PEACE: Michael Balderstone calls for mutual respect between the police and community in lead up to MardiGrass.
PEACE: Michael Balderstone calls for mutual respect between the police and community in lead up to MardiGrass. Cathy Adams

Cannibas sparks debate

THERE are many in Nimbin who have now given up driving all together.

Speaking in the lead up to the 26th annual MardiGrass in Nimbin this weekend, president of the organising committee, Michael Balderstone said this was just one of the many repercussions of random drug testing (RDT).

"The effect on our community has been massive,” he said.

"A lot of long term medical cannabis users live in our area and have moved here over the years to be around sympathetic people,” Mr Balderstone said.

However, with Cannabis law reform more firmly on the political agenda than ever before, Mr Balderstone expects this year's rally to be bigger than ever.

Despite police road blocks and testing, he believes people will find a way of getting to Nimbin with nominated drug-free drivers.

The town was prepared for a "few dramas” and increased police presence, especially since the recent appointment of Richmond Police District Superintendent Toby Lindsay, but hoped the police would be reasonable and the protests for cannabis reforms would remain peaceful.

"Hopefully, the police will want that too.

"I just ask people not to antagonise at all, or blow smoke in their faces, and for both parties to treat each other with mutual respect.

"I feel for the police. I think they are caught in the middle of this debate and have to do what they are told.

"Many have told me privately they are embarrassed by having to bust someone who is taking cannabis for a medically legitimate purpose.

"They know cannabis is entirely different to all other drugs but it's an easy bust and unfortunately because it is, drug trends have been changed to pills more than pot. Cannabis is fat soluble and stays in the body for a month or more, unlike all the other drugs, and yet there is evidence that the main effect of the drug subsides in the system less than an hour after smoking,” he said.

"And long term daily users are safer with their medicine in them than without.”

For the first time the HEMP Party is on the Labor how to vote card and yet "how can we introduce medicinal cannabis if you can't drive under the influence?”

Mr Balderstone said it was an issue that urgently needed to be addressed in light of new laws to be enforced in May that will lead to an on-the-spot three month loss of licence for those caught driving with merely the presence of cannabis in their system.

For information on how to travel to MardiGrass go to: http://nimbinmardigrass.