Pubdate: Sat, 06 Aug 2016
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Sun Media
Author: Sarah Moore
Page: A1


Moonbeam - The air in this small Northern town may get a little hazy
at the end of this month as the annual Hempfest festival kicks off on
Aug. 22.

For the last 18 years, the festival has attracted advocates and
supporters of the decriminalization of marijuana, both for its
recreational and medicinal uses, to the week-long music and camping

Robert Neron, who hosts Hempfest on his property (which is
affectionately known as Chez Willy's Place), said it has become
somewhat of a beloved tradition for those who attend every year.

"It's very special to me, it's like my little kid and it's the kind of
festival that feels like a family," he said.

A vocal marijuana advocate, Neron brought the festival from its
original location in Sault Ste. Marie to Moonbeam three years ago
because of his own personal connection to the cause.

In order to manage pain from Hodgkin's lymphoma and another medical
condition called cervical dystonia, which causes painful, twisting
muscle contractions in the neck, Neron has been licensed to possess
and grow his own medical marijuana for nearly 20 years.

He explained that Hempfest serves to bring others in a similar
position together and to help educate those that want to learn more in
a safe environment.

"Hempfest is a really great place to be," he said. "You talk with
people who have the same condition and beliefs as you, people come for
education, enlightenment, guidance. Lots of people are going to feel
less scared to attend a festival which is a community festival, one
where you get educated, meet people and have a good time."

The event also comes at an interesting time this year, with the
federal government in the midst of drafting legislation surrounding
the legal sale of recreational pot, and Health Canada under an Aug. 24
deadline (smack-dab in the middle of Hempfest) to create new rules
regarding the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own

In 2014, the Conservative government overhauled the medical marijuana
system and effectively prohibited patients from growing their own pot
at home. Earlier this year, four patients in British Columbia
challenged this in Federal court, where a judge struck down the
regulations prohibiting them from growing medical marijuana and
ordered the government to draft a new set of rules on the issue.

Neron, who had his own brush with the law when his medical marijuana
licence briefly lapsed, said the decision won't have much of an impact
either way on those like himself, who have had the right to possess
marijuana for some time. For others who have been waiting in limbo for
the ability to grow their own medical marijuana, however, it could be
a day of celebration.

"For any of the regulars or anyone used to coming to the festival, we
live this way every day of the year. This is our life, it's a culture,
it's how we medicate - it's a regular day of business for us," he
said. "But, I can assure you that lots of people will be celebrating
and having good moments thinking they can now be free and not be in
fear of being arrested. It will be a good liberation day."

Neron is also in the process of opening up his own legal dispensary on
the Moonbeam Hempfest grounds, as well, which he hopes will be open
for business in time for the festival.

"I have filed to have a not-for-profit corporation and have asked to
be a legal dispensary; I am waiting for the certificate," he
explained. "Hopefully by Hempfest, this will be fully legal and I'm
quite sure it will be approved."

He stressed, however, that opening the dispensary isn't about making a
profit - it's about helping those in a similar situation to himself
have better access to affordable, medical marijuana.

"We're doing this because we believe in something. It's not for us to
make money," he said. "The music and vibe at this place, and at
Hempfest, is like a freedom - something you know that you should have
been entitled to from Day 1."

The festival will begin with a few days of relaxation, games, hiking
and camping.

Once everyone has had a few days to enjoy all that Moonbeam community
has to offer, the entertainment portion of the event will begin on
Thursday, Aug. 25 with a performance by Kapuskasing natives Barrel
House Blues Band. They'll bring the beats until approximately 9:45
p.m. that evening.

House of David Gang, a reggae/ funk band from Toronto, will play for
the remainder of that evening until 2:15 a.m.

There are a more than one dozen acts on the bill for the weekend,
including Shift From The 902, La Tragedie from Montreal, DJ Kin Noren
and DJ Fuels, Fortunate Losers, Estelle Deschamps, the Stevie Ray
Vaughan experience, the Laura Cole Band, Chezza and Crone of War.

The festival will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 28 with its annual potluck
dinner at 5 p.m.

Food or beverages must be contributed to participate.

Neron said he is looking forward to welcoming new faces back again
this year and is hopeful that some new people will join in, as well.

"Don't forget the essentials like your beach towel and sunblock," he
advised. "Don't toke and drive - be careful - and I can't wait to see

The week-long festival will once again be held in Neron's property at
27 Cimon St. in the northeast area of Moonbeam. Tickets are available
at the doors, at selected retailers in Timmins, Moonbeam and Hearst
and by contacting Neron directly at  ---
MAP posted-by: Matt