Pubdate: Thu, 13 Aug 2015
Source: Coast, The (CN NS)
Copyright: 2015 Coast Publishing
Author: Jacob Boon


The sixth annual PEACE EAST festival wants to clear the air on 
medical marijuana.

Six years in, PEACE EAST keeps growing. The three-day outdoor 
festival in Middle Musquodoboit is Atlantic Canada's annual epicenter 
for cannabis consumers, advocates and caregivers to celebrate the 
tireless fight against the war on drugs. There's music, lectures, 
workshops and plenty of chances to get inspired. And, no, it's not 
just some hippie fest in the woods.

"Well, you know what, it's a little bit of a hippie fest," counters 
Sherri Reeve-Enns. "There are hippies. I mean, they kind of 
popularized weed. You can't really avoid that."

Reeve-Enns is one of the primary organizers of PEACE EAST-an acronym 
for Public Educational Advocacy for Cannabis Enthusiasts, Eastern 
Activists Supporting Truth. She, along with other medical marijuana 
advocates and volunteers from the Halifax Compassionate Club help 
facilitate the festival that draws in roughly 500 attendees every 
year. Ticket sales and funds raised go directly back into the HCC's 
programs, which deliver cannabis education and medications to cancer 
patients and others suffering from painful conditions.

The cannabis festival's growth these last few years seems as sure a 
sign as any that Canadian attitudes about marijuana are evolving. But 
that hasn't stopped police from raiding Reeve-Enns' businesses, or 
eased the battle she's been waging in court. Despite all those legal 
troubles, the medical marijuana activist and PEACE EAST organizer 
hasn't given up hope.

Back in 2013, Halifax RCMP raided the HCC and arrested vice-president 
Chris Enns on charges of trafficking marijuana, hash and mushrooms. A 
year later, Enns and Reeve (they've since married, hence the hyphen) 
opened the Farm Assists vapour lounge on Gottingen Street. Just a few 
weeks after last year's PEACE EAST, the lounge and the couple's 
Chezzetcook home were again raided by police. Enns and Reeve were 
arrested and arraigned while dozens of supporters rallied outside the 
courthouse. Topping it all off, their Chezzetcook home was robbed 
shortly thereafter in a home invasion.

"Financially, it really hurt us," Reeve-Enns says. "I invested every 
ounce of energy I had into my grow, thinking that it's going to be my 
medicine that sustains me for awhile. We bought a building for that. 
I have an illness"- rheumatoid arthritis-"that there's no cure for, 
so we assumed we'd be there as long as possible."

Already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder before the cops 
burst through her front door, Reeve-Enns says she's become like a 
"ticking time bomb" of emotions. There's been a lot more therapy 
since last summer.

Adding to the stress, the couple are still waiting on their day in 
court from both raids. They've been self-representing-which "is 
really pissing people off," she laughs-in order to learn the justice 
system and teach others.

At first, courthouse workers treated the couple with hostility during 
the various perfunctory hearings before trial. "As if I was a 
terrorist," Reeve-Enns claims. Suddenly, attitudes shifted. Without 
knowing it, the couple had started treating a bailiff's wife for 
cancer. "Now they treat us really nice there."

Surprisingly, given the organizers' legal troubles, police have never 
really been a problem for the PEACE EAST festival. Reeve-Enns says 
she's talked with officers in Middle Musquodoboit about the festival, 
but they were mainly concerned the event would have security (it 
does). First aid? Waste collection? Insurance? Check. Check. Check.

"Usually with these kind of festivals the police just park and make 
sure that nobody's drinking and driving around the event. That's kind 
of a nice thing," she says. "I don't want anybody drinking and driving."

To be fair, most outdoor music festivals aren't so, well, academic. 
They don't often feature so many public talks and workshops. Patients 
will be sharing their personal stories, while facilitators like 
Reeve-Enns show how to process cannabis more cost-effectively.

"We don't try to focus too much on giving people too much 
information, cause they can always come see us anytime of the year at 
any one of our businesses," Reeve-Enns says. "We hope to inspire 
people more than anything."

Inspire, and celebrate the often futile work that goes into fighting 
the war on the war on drugs. Don't worry, there's also plenty of 
music. Other common PEACE EAST side effects include a calmer 
atmosphere than is often found at some other outdoor festivals.

"It's much more green and far less alcohol oriented," says Reeve-Enns.

Jonas Colter only recently became aware of PEACE EAST, but he's been 
a supporter of legalizing pot "since I smoked my first joint at the age of 14."

The Evolve Festival organizer knows a little bit about the war on 
drugs. This summer, he proudly announced to the media that Evolve 
would be offering free drug-testing kits in an effort to reduce 
overdoses. The plan backfired, as his original insurance underwriter 
bailed and Colter scrambled to keep the festival alive (see sidebar).

