TALES OF THE WEED RUNNER: Snoop needs high grade Canadian (RERUN)

Snoop Dogg GigCity EdmontonBetter call the Weed Runner – Snopp Dogg is coming to Edmonton.

Recently reggaefied and re-sanctified as “Snoop Lion,” the laid-back rap legend is said to be a bigger pothead than ever. He claims he smokes “81 blunts a day.” He plays two sold-out nights at Union Hall, Monday and Tuesday, so assuming one gram of per blunt – a blunt is bigger than a joint, which is bigger than a spliff – he’ll need about six ounces while he’s here, and that’s if he doesn’t share. Better make that a tonne.

He probably already got it when he landed in Canada Saturday for his show at the Ottawa Bluesfest – met at the airport with a Brinks truck full of Canada’s finest hydro. Welcome to Cannabis Country, Snoop!

Turns out there really is such a thing as a weed runner in the concert business – the Canadian connection. American stars have to have one these days. They aren’t stupid enough to take their stash over the border. If customs officers find so much as a roach in your scuppers, you’re scuttled.

In 2013, 10 of Rihanna’s tour busses were stopped en route from Toronto to Detroit – the star wasn’t on board at the time – and one person was found in possession of “a small amount of marijuana.” The entire multi-million dollar operation ground to a halt. For at least two hours. It would’ve been longer if they were coming into Canada. Canadian border officials aren’t known for being so nice. There’s a theory that a lot of perpetually stoned American musicians don’t want to tour Canada because of the bother of having to score when they get up here. When was the last time Willie Nelson came to town? 2007. Far too long ago.

There are temps called “runners” employed for every major concert event, hired to fetch guitar strings or vegan lasagna or moustache wax, or weed, if there is need, and any good runner will know how to get things. He, or she, is treated rather like a CIA agent: If caught, the artist, the label, the concert promoter and everyone else in the operation will disavow all knowledge of his, or her, existence. A guy on Nelly’s tour bus was arrested in 2012 when he took responsibility for a duffel bag full of marijuana and heroin (plus a handgun). Nelly released a statement: “It is my understanding a member of my staff made an unfortunate decision to bring unlawful materials onto our tour bus that resulted in his arrest. Neither I nor anyone else on the tour bus was aware of his decision to bring these on board.”

This is an extreme case, but you get the picture.

The job of brokering weed transactions often falls to the tour managers, as if they’re not busy enough. According to one former tour manager who wishes to remain anonymous, touring musicians fresh over the border ask for dope constantly. “Procuring drugs was part of my official duties,” he says. “On tour I would always keep the search for drugs away for the promoters and record companies. I’d just walk up to someone on the local crew who looked like a druggie and go from there. It was rare that we didn’t score.”

Miley Cyrus GigCity EdmontonThe young punks may go in more for vegan lasagna, but rappers sure seem to be fond of weed. Lil’ Wayne was here a few years back. He’s a guy who smoked so much weed that he once complained people could smell it leaking out of his pores; Wiz Khalifa is a such a pot enthusiast he had a giant prop bong on stage. Miley Cyrus has smoked up on stage. Rihanna, whose entourage smoked their brains out backstage at Rexall Place while cops held their noses and looked the other way, posts pictures of a big sticky nug on Instagram and it gets more hits than a new song. (One nug = 4 blunts.)

Do we even have to mention that rock dudes like to get high, too?

“Most rock bands smoke pot,” says High Times editor Steve Bloom in a 2006 interview. “The question is how up front the band is going to be about it.”

Some are, some aren’t. Chad Kroeger from Nickelback once asked audience members to pass him lit joints on stage. They did. The Black Crowes, the pro-pot poster boys, used to put weed on their rider, right there along with the plates of Ding-Dongs and cases of Yoo-Hoo.

One Edmonton music promoter remembers making dope deals for visiting artists back in the day: “You just try to accommodate the artist to elicit a better performance, and you do whatever you can. If they need a special drum, you get it for then. If they want some pot, you give it to them. You just want a good show. On the other hand, it is illegal.”

For now. Anywhere but Washington State and Colorado, God bless ‘em.

Of course no one really wants to go on the record about this. It’s yet another shady music business practice people don’t talk about, for good reason. It’s not just the Criminal Code, but the more important “Code of the Road,” since modernized: What happens on the road stays on Instagram.

Snoop Dogg GigCity Edmonton

(This story contains recycled material from an article originally published in March 2013)