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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Who’s Got the Herb?

posted by on July 19 at 16:48 PM


Big props to Neumo’s for hosting the thoroughly awesome Lee “Scratch” Perry show this past Sunday and for scheduling another night of reggae legends—drum ‘n’ bass masters Sly & Robbie with vocalist Horace Andy—on August 15.

Digging a little deeper into the scene, I’d like to discuss an issue brought up by Sunday’s show.

Most of us would agree that the indoor smoking ban is a major boon to the club scene. The question is, how far does it go?

Marijuana is technically illegal in Washington, though thanks to Prop I-75, Seattle has ranked it as its lowest law enforcement priority.

At Sunday’s show, the air inside Neumo’s was smoke-free—free of any kind of smoke. This was Lee Perry, perhaps the most blunted man in all of human history. This was a reggae show. And yet no one was smoking herb.

Until, that is, Scratch started up on the Bob Marley classic “Kaya,” which was a cue for the reefing to begin. Dude in front of me pulled out a j. “They confiscated the rest of my stash at the door,” he said.

He lit the joint and immediately an event staffer was posted on the stage, looking for the source of the smoke. Eventually, a different staffer came up from the back of the crowd and busted the smoker. Thankfully, “busted” meant he was told to put out the joint. Dude put out the joint, event staff left, and that was that. Very civil, for which Neumo’s staff deserves respect.

The question remains: What is the weed policy inside a club? Why is it apparently stricter inside a venue than outside, where city police have been coached to turn a blind eye? Is it the indoor smoking ban? Is it general club policy?With Sly & Robbie coming up, Seattle smokers should be as informed as possible about the city’s weeditude.

“If it’s cigarettes, we’re gonna get a fine,” says Steven Severin, owner/booker at Neumo’s. “If it’s an illegal substance, it gets reported to Liquor Control Board and everything else Mayor Nickels has to try ot shut down nightlife, and that’s gonna go against us.”

Severin says that Neumo’s policy for some shows—Lee Perry, for instance—is to search patrons at the door and ask that any illicit substances be taken back outside the venue. “It’s still against the law, whether I like it or not.”

If patrons cooperate, they can return to the venue and re-enter with no problem.

“We’re pretty forgiving,” Severin says. “We donít throw people out if they get caught. We’re giving you a chance. Second time, you’re being a dick, and you get tossed out. As much as we hate it we have to be very careful. We try to help people out and skirt the lines, but being business owners we have to obey the law.”

Severin says that the Mayor-appointed nightlife task force visits Neumo’s “all the time, harassing us. It’s annoying because we work really hard to keep our ducks in a row and they still come in and sweat us. I don’t know what they’re trying to catch us doing.”

Given the hostility from the city facing all of Seattle’s clubs—one fostered by Mayor Nickels and his rampant demonizing of clubs and club owners—Neumo’s errs on the side of caution. “Donít bring your shit inside,” Severin warns. “Donít make it difficult for us.”

Severin’s stance is reasonable, though the need for it doesn’t make sense. Marijuana is virtually legalized on the street, but inside a concert venue—a safe, controlled environment—it’s grounds for serious fines against the venue. In public, Seattle has an extremely progressive marijuana policy, but in private—where enforcement should be more lax, not less—Seattle is still in the dark ages.

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Well, a problem with smoking (anything -- tobacco, marijuana, maple leaves, dried banana slugs) indoors is that the secondhand smoke can damage the health of everyone else (the people who are choosing not to smoke). In that way, it really isn't a "safe" environment. Outdoor smoking patios for the smokers (of whatever) are probably best.

Posted by louis | July 19, 2007 5:16 PM

The need for it doesn't make any sense? I'm not sure where the "lowest law enforcement priority" data comes from (I would assume you'd need a count of actual prosecutions vs. estimated offenses) but I really doubt that if I walked up to a cop toking a spliff and asked directions to the nearest cupcake stand, the cop would not take action. I'm probably not going to jail but I'm probably also not walking away with the shit. And if I got pulled over and rolled to down the window to let loose a Snoop Dogg video-esque blue cloud, I get the feeling I'm not getting off with a warning. Illegal is illegal and just because it seems like a waste of law enforcement bucks doesn't make it less illegal (there is no such thing as semi-illegal).

And I'm baffled by your closing paragraph - Neumo's is not private, it is public. Doors and dim lighting don't make it private, eh? My guess is that Neumo's and some other clubs get undue attention because the city does not want to give the appearance that it is *only* focused on getting rid of hip-hop clubs because that would seem latently - OK, blatantly - racist. Although I have heard that Explosions in the Sky really bring out the thugg crowd...

Posted by danmohr | July 19, 2007 5:23 PM

ďIf itís an illegal substance, it gets reported to Liquor Control Board and everything else Mayor Nickels has to try to shut down nightlife, and thatís gonna go against us.Ē

Enough said.

