

Colorado Locals Start Marijuana Tourism Business

Colorado could join Amsterdam as a pot-smoker’s travel destination if two Denver locals have anything to do about it.

Matt Brown and James Walker have started a travel company aimed at those looking to take advantage of the state’s new marijuana laws.

According to NBC News, the company known as My 420 Tours sets travelers up in “pot-friendly” hotels, takes them on tours of marijuana dispensaries, and secures tickets to pot-related events.

The state of Colorado legalized recreational use of marijuana towards the end of last year although the commercial side of things – that is, selling the drug to others – is yet to be approved. To get around this, Brown and Walker facilitate introductions between travelers and those involved in the local cannabis industry.

“It’s an opportunity for people who prefer marijuana to alcohol to come to Colorado and know that they’re not going to have to walk around downtown asking strangers for pot,” Brown told NBC.

Their first tour slated for the end of April has already been a sell-out, but the duo hopes to offer more pot-themed travel packages in the future.

[Photo credit: Flickr user eggrole]

Marijuana Tourism Not A Big Surprise In Colorado, Washington

Marijuana Tourism

Marijuana Tourism got two thumbs up in the elections earlier this month as the states of Washington and Colorado made selling, buying and using cannabis legal. Never mind the federal law prohibits any of that; the voters have spoken and opened the door for what could be promoted as Weed Weekends, Bong Backpacking and a variety of marijuana-related tourism options.

State government leaders were quick to put the brakes on a massive migration to either state, saying a lot of details still have to be worked out. Colorado’s governor opposed the legalization vote but indicated after its passage that he didn’t see marijuana tourism taking over the state and its iconic tourist attractions.

”I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a Boston.com report. ”They’re going to flock here to buy marijuana as if they’re going to take it back? On an airplane? That seems unlikely to me.”

Still, while public use of marijuana is not part of the deal, possession and personal use very much is. That applies not to just state residents, but to visitors also.

Anyone 21 or older can legally posses up to an ounce of recreational marijuana in Colorado and grow up to six plants. That’s the law. On a legal focus, they can’t use it in public, the rules for medical marijuana (already a $1.7 billion industry), are unchanged and the “possession no problem” element clock starts ticking now. Previous marijuana crimes stick.Disregarding the federal law for a moment, these states could indeed legislate the implementation of a state-licensed marijuana industry. Much like states control and tax alcoholic beverages, mostly free from federal intervention, millions in revenue could be generated to support otherwise underfunded programs like education.

It’s not like Colorado and Washington are new to the world of marijuana either and the recent vote to legalize it could be viewed as a natural progression.

Colorado and Washington are part of 18 states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized medical marijuana for people with medical conditions like cancer, nausea, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches and chronic pain.

In Colorado, many ski slopes already have old mining cabins that have been turned into ”smoke shacks,” places to smoke marijuana out of the wind and cold. Breckenridge, Colorado, dropped criminal penalties for marijuana use two years ago.

In Washington state, for over 20 years, travelers have come from all over the world for Seattle’s HempFest (pictured), an annual gathering that advocates the decriminalization of marijuana. This year, 250,000 attended as police looked on.

Will the entire states of Colorado and Washington become much like one huge Amsterdam, where without trying all that hard visitors can freely enjoy marijuana? Probably not.

We’re not apt to see a “World’s Largest Pot Plant” attraction on highway road signs in Colorado any time soon and Seattle probably won’t have Space Needle-shaped bongs in the near future.

In Colorado, it will be a year or more until the state has a system in place to allow retail sales, but that probably won’t stop celebrities who support the idea as we see in this video.


[Photo Credit- Flickr user MaplessInSeattle]

A Traveler in the Foreign Service: Can a guy who didn’t get high get a security clearance?

I was sitting at my kitchen table with a former law-enforcement official feeling nervous about the fact that I’d never taken any illegal drugs.

“In the last seven years, have you illegally used any controlled substance- cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, hash, narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, steroids, inhalants or prescription drugs?” the man asked, reading from a list of prepared questions.

“No, not at all,” I answered.

The man looked up from his yellow legal pad and put his pen down.

“You never smoked marijuana?” he asked, squinting his eyes as if struggling to see me.

I had no pony tail, I wasn’t wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt, and there were no half eaten cartons of Cherry Garcia in sight. Was my story really so unbelievable? I half-considered concocting some recreational drug use just to be a bit less boring.

I had passed the Foreign Service written exam and the oral assessment and had received a “conditional” offer of employment from the State Department. The offer was contingent upon being able to pass background and medical examinations, and having the good fortune to be invited to join an A-100 class, which is an introductory class for incoming Foreign Service Officers.

My kitchen table non-confession was with a contract background investigator who had been retained by the Office of Personnel Management to delve into my background to ensure that I wasn’t a spy, a terrorist, or a drug addict.
After the series of questions on drug and alcohol use, he asked me if I had any plans to overthrow the U.S. government by force. He was reading from a prepared list of questions, so it wasn’t like he’d sized me up and thought I was a radical jihadi, but I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone had ever answered yes to that question.

I sailed through the rest of his prepared questions without a raised eyebrow until we got to a section on my prior foreign travel and foreign contacts. I did my best to compile a list of my foreign travel over the prior seven year period, but had no idea who I should list in the foreign contacts section. I’d made dozens of foreign friends in my travels over the years but for the sake of simplicity, listed only a few as “close and continuing contacts.”

I assumed that the State Department would want Foreign Service Officers who had traveled extensively and had foreign contacts, but in the context of a background investigation, foreign travel and contacts are viewed with suspicion, and each foreign trip elicits a litany of additional questions.

After speaking with me, the investigator started knocking on the doors of my neighbors to ask about me each of the many addresses I’d live in during the previous seven years. After several of my former bosses and co-workers were interviewed, I was warned that the investigator needed to interview my current boss.

The State Department recruiter had specifically warned us against giving notice at our current jobs because our employment offer was merely “conditional” and not a done deal, so I had to inform my boss that I was quitting. Probably. But not really giving notice just yet. They were understanding, but it made me a bit of a lame duck months before I was to leave and the day the investigator came to our small office, the place was buzzing with gossip. I had to tell everyone that I was “probably” going to join the Foreign Service. Sometime soon, I hoped.

More than a year after I passed the Foreign Service exam I finally had my security clearance and a concrete offer to join the Foreign Service. A week prior to leaving for training in Washington, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She said yes, but we had no clue what country we’d be in the next year and that suited me just fine.

Next: The List, The Call, The Flag- Assignments in the Foreign Service

Read more from A Traveler in the Foreign Service here.

[flickr image via Wiros]