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Mardigrass protestival to be as serious and silly as ever

CANNABIS CAPERS: Dave Carr, Max Stone, Sam Bernard and HEMP Embassy president Michael Balderstone practise for a new event at this year’s Mardigrass – Beard Stash, where participants have to hide as many buds in their beards as they can.
CANNABIS CAPERS: Dave Carr, Max Stone, Sam Bernard and HEMP Embassy president Michael Balderstone practise for a new event at this year’s Mardigrass – Beard Stash, where participants have to hide as many buds in their beards as they can. Marc Stapelberg

A SMALL, peaceful protest outside the Nimbin police station in May 1993 has grown into a cannabis law reform rally that attracts international speakers and worldwide attention.

The annual Mardigrass "protestival" began after a group of Nimbin residents, fed up with what they considered police harassment, marched on the police station and pelted it with eggs and toilet paper.

The negative publicity prompted another group to organise a more peaceful rally, complete with the first giant joint and a nun playing a tuba. These images were broadcast all over the world and organiser Bob Hopkins vowed to hold the protest every year until prohibition was ended.

Twenty three years later and the event continues to grow with the same ethos of serious law reform meets serious silliness still beating at its heart.

Speakers include state and federal politicians discussing medical cannabis and civil liberty issues, Dr David Bearman talking about advances in cannabis medicine in the US, advocates from the US on Colorado's growing green economy, plus many others.

On the silly side, a new event called the Beard Stash, where participants have to hide as much dope as they can in their beards, will run alongside traditional events such as bong throwing, joint rolling and the growers' ironperson event.

"But we are 20 years behind America. They had their first legal medical cannabis in 1996," he said.

"We've got a doctor from California (Dr Bearman) talking about how it's a win-win-win situation there (for patients, growers and law enforcement agencies)."

Mr Balderstone said the main contribution of Mardigrass was getting politicians, law reformers and advocates together talking and "getting new information into Australia".

He said State Premier Mike Baird's plan for a limited medical cannabis trial in NSW was a way of "sweeping the issue under the carpet".

"(The research) has all been done before," he said.

"Patients can expect to wait six years for trials that we don't need, then they'll look at it again.

"He's a cunning politician and we're not impressed."

Topics:  cannabis mardigrass protest



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