THE force truly was with Nimbin MardiGrass organisers as they demanded drug law reform and marched through the streets of Lismore last Tuesday (May 1). With the police force leading the way of the May Day Cannabis Law Reform Rally, the "polite force" and green-clothed activists followed, waving placards and calling for an end to the war on drugs.
As the rally moved from the court house to the police station, Hemp Party president Michael Balderstone hand-delivered a letter to the police commissioner asking him to take action on creating law reform and decriminalising marijuana use.
"Crime in the community would drop significantly if cannabis was legal and regulated," Mr Balderstone said.
"The current war on drugs isn't working and police and politicians know it. Now we have to convince our elected representatives of this fact... and this is a fact. No rational human can look at the history of our war on drugs and deem it as being anything other than a colossal mistake."
As the rally moved on to the offices of Page MP Janelle Saffin and Lismore MP Thomas George, Mr Balderstone delivered letters to them, asking them to hold a public forum where the "taboo" topic of drug law reform could be discussed.
"We want to have politicians, police, social and health workers as well as the wider community at this meeting," Mr Balderstone said.
"Drug law reform is such a taboo topic in Canberra and we need to get more people who work in government to stand up and speak on the issue. It's time Thomas and Janelle represented our point of view. We are not criminals."
Mr Balderstone said legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous.
"If anyone ever attempts to tell you that the death toll from illicit drug use in Australia is a 'problem', then ask them why we seem to be so complacent about the legal drugs which are killing forty-nine times as many Australians every year."
Mr Balderstone cited the recently released Australia21 report, which calls for widespread consultation towards fashioning a rational response to drug-taking in the community.
"However, our politicians are refusing to listen to the voice of the majority of Australians," Mr Balderstone said.
"In a recent poll, more than 70% of Australians agreed that our drug laws must change - yet our politicians remain silent," he said.
"We must wake them up. Other western world countries have tackled this issue. More than 70% of Americans currently have access to legally available medical cannabis and many countries around the world are abandoning prohibition. It's time that Australia caught up with the rest of the world."
The rally in Lismore marks the lead-up to the annual Nimbin MardiGrass Law Reform Rally this weekend on May 5 and 6. The rally is now celebrating its twentieth year and Mr Balderstone said he hopes to see a "safe, peaceful and strong MardiGrass".
"This should be the last march and rally if they listen to us," Mr Balderstone said. "Dr Alex Wodak, one of the authors of the Australia21 report, will be speaking at one of the forums we'll hold over the weekend and we will be having a wreath-laying memorial service for the victims of prohibition, instead of a mass surrender to police! We are now looking forward to a big weekend no matter the weather," Mr Balderstone said.
For more information about what's on at MardiGrass, see page 33 and The Scene.
The full program is available at nimbinmardigrass.com.