By the way, it was easy to sneak a toke in a club when smoking was still allowed. Save it for Hempfest.

Posted by Jason Josephes | July 19, 2007 5:27 PM

@2--neumo's is a privately-owned place of business, the opposite of out on the street, which is public property.

heres a brief description of prop I-75:

I-75: Drug Policy Reform (City of Seattle)

Type: Indirect Statute
Election Date: September 16, 2003 (the Seattle primary)
Election Result: Passed - 57.64% to 42.36%

This measure requires the Seattle Police Department to make marijuana possession for personal use its lowest priority. It also requires creation of an 11-member marijuana task force to report directly to the City Council on what marijuana arrests/prosecutions have been conducted. After a period of six months to a year, the task force will issue a report and the City Council may then choose to either modify, retain or repeal the measure. Proponents argue that too many people who are just holding small amounts of marijuana are being put in jail, which places an undue strain on the judicial system.

Proponents: The Sensible Seattle Coalition
Opponents: There was no organized opposition.

full text available at

again, i have no issue w severins stance. its a smart one. but it doesnt make sense that outside, in public, on the street, marijuana has been downgraded to lowest enforcement priority, but inside, in a privately-owned place of business, its an issue.

Posted by jz | July 19, 2007 5:37 PM

"[T]he need for it doesnít make sense"?

No one has trouble understanding why I don't want to breathe their tobacco smoke. Why does it become a mystery when we're talking about pot?

Posted by lostboy | July 19, 2007 5:40 PM


I understand that Neumo's is privately owned, but that does not mean it's not public (anyone can go there). It is still subject to a whole slew of regaulations that truly private places are not. It is also commercial as opposed to residential and there are a bunch of rules that apply in that case as well. Whatever happened to just getting high in the walk-in at your dishwashing job before the reggae show? Must we turn a well-meaning club into my college apartment?

Posted by danmohr | July 19, 2007 6:33 PM

the smoking ban applies to any smoking product. tobacco, marijuana, cloves, or whatever else you may feel the need to set alight and inhale.

Posted by investigatory journalist | July 19, 2007 7:20 PM

I was at the show. I was stoned. I smoked outside where the air is free and I don't have to harsh the mellow of anyone around me who may not smoke marijuana.

I'm a fucking hippie. Kill me now.

Posted by I'm a Nuclear Bomb | July 19, 2007 7:34 PM

I actually read a recent interview with Scratch where he said he doesn't smoke weed anymore because it's bad for his health - he does cook brownies and such with it though, and recommends that as a healthier alternative than inhaling all that smoke into your lungs.

Posted by dc | July 19, 2007 7:56 PM

There was plenty of incense at the show. Does that count as smoke? Scratch should get a vaporizer if he's concerned about his health, though I got a feeling he likes the indica body high of the ingested stuff.

The real story here is Sly and Robbie AND Horace Andy on the same stage! Yeah!

Posted by Pass the Kutchie | July 19, 2007 8:43 PM


We remove comments that are off topic, threatening, or commercial in nature, and we do not allow sock-pupperty (impersonating someone else)óor any kind of puppetry, for that matter. We never censor comments based on ideology.

Posted by vera | July 20, 2007 6:50 AM

i guess its consensus that people at a show dont want someone smoking pot near them. can that be true? am i such a rebel/hippie/weedhead that not only does it not bother me if someones smoking a joint nearby, id actually rather see it at shows than not?

yeah, i guess it does. thing is, i dont even smoke that much these days. i just like to see more of an "anything goes" atmosphere at shows--like, thats what shows are for.

Posted by jz | July 20, 2007 11:49 AM

Not in Seattle.

As for the incense, if I remember correctly (but don't quote me on this) that you need a special permit for candles, incense and the like. The fire department came by the Blue Moon the other day to check out our permit for some reason. (Everything's A-OK!)

Posted by Jason Josephes | July 20, 2007 12:36 PM

Yeah, I don't like people smoking any kind of anything near me at a show. Weed smells worse than regular cigarettes. Do it outside, or eat a brownie or something.

Posted by Levislade | July 20, 2007 1:24 PM

I don't really like people smoking weed near me, as i don't puff the reefer - even though i am a huge reggae fan. Go to your cars, people.

I don't really care if folks do blow however, as there's no second-hand smoke.

Posted by dc | July 20, 2007 3:47 PM

It wouldn't bother me a bit if there were a cloud of herbaceous smoke at every club show I went to. Hell, back in the 70s, every ARENA show I saw had a smoke-filled haze.

The bigger issue, though, which people really should take the time to think about, is the risk of FIRE. Burning anything indoors is a risk, especially at clubs which are generally barely up to code anyway. Add alcohol and a large crowd, and you've got a disaster waiting to happen.

Posted by Randy | July 20, 2007 6:13 PM

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