Colter says he'd had informal meetings with representatives from the 
RCMP, Emergency Health Services, ER doctors, even the department of 
Tourism. Everyone, he says, knew he was trying out this new harm 
reduction policy. No one could condone his plan (certainly not 
publicly), but they all shared the same goal: keep people safe.

Reeve-Enns is a big fan of Evolve. Thats where she and Chris went for 
their honeymoon.

"I know a lot of people that did that testing at Evolve, and were 
very happy for it," she says, about attendees who brought in their 
own kits once Colter was unable to offer the service. It's education, 
she says, not prohibition, that's the key to fighting addiction.

"We have a lot of people in our club that have gotten off of the pill 
problem-the diladid, oxycontin problem-with cannabis," she adds. 
"Same with alcohol."

Colter is in agreement. For him, the continual criminalization of 
cannabis is a travesty and an embarrassment.

"I just think," he says, "the sooner we legalize marijuana the better 
we are going to be off as a society, period."

The problem the war on drugs, especially the war on marijuana, is 
that the state's already lost. The vestigial attitudes and moral 
panic from the government run counter to a general public who really 
don't give a damn. Everyone's amiable to cannabis these days. People 
are pretty much over pot.

The results aren't hard to spot. Colorado's taxation of recreational 
marijuana has generated millions of dollars for public schools, and 
other states are following their lead. Here in Canada, the Supreme 
Court recently ruled that medical marijuana extracts were legal in 
all forms (which "outraged" health minister Rona Ambrose). Meanwhile, 
three out of four major political parties want to either 
decriminalize or outright legalize marijuana.

Just be careful what you wish for. Legalization is going to come with 
a lot of growing pains, cautions Reeve-Enns.

"I'm not even sure legalization is really the right avenue for 
Canadians because it's just going to take cannabis out of the hands 
of the people and put it into the hands of the mega-corporations and 
government," she says.

Take the Supreme Court's recent decision on extracts. Reeve-Enns was 
at that hearing. "We thought that we'd done something good." But now 
that it's legal, Health Canada can dictate restrictions on use. The 
resulting medicine is so watered down that Reeve-Enns says she would 
have to take something like 30 pills a night just to reach the dosage 
she was using before.

"They're treating it as if it's the most volatile substance."

She says she'd prefer decriminalization over legalization, which 
would have the same desired effect but keep production from being 
dominated by government controls.

As for Trudeau's promise...

" know, it's an election," Reeve-Enns says. Raided twice, 
her plants cut down, still awaiting two trials-you can forgive her 
for being cynical.

"I'm not the right girl to ask about how I feel about politicians and 

Legalizing cannabis will have its highs and lows. Taking away the 
stigma of cannabis as a medicine, that's a different story. 
Reeve-Enns gets why people joke about pot. If anything, it betrays 
the drug's commonality. Most people don't see what she sees, though.

There's this one patient she helps treat. The young girl has 
seizures; "thousands of them" every day, Reeve-Enns says. Medical 
marijuana has calmed them.

"Now she can do a puzzle with her mom."

Those are the sort of moments that keep her going despite the police 
raids, the property destroyed, the years tied up in court. Despite 
periods of doubt.

"I do go through that and say to myself..." she pauses. "I really 
don't do anything other than activism and try to grow my own 
medicine...It has made me say, 'Maybe I'm done with this. Maybe this 
isn't for me anymore.'"

She has no children, or even pets. She doesn't own any property that 
can be taken away from her. There's little the police or the 
government can do at this point. All of which makes her "probably the 
best candidate" for activism there is.

"I guess that's why Chris and I plow forward, because what can they 
do to us?" she says. "All they can do is imprison us."

The dirty truth about cannabis is whatever dangers it theoretically 
poses still seem mild to other government-sanctioned products like 
cigarettes and alcohol. Sugar probably kills more Canadians every 
year, but no one's arresting Pepsi. It's a state-supported hypocrisy 
that's difficult to reconcile.

"If I was a kid right now, I'm not sure what I would think," 
Reeve-Enns says. "I'd totally just go smoke weed and figure it out for myself."

- ---PEACE EAST 420 Festival Hosted by The Halifax Compassionate Club 
August 14, 15 and 16, 2015, starting at 4:20pm. Right next to 547 
Higginsville Road, Middle Musquodoboit (there will be signs), $40 in 
advance, $50 at the door. Featuring performances by: Kaleb Simmonds; 
DJ IV; City Natives; FRASE; Royal Kush Band; DJ Universal; L'nu 
Joker; Rawbeatz; Raspekt; Lyra; Kitty Bass; Kam Speech; KloudN9; 
Frantik; Equilibrium; Busta well as demonstrations, 
speakers, comedy and more. Tickets: online or call 902-495-0420 for 
more information.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom