Vibrant town is also a ‘free-range psychiatric clinic’

NIMBIN is home to a lot of former boarding school boys, says Michael Balderstone, head honcho of the Hemp Embassy; men like him, packed off at a young age, traumatised and made "good rebels" by the experience.

Misfits, rejected by their own communities, they later find a home in this infamous, vibrant town.

Michael "pulled the shutters down" at 10 and didn't cry or even feel much again until his 30s, when he revisited his school years during Gestalt-type therapy, and melted.

It also released his anger - not something you'd expect in this impish, twinkly old hippie, but the driver behind his activism and steely focus.

"Anger at injustice is at the heart of it, whether it be in the stinking school system in which young boys could be treated like sh*t', or denying epileptic children, the sick and the elderly the medical cannabis that could relieve their suffering."

He's also cross about the injustice of the current system of mobile drug testing, "which is simply not fair", a failure on all levels.

It all means the Embassy is busier than ever.

"We have people coming in desperate for help, people with cancer, or those who have reactions to opioid painkillers, mothers of children with autism.

"We can connect them" (with the medicine), he says, and the results can be "mind-blowing".

"Epileptic children can take one drop, and suddenly it all changes."

Despite leaving school with no qualifications, Michael became a stock broker and was sent him to London where, aged 24 he took classes in philosophy and art, dropped out and drove overland to India, getting stoned for the first time in Kandahar.

That kicked him off on a spiritual search, fasting, returning again and again to India, a restless seeker, of god, meaning, certainty.

While "there is no f***ing certainty", he laughs, on his return to Australia he found his purpose and work in the much-maligned town, which he loves.

But he also has to get away. "Nimbin can be full on …exhausting. It's an outdoor, free-range psychiatric clinic, and I'm one of the patients."

So he gardens. "It keeps me sane. All my best mates are in the garden. They don't argue at all."

The spiritual is never far from his conversation, and it overlaps with all facets of life, including the medical.

"Seeing children get better … that's what makes this rewarding. Who would deny them that?"

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