All Aboard Amtrak’s Mary Jane Limited? | So Good News
William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
If you are a railway historian, you are no doubt aware of some of the passenger trains of days gone by named after famous people, such as Ethan Allen Express, Abraham Lincoln, Commodore Vanderbilt, William Penn, Will Rogers, Nancy Hanks, Nathan Hale, Paul Revere, etc. If a recent report i Buffalo Chronicle to be taken seriously, you will be able to ride a new (or renamed) long-distance Amtrak train, Mary Jane Limited.
Do you think I’m kidding? Are you blowing smoke? Puffing on funny cigarettes?
A recent one Buffalo Chronicle article titled “At Schumer’s urging, Amtrak will accommodate cannabis users on slow-moving routes” claims that “Amtrak plans to accommodate cannabis users on its traditional regular-speed routes across the country, including on trains running between Buffalo and New York City. The move is at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), who believes that allowing adults to smoke cannabis on trains will improve the passenger experience and increase ticket sales for passengers willing to travel at a more leisurely pace.”
It’s a short paragraph – er, piece – so I might as well reproduce it here in its entirety:
“Under new federal regulations that Schumer’s office has been working on for months, Amtrak would be allowed to sell cannabis products to its passengers aboard trains — even while in states that prohibit it. The regulations would require Amtrak to designate some passenger cars as “smoking” and others as “non-smoking.” The nation’s railroads are federally regulated.
“It is unclear whether Amtrak will be allowed to sell cannabis products to passengers inside stations prior to boarding.
“Many proponents of the policy believe that the new regulations will allow Amtrak to generate new revenue streams by enabling it to cultivate a ‘leisure travel’ market, particularly for long-haul sightseeing routes. Improving passenger volume on long-haul rural routes – which are some of the country’s most scenic – would go a long way to turning the system’s worst results into some of its most profitable.
“I love a wide, slow-moving train,” Schumer often jokes. “There’s nothing better than being able to put your feet up and enjoy the ride.”
“However, cannabis users are unlikely to be accommodated on Amtrak’s most profitable route: the Acela corridor. This high-speed service is marketed to business travelers at premium rates.
“‘These rules are designed to help make Amtrak profitable and give it the flexibility to be competitive as it develops different niches in the travel market,'” Schumer added. “Especially among leisure travelers who don’t mind traveling at a more comfortable pace.”
OK guys, now that I’ve hopefully got your attention, here’s a spoiler, before I continue: Buffalo Chronicle really exists. It is a website, and also has a Facebook page. But everything it publishes is false, fake, or at least highly fictionalized. The address, Canada’s CBC discovered, is a long-abandoned warehouse. The Brooklyn paper recently called it out for publishing “false local news stories in Brooklyn and the rest of New York City for several years, deceiving untold numbers of New Yorkers with articles that seem superficially plausible and look convincing, but lack any truth.”
The story of marijuana use being allowed on Amtrak trains is actually funny, if you think about it. What is not funny thing is that there are too many people who actually believe such outlets of misinformation. The 33-year-old “publisher” producing this nonsense, Buffalo resident Matthew Ricchiazzi, calls it “social art.” If you want more insight into Ricchiazzi, read on Brooklyn paper article.
Tell a lie enough times and many people will start to believe it. For example, the story above references “Amtrak’s Most Profitable Route: The Acela Corridor.” There is no such thing as the “Acela Corridor.” There is an Amtrak service called Acela or Acela Express which operates on the Northeast Corridor. It is not profitable, when you take into account all costs, operation and capital, above and below the rail. Yet, even respected publications such as The Wall Street Journal has spread misinformation that Acela the service is profitable. (It doesn’t have to be, because passenger trains, a form of public transportation, are a service, but that’s another topic.)
So now that you know the truth, I’ll pick up where I left off. Full disclosure: Frank Wilner, our Capitol Hill contributing editor, provided some “observations” that I’ve worked into the narrative. I love puns and I have a slightly warped sense of humor, so hopefully you’ll enjoy this, which is written as if I took Buffalo Chronicle severity:
It is generally understood that one of the most dangerous things one can do is to walk between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera. That danger zone now appears to be filling up with smoke, and not the kind that is accompanied by mirrors. So what’s going on, Chuck? Are you playing dumb for the Republicans just weeks before the midterm elections?
The real truth is that Schumer may be pulling — at least for younger voters who often need extra stimulus to get out of bed early and to the polls — a Democratic rabbit out of the hat. Many people recognize that our jails and prisons are overcrowded with people targeted for minor drug crimes. Polls and state legislation certainly confirm that a majority of the younger population in particular are in favor of relaxed drug laws. While old gray heads may mutter and moan as they enjoy the fluid buzz of their choice in elegant taverns, younger generations attending concerts and raves are embracing an alternative buzz. Allowing cannabis on Amtrak trains is actually a progressive approach to what is already widely accepted. No doubt Schumer’s rabbit is munching on grass and weeds.
So, will the “smoking cars” that must be added to Amtrak long-distance trains be called reefers? Will stoned passengers be less irritated by rough tracks caused by weed-infested bad ballast, which as we all know is made up of crushed stone? Will the Fats Waller/Andy Razaf/JC Johnson 1937 jazz tune joint jumps, Don Redman’s 1931 jazz classic Chant of the Weed, or Hugh Masekela’s 1968 Grazing in the grass played in Amtrak cafe cars, where high-profit snacks like potato chips and pretzels will sell like hotcakes, because (again, as we all know), smoking marijuana gives you the “munchies.” Will this newfound profitability please former Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), or will it send the toupee spinning out of control? And let’s not forget the “educational” film from 1936, Reefer Madness. Maybe it can be displayed in the cafe cars?
So, what’s next, Amtrak? To permit the use of a certain illegal white powder on your trains, thereby reviving the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western’s famous named trains, Phoebe Snow?
Marijuana has been called a “gateway drug”. Will the Gateway Project, one of Chuck Schumer’s pet projects, take on a whole new meaning?
More seriously, what happens when conductors and sleeping car passengers start inhaling second-hand “happy smoke”?
And when Amtrak starts allowing passengers to take cannabis, will the airlines be far behind? After all, it has to be some way to deal with upset, unruly passengers prone to attacking innocent flight attendants and customer service representatives, right?
No doubt the Surface Transportation Board will have to get involved, as there will be a group of crafty lawyers arguing that Amtrak’s statutory right to sell cannabis on board trains that Mary Jane Limited, High-a-Watha and Nathan inhaled constitutes a monopoly.
I’ll close with a bit of history: In 1874, Wisconsin passed the “Potter Law,” named after Wisconsin State Sen. Robert Potter. It reduced rail fares to where there was nothing left to pay fixed costs. In the second year of the law’s operation, no railroad in Wisconsin paid dividends; only four paid interest on their bonds. Railway construction had stopped. Even the facilities on existing railways could not be maintained. Foreign capital refused to invest in Wisconsin. Within two years of the Potter Act’s passage, railroads convinced the Wisconsin legislature to repeal it, citing financial burdens that affected the quality of railroad service so negatively that trains running in Wisconsin became known as “Potter Trains.”
There was once a “Potter train.” So why not “Pot trains”?
Back to reality: As life imitates The oniongulping down information drains – all the more reason to stick to reliable news sites and, of course, Railway Age!