Parades, poets, music, marijuana-related sporting events, all-night parties, and a high-flying cannabis competition heralded this year’s “Mardi Grass,” held in Nimbin, Australia during the first weekend in May.
Mardi Grass is a legendary cannabis festival that has been defying drug war politics for ten years. In years past, pot heroes like Dennis Peron have gone down under to experience some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best hospitality and marijuana.
“Nimbin was one of the sweetest places I have ever been,” said Peron.
This year, 12,000 visitors traveled from around the world to Nimbin’s annual party. The hill country town is known as a year-round destination for ecotourism and cannabis tourism. It is also a spectacularly scenic and quiet village located in stunning mountain, river, and beach country on Australia’s eastern coast. If you like beaches, surfing, waterfalls, rainforests, rivers, sacred indigenous sites, history, friendliness, fresh fruit and vegetables, ecological awareness, and counterculture attitude, you’ll love Nimbin.
Nimbin has been a “hippie haven” since the early 1970’s, when earth advocates and the pot culture united to stand down government, loggers and other destructive forces. About a year ago, cannabis activists decided to clean up Nimbin’s tawdry street pot dealing scene by opening Amsterdam-style cafes that provided a classy mix of outdoor Sativas and indoor specialty Indicas.
Cannabis Culture magazine was honored to sponsor this year’s Mardi Grass. Our crew included grow guru and seed expert “Marijuana Man,” security expert Donna, and pot photographer Barge, all on hand to lend an international flavor to festivities.
Barge conducted an icewater hash manufacturing clinic at the renowned Nimbin Oasis Caf?, distributing super-pure resin gland bubble hash to dozens of canna-connoisseurs.
This year’s festival featured plenty of pot-art, radical politics, beautiful guys and girls, Aussie awesome weather, eclectic personalities, and non-stop marijuana smoking. Although “drug sniffer dogs” were brought in a few days before the event to harass people on their way in and out of Nimbin, police constables stood smiling and red-eyed during the Mardi Grass, and made no marijuana arrests.
Event organizers and local cannabusiness representatives believed that they had achieved “drugpeace” and a de facto end to the drug war, and were basking in the glow of a successful event and the prospects that Nimbin would become more and more known as “Aussie Amsterdam.”
Raid and protest
But on Monday, May 14, a week after Mardi Grass, several Nimbin marijuana cafes were raided by a massive contingent of constables from outside of the village.
“They came in at about noon with 35 officers,” reported Andrew Kavasilas, owner and manager of the Nimbin Oasis Cafe. “Even though we have been operating as a coffee shop for many months, with their knowledge, they executed a search warrant, terrorized customers, seized cash, marijuana and hashish, and arrested several people.”
Kavasilas reports that another prominent cafe, the Rainbow, was also raided. “There were many indiscretions committed by police during this raid,” Kavasilas reported, “and it has united the cannabis community as never before. We intend to make our case vigorously in the press and in court. We’ll be holding a mini-Mardi Grass at the court hearings, and will not accept the drug war in our peaceful village.”
Police harassment has continued, with sniffer dogs originally trained for use at the 2000 Sydney Olympics terrorizing Nimbin and nearby towns like Byron Bay and Lismore. Industries that counted on Nimbin for tourism revenue, such as hotels, tour buses, and restaurants, report that the raids have had devastating effects on local businesses.
The marijuana community, allied with civil liberties advocates, physicians, college professors, Libertarians, and attorneys, has gone on the offensive in the media and in other public venues, such as courts and community meetings.
“We’ve had public forums where we directly question the police and political officials, and all we are getting are evasive answers or no answers,” complained Lisa Yeates, a Mardi Grass organizer and representative of the Nimbin Hemp Embassy. “We are getting little help from elected officials. Everybody is dodging responsibility for the planning, execution and consequences of these raids. The police say, ‘We are only doing our jobs.’ The politicians say, ‘Marijuana is against the law and that’s that.’ We don’t see it that way here in Nimbin. We believe in democracy, in peace, and in community awareness. The government’s treatment of us is a contravention of human rights, and it is a disgrace.”
Yeates, Michael Balderstone and other activists are mounting a massive counterattack against what they view as an illegal attempt to destroy Nimbin and all that it stands for. They promise demonstrations, legal battles and a media campaign. In the short term, however, Nimbin and its fine people are suffering a lot of pain, with some of the community’s most generous and outstanding citizens facing jail terms and family destruction.
As of late June, locals still complained of the “remnant police presence” in Nimbin.
The Nimbin Hemp Embassy is in severe debt, trying to pay off the cost of running Mardi Grass, and those who have been arrested in the raids are also struggling financially. Cannabis Culture readers are urged to contribute to the community’s legal defense fund.
We will be running a feature article on the Nimbin Mardi Grass and Aussie pot politics in our next issue.
? Nimbin Mardi Grass: email mailto:[email protected]; website www.nimbinmardigrass.com
? Nimbin Hemp Embassy: PO Box 177, Nimbin 2480, NSW, Australia; tel (61) 266-891-842; website www.nimbinaustralia.com/hempembassy
? Nimbin news: email [email protected]; website www.nimbinaustralia.com/politics