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  1. Alfa
    VANCOUVER 'POT BLOCK' GOES UP IN SMOKE

    VANCOUVER -- Vancouver's world-renowned "pot block" was engulfed in
    smoke yesterday as fire destroyed a significant piece of the city's
    heritage. The blaze raged through a two-storey building, gutting the
    Blunt Brothers, a marijuana-oriented cafe that billed itself as "a
    respectable joint."

    A landmark vintage clothing store was also destroyed, as was a
    long-standing left-wing bookstore.

    The B.C. Marijuana Party headquarters and bookstore are located next
    door at 307 West Hastings, a building that suffered major smoke and
    water damage. Other pot-oriented businesses were located on the upper
    floors of the building.

    Capt. Rob Jones-Cook of the Vancouver fire department said initial
    reports were that the fire started in a dumpster in the back lane
    behind the buildings. It quickly spread to two more dumpsters and then
    to the rear of the building.

    "I will not say it's arson, but it could be a suspicious fire,' said
    Jones-Cook.

    Firefighters found a small marijuana-growing operation in one of the
    structures.

    The block has achieved international renown in the past few years
    because of all the marijuana-oriented businesses there.

    Pot tourists visit by the thousands to smoke a joint in North
    America's only pot cafes, the Blunt Brothers and the New Amsterdam
    (which recently closed).

    Even comedian Tommy Chong came to Blunt Brothers to smoke a
    joint.

    The fire attracted dozens of spectators early yesterday
    morning.

    A group of potheads mourned the loss of Blunt Brothers by lighting up
    joints on a nearby corner.

    "You'd see people from all over the world that would make their way
    there to check it out and get their pictures taken in front of the
    signs and stuff," said Steve Lippold, owner of clothing store Cabbages
    and Kinx. "It was on certain people's lists of tourist places to visit."

    The future of the pot block depends on the damage to the
    building.

    Pot guru Marc Emery hopes the damage to the Marijuana Party
    headquarters and bookstore isn't too severe and that it can reopen
    quickly.

    Emery didn't hold out much hope for the upstairs businesses,
    however.

    Emery said the store wasn't insured.

    "No one insures businesses with the name Marijuana in it, in my
    experience," he said.

    Jones-Cook said there were no reports of injuries at the
    scene.

    The businesses were located in a pair of 1890s brick buildings that
    are on Vancouver's heritage register.

    The burnt-out structure was built in 1898, the time of
    the Klondike
    goldrush.

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