Best columns: International
Where weed is a branding opportunity
Jeffrey Jones and Christina Pellegrini
The Globe and Mail
Canada’s most iconic indie band could soon become the face of legal marijuana, said Jeffrey Jones and Christina Pellegrini. The Tragically Hip, which toured and played for more than 30 years, until the death of lead singer Gord Downie from brain cancer last October, has invested deeply in the recreational cannabis industry. The band has a $30 million investment in Newstrike, a medical marijuana producer that could get a big boost later this year when the federal government legalizes recreational weed, fulfilling a campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Hip intends to “lend its unique rock vibe—one that, for many fans, evokes summers in Canadian Shield cottage country—to the marijuana brand.” Some Newstrike weed varieties might be named after Hip songs or lyrics, and vaporizer pens could be emblazoned with a Hip logo. Other weed-friendly artists have already partnered with legal marijuana ventures, such as rapper Snoop Dogg and the family of Bob Marley. And Hip lead guitarist Rob Baker says the move isn’t such a stretch for the band. It already has its own wine label, he says, and music, drinking, and toking are all activities that bring Canadians together. But Baker, 55, won’t be sampling any Newstrike products—he gave up weed a few years ago. “I felt,” he said, “like I hit my lifetime quota.”
How Trump delights Russian spies
Russian spies have always wanted to see themselves as the good guys, said Maxim Trudolyubov. In the 1990s, when then–U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had dinner with then–Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, the pair had a lively discussion about the novels of John le Carré. When asked which character he related to, Primakov did not name the brilliant KGB spymaster known as Karla, but rather the dumpy British hero, George Smiley. “It was important for Primakov to be on the side presented as being in the right.” Thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump, that’s where Russian intelligence is now. Personally, “I do not believe that tricky Russians” installed Trump as president in a master coup. But if they did, “the goal of the Russian puppeteers” would have been to destroy that irksome sense of Western “moral superiority.” Trump has simply shed it, drawing a parallel between our two countries. During an interview last February, he was asked if he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was a murderer. “You think our own country’s so innocent?” Trump replied. His “open distrust” of the FBI and CIA, the doubts he sows about the U.S.’s willingness to support its allies, and even “the figure he cuts” as an ignoramus in an ill-fitting suit—all this “wipes out the remnants” of any Western claim to the high ground.