Nimbin’s annual cannabis law reform protest rally and gathering, Mardigrass, celebrated its 25th anniversary in the first weekend of May this year with a turnout estimated to be greater than 10,000 people. Law reforms passed in Federal and State parliaments in 2016 and 2017 have made access to and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal. Manufacture of hemp foods, which are very low in THC, is also now legal. So what are the counter-culture green fairies marching in the streets of Nimbin for? Plenty it seems.

Recreational marijuana is still illegal and that is still a sticking point with the Nimbin protesters. While the first licence to grow medicinal marijuana was issued to the Cann Group in Victoria, red tape could be holding up a potentially booming agricultural industry in other parts of the country. Also, despite evidence from overseas research (particularly from Israel) for cannabis use in brain and breast cancer, Victoria has restricted its use to children with severe epilepsy. All states, in fact, have different legislation when it comes to the use and cultivation of cannabis. Queensland currently has the most flexible legislation allowing specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis without state approval. Queensland GPs can also apply to a government body for permission to prescribe cannabis to their patients.

“No parliament does anything unless they are forced by a movement outside. They are all very conservative and they don’t do anything unless they are literally forced to change,” according to Greens MLC NSW, David Shoebridge. Shoebridge was part of the Pot Politix Forum at Mardigrass 2017 which included Federal MP for the Justice Party, Derryn Hinch, Hemp Party Secretary Andrew Kavasilas, political strategist Glenn Druery, and ‘Weeded Warrior’, Damon Adams. The forum tackled the problem of how to get politicians to take law reform seriously.

“We know prohibition doesn’t work. It’s about how you change that 80 odd years of propaganda,” said Kasavalis.

“Changing cannabis policy is a minefield because you’re treading on a lot of toes; the AMA, the police, lobbying companies including pharmaceutical companies, the company that supplies saliva tests to the police.”

David Shoebridge threw organised crime into that mix as well “The ones who are making the money from illegal drugs desperately don’t want the laws changed.”

Derryn Hinch had his own unique way of describing the absurdity of recreational cannabis laws, “I get sick of watching TV at night with these big burly coppers with guns on their hips arresting plants. It’s very silly.” And on a more serious note, “Push the crossbenchers, we do have power. They need us to support their amendments so that is where we can put some pressure on things.” Hinch is a fervent supporter of decriminalising marijuana and says “Don’t be swayed to say we are winning this. Medical cannabis is just one area.”

The last word goes to Hinch’s hunch “There’s light at the end of the tunnel but watch out. There could be an express train coming the other way.”

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