Politics Who’s Got the Herb?
posted by July 19 at 16:48 PMon
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.