Last May, the town of Nimbin, Australia peacefully hosted ten thousand pot smokers at its ninth annual “Mardi Grass” weekend event (CC#34, Emerald buds in the land of Oz).
Nimbin’s Mardi Grass is probably the world’s premier outdoor harvest party. Its setting in one of the most beautiful parts of “the land down under” ? within an hour of lakes, waterfalls, oceans, forests, mountains, beaches and rivers ? makes the event even more special.
During last year’s psychedelic Mardi Grass weekend, pleasant police politely watched as a highly civilized international crowd of pot pilgrims openly consumed marijuana and hash.
But a few days after Mardi Grass ended, police moved in with drug dogs, arresting casual tokers along with local businesspeople and civic leaders who were challenging drug prohibition in New South Wales (NSW).
Nimbinites have a long history of direct action civil disobedience. During the latter half of 2001, they fought police harassment using political protests, the media, and street theater. The Nimbin Hemp Embassy and its allied “HEMP” political party challenged cops and Australia’s power elite by running candidates for office, holding rallies, and moving forward with preparations for Nimbin’s tenth Mardi Grass.
After Australian Prime Minister John Howard and NSW officials got their marching orders from the global police state after September 11, they tried to put a fatal chokehold on Nimbin.
Despite widespread citizen support for the Hemp Embassy, Mardi Grass, and a regulated caf? trade in cannabis products, police used a complaint by an anti?HEMP political party as justification for a brutal raid against the Embassy and HEMP Party headquarters, just ten days prior to federal elections in November.
“They came in here with 30 officers and created a very dangerous, ugly situation,” explained Michael Balderstone, a HEMP candidate and Embassy spokesperson. “Hundreds of people surrounded the Embassy as police huddled inside. Violence and loss of life could have occurred. For all the trouble police caused, they found little pot and charged only one person with cannabis crimes. The raids were meant to intimidate us and interfere with the electoral process. We got a lot of votes anyway, and we proclaimed our message without ceasing, but the Australian Electoral Commission refused to investigate the use of police by one political party against another.”
The man arrested during the raids, Dave Cannabis, reportedly pled guilty to cannabis possession with intent to supply, making no apologies for openly defying cannabis prohibition. His only penalty was a $250 fine.
Better than ever
According to local observers, police indifference has allowed unsavory street marijuana dealers to attack those who advocate formal marijuana decriminalization and a cannabis retail plan. Street punks broke into the Hemp Embassy and trashed it soon after police raids, injuring one person and causing thousands of dollars in damage. Police refused to investigate the break?in, vandalism and assault, claiming they didn’t have enough resources to do so.
Michael Balderstone, Lucy Charlesworth, and other long?time NSW activists wondered why police had enough resources to conduct ongoing drug dog patrols of Nimbin and other communities, but not enough resources or motivation to collar the violent criminals who invaded the Hemp Embassy.
Despite the raids, dissension, and dogs, Mardi Grass sponsors and organizers assured Cannabis Culture that this year’s event would be fun, safe and psychoactive.
“They’ve got helicopters, canines, informants and rednecks trying to mess with us, but we are stronger than any of that,” insisted Andrew Kavasilas, valiant owner of the Nimbin Oasis Cannabis Caf? who was busted last year. “This year’s Mardi Grass will be better than ever. People can count on a big party and a big hemp crop.”
Balderstone says people should visit Nimbin this year to show their support for “democratic, compassionate communities struggling to retain freedom in a world that is being scared into turning its back on freedom.”
“After September 11, we thought politicians and police would realize they can’t afford to spend time and money harming non?violent citizens like us,” Balderstone said. “Instead, governments have stepped up their attacks against environmentalists, cannabis activists, and free?thinking communities. They say the drug war and the war on terrorism are the same war. All of us who realize that the drug war is terrorism should join together in Nimbin in May. Let’s show them a real gathering of the tribes!”