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.
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. David Nielsen

Peace, love, law at MardiGrass

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 professions.

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 clichés 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 said.

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

“However there have been some people charged.

“But overall we’re quite happy with how the crowd’s behaved.”

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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