Currently Reading: Red Robin

Since Red Robin was a Biker Bar by the University Bridge, Seattle and it’s surrounding communities have had a hard time considering cannabis medicine. Potency has skyrocketed since the days of hippie grass, but are we any closer to living up to the term medicine?

Before the $14 burgers and mall patrons Red Robin was just one little bar next to the University Bridge. It was a biker hangout, considered seedy and a watering hole for the downtrodden. This was during the era of Seattle’s “tolerance policy” around 1969 when police officers looked the other way on liquor violations and vice laws. Mayor Wes Uhlman took charge and ended this tact, and Seattle’s frontier spirit became crushed by laws girded too tight. The pendulum never swung back, and a community of mostly liberal democrats have been subjected to puritanical morality standards ever since.

Despite this enforcement approach cannabis skates by as the punch-line to a joke, a decriminalized traffic ticket at most, but with this attitude has come a resistance to understanding the medicinal value of this plant we all agree is harmless. How can it be a juvenile recreational habit and a serious prescription for some of the worst health problems humans have ever encountered?

The most noticeable relic of the past history of Red Robin was the wooden, hand-painted sign that stayed even after Red Robin became an upscale burger chain. The Robin’s eyes were bloodshot from apparent cannabis overindulgence, and as kids stared at the sign while waiting for their table they never had any idea of the things that took place at that very spot. New mascot renderings made the Robin cuddly, and the restaurant chain opened its 400th location a few years back.

In the legendary book on Seattle music “Loser” written by Clark Humphrey, a spot called the “Scoundrel’s Liar” is chronicled. Homer Spence, the UW professor turned punk musician and Danny Eskenazi, the owner of Seattle’s iconic vintage store called Dreamland, would hang out and listen to post beatnik jazz bands which Jesse Bernstein and Pete Leinonen played in. It was right across the street from Red Robin, the dive bar making all the racket.

“Red Robin Tavern, a popular freaks watering hole and site of countless pot and acid deals,” Humphrey wrote. “Hardly a week went by that somebody didn’t drive a motorcycle into one of a dozen hippies’ and painters’ hangouts. Underage drinkers, nude barmaids and after-hours service were not uncommon. The (tolerance) policy also meant cops looked the other way at (or were paid off by) hookers and drug dealers.”

“Suffering perhaps the worst fate was Red Robin tavern — it became the flagship outlet of an upscale burger chain. The wide-open frontier city was dead. You had to conform to the new complacency – euphemistically labeled ‘Seattle Style’ or ‘the Northwest Lifestyle’ – or else. Two decades later (the book was published in 1995), our ‘liberal’ leaders including many ex-hippies, still mistake blandness for virtue.”

In 2011 we are still subjected to the will of those who mistake blandness for virtue. Seattle has not been the same since 1969, and the rest of the county and state have followed suit. 4Evergreen Group is not advocating that lawlessness should have continued, and police corruption should have been applauded, but what often happens with politics is a knee-jerk reaction that over-compensates in order to seem heavy handed. So people know who is in charge, and who is the boss.

We face the same dilemma with medical cannabis in our state today. Politicians that want to seem tough on crime, or drugs, or whatever buzzword they are calling upon today are looking to appeal to a conservative base. These campaigns make patients using legally prescribed cannabis out to be the deviants at Red Robin before the long arm of the law got longer. Accusations will be flung that unless you have a terminal illness that prescription is not for you, your another recreational punch-line. But the letter of the law is clear. The popular vote for medical cannabis in this state, circa 1998, was one of the first attempts to take back what was lost in the Mayor’s knee-jerk of ’69. That being common sense about the use of hemp in our daily lives, and it’s potential as a medicine when we stop considering it a drug.


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