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    Friday, February 13, 1998

    Mayor high on Whistler

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

      Whistler is a great place to get high, the town's mayor admitted yesterday.
     But more in terms of high-altitude ski and snowboard fun, said his worship Hugh O'Reilly.
      Since native son Ross Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana Sunday after winning the snowboard giant slalom gold medal (he was reinstated yesterday), there has been repeated talk that the posh British Columbia resort town is a haven for pot smokers and that the weed in that corner of Canada is the most potent in the world.
     "I think that image has been highly inflated. I laughed when I heard some of the those comments," said O'Reilly, who was higher than a kite with glee over Rebagliati's reinstatement.
     O'Reilly admitted that Whistler has a large youth population, as do most resorts, but denied that the snowboarders are heavy marijuana users.
     Rebagliati admitted smoking pot in April 1997 and said that he inhaled a lot of second-hand marijuana smoke at a party with friends in Whistler on Jan. 31. It has been suggested -- in his defence -- that the use of pot is rampant in Whistler with the young snowboarding crowd.
     "Ross said he had to move out of Whistler to get away from it," said Michael Wood, executive director of the Canadian Snowboard Federation. "Everyone he knows and is acquainted with (there) is a user."
     When asked about his home town's reputation for its potent pot, Rebagliati said: "It's just one of those things. I just happen to live where it's strong."
     O'Reilly said townsfolk went wild when news of Rebagliati's victory hit the streets and turned to utter shock and disbelief when the International Olympic Committee stripped him of his gold medal.
     But at no time, he said, did the town back away from plans to hold a welcome-home party for Rebagliati. O'Reilly expects a party of 10,000 people. Whistler has a permanent population of only about 8,000.