Pubdate: Mon, 3 May 2010
Source: Northern Star (Australia)
Copyright: 2010 APN News & Media Ltd
Author: Matt Meir
Photo: Former champion bong thrower, Garry the plumber, retires from
the sport after bowing out in the finals against stronger and younger
competition at yesterday's MardiGrass event.


LET'S dispense first with the obvious points about the weekend's
MardiGrass festival.

Yes, it is largely attended by those who have opted to drop out of the
rat race that most of the rest of us are stuck in.

Yes, the festival preached to the converted, with opponents of more
relaxed cannabis laws unlikely to have changed their minds after
Nimbin's busiest weekend.

Yes, it is arguable the event does little from a PR point of view to
help improve the chances of cannabis law reform, which is likely to
come only after lobbying from the legal and medical

Yes, MardiGrass is organised chaos, with the desire to stick to the
festival timetable a long way down the weekend's priority list.

But at the same time, there is also no doubt that, yes, all these
things are part of the festival's undoubted charm.

The festival's cliches and highlights were illustrated neatly during
the celebratory climax to the weekend late yesterday afternoon.

As the cannabis law reform rally finally wound its way into Peace
Park, giant, inflatable joint in tow, some punters simply slept off
the weekend just metres from, and unaware of, the adjacent moving feast.

For the 18th time, about 10,000 cannabis lovers on Saturday and Sunday
peacefully and cheerily spruiked their thoughts on cannabis law reform.

They did it between less overtly political events like the traditional
Hemp Olympix, which included the always popular bong throw and yell.

The day before, there was a contest to try to break the world joint
rolling record.

While the crowds were mostly well behaved, police reported there had
been several assault charges laid during the weekend, as well as the
obvious drug possession charges.

"Generally it's been a good weekend," Inspector Nicole Bruce

"There has been drug detections. If it was a first offence they were

"However there have been some people charged.

"But overall we're quite happy with how the crowd's

Jim Moylan, from the Civil Liberties Observer Group that watched
police operations, said interaction between police and festival goers
had improved on previous years.

"There's been less hassles, less arrests, and more love," he told the
rally crowd yesterday.

And while there was plenty of love, there were also powerful and
articulate arguments mounted by festival speakers that cannabis law
reform is overdue.

American Dr Bob Melamede   an expert in the science of medicinal
cannabis use   spoke during the weekend at several forums, and
addressed the rally about the need for changes to the law allowing for
patients battling illness to use cannabis.

Dr Melamede praised the festival attendees for their approach to the
issue of cannabis law reform.

"We probably get bigger protests than this, but we don't get any that
are better," he told the rally crowd yesterday.

Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said he was hopeful the
momentum of this year's MardiGrass would trans-late into large numbers
of cannabis supporters heading to Canberra next month in time for US
President Barack Obama's scheduled visit to Australia.

While the impact of the giant joint heading to the nation's capital is
unclear, Mr Balderstone was confident it was no longer a case of if
cannabis law reform would occur, but when.

"I guarantee it's coming," he said. 
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