When South Australia became the first Australian jurisdiction to decriminalise the “personal use” and “small scale” cultivation of cannabis in 1986, there was significant optimism within the cannabis smoking community that cannabis would soon be re-legalised. The legislation replaced criminal sanctions for the cultivation of less than ten plants and/or possession of less than 100g of cannabis and “smoking implements” with an on-the-spot fine or cannabis expiation notice (CEN) of $150 for cultivation and $50 for possession.
In December of 2006, activists who successfully lobbied for the relaxation of criminally punitive cannabis laws should have been celebrating the 20th anniversary of no longer being regarded in law as a “criminal”. Instead,a private members bill to re-criminalise the cultivation of even a solitary outdoor plant was introduced by “Christian values” party, Family First and passed through the upper house.
Long ago, a mass of spiralling hydrogen gas coalesced near the edge of a quiet galaxy, reached critical density, and then ignited. Hydrogen squished together in this nuclear furnace, forming heavier elements, making it spin even faster. Centripetal physics prevailed; a flattened disc of star dust formed which ejaculated potent gobs of hot star dust into space.
These gobs became planets, and one of them was Earth. When Earth was still cooling into her prepubescent glory, icy asteroids bombarded her mantle, leaving oceans as their legacy. It was in these oceanic womb waters that star dust from Father Sun mixed with the seed of Mother Earth, conceiving Life. Life hung tenaciously onto the outlets of volcanic vents deep beneath the ocean when the earth was a big ice ball, then luxuriated in its liquid presence through the age of dinosaurs in the warmth of the Carboniferous. In the last little fragment of The History of Life on Earth, a certain hominid species evolved victorious from an era of ice ages by growing new brain pathways, wiping out its milder mannered cousins and acquiring a taste for coastal property. This species called itself Homo sapiens, which means Wise Man.
Our man Remo “the Urban Grower”, the ganja guru himself, decided that it was time to see what kinds of tasty nugs he could find in Australia, and so he flew down to check out the Mardi Grass festival in Nimbin.
After ten days down under, we caught up with Remo back at his Vancouver lair to talk about the festival and the latest Urban Grower episode, a seventy minute video diary of the trip.
Q: So, what did you think of Australia?
A: It was a fuckin’ blast man! It was a lot of fun. We flew into Brisbane and met up with the StickyPoint guys, who rolled out the red carpet for us. We didn’t see a whole lot of Brisbane. We did check out Byron Bay which is kind of like a surfer town on the beach. That was cool. The beach was sweet…a nicer beach than Cancun. But the main thing we came down for was the MardiGrass festival in this little town called Nimbin.
In the sleepy green village of Nimbin, NSW, the local boys are mulling up in the middle of the Hemp Museum. There are half a dozen teenage gang members with stoned eyelids and bandanas. Hovering round with their stashes, catering to the massive influx of tourists. It feels like Lord of the Flies, where the wildboys have taken over. Yet this is all part of the marijuana trade; somebody grows it, somebody sells it, somebody smokes it – It’s the green circle.
The ‘Devil’s Weed’ has been around for much longer than the 70 years that it’s been prohibited. Despite decades of lobbying by marijuana activists to the health and economic benefits of the cannabis plant, it remains a scheduled drug that creates an enormous black market economy and a power base for those who wish to keep it illegal. Media disinformation and public perception has been shaped by decades of propaganda. But the average person (and the Australian Mental Illness Foundation estimates 39% of Australians have tried marijuana) uses and enjoys the plant nonetheless.
Now in its 18th year, the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival has become a permanent fixture in Australia’s cultural year. Known as Bluesfest for short, the festival attracts some of the world’s best artists in a wide range of genres, spanning blues, world music, reggae, funk, soul, and as of recently, hip hop. As a result, the show appeals to a diverse range of people; with old and young partying together, helping to create a family-friendly atmosphere.This year the production of the festival was excellent, with sound, visuals, scheduling, set changes, etc. all running smoothly, almost machine-like in its execution. Yet this remains behind the scenes, delivering an organic experience of a very high quality in which the artist’s performances are maximised. As for the crowd, it was by far the best behaved I’ve seen at a festival in ages. Perhaps that’s due to groups and individuals being turned away at the gate or escorted out firmly for being too drunk. Anyway, here are several brief accounts of some of this year’s highlights for our crew.
Elspeth Jones grew up in Sydney and Melbourne studying Fine Art at the Chisholm Institute. She spent a few years travelling and painting murals in Greece, before moving to the Nimbin area where she set up her studio. From here she prepared and held 2 exhibitions in Sydney at Artlook, and many regional galleries.
Elspeth considers herself as “a public artist” and working mostly on a commission basis has painted huge murals throughout the area including the Evans Head Post Office. In 1993 she helped create the Nimbin Museum (winner of the 1999 Culture and Heritage Award). Elspeth’s artwork can be seen throughout the museum, from floor to ceiling, and in Nimbin and surrounding areas. Her murals appear on shop fronts and walls, in private houses, on banners, flags, posters, websites, t-shirts and even vehicles including the famous Peacebus.