A Tale of Two Wars, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bong!

The Pax Party House, home to the Cannabis Cup, right next to the police station. A typical example of Dutch tolerance!

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", to quote Dickens. For the 1600+ stoner attendees at the 2001 High Times Cannabis Cup, it was the best of times. Imagine being able to choose the best quality marijuana and hashish samples from 22 different coffeeshops representing the most diverse selection available anywhere in the world. But at yesterday's press conference we were reminded that for many persecuted and incarcerated cannabis users including those in medical need, it is indeed the worst of times.

Not long after attending the press conference, I got to watch another press conference on another continent and the differences in attitude couldn't be more telling.

The press conference in the U.S. was about the War on Afghanistan. The press conference in Amsterdam discussed the War On Drugs. All the press in the U.S. were wearing the latest fashion for Pentagon reporters, fatigue green. In Amsterdam the reporters were sporting psychedelic tie-dyes, hemp shirts and anything green around was being eagerly consumed in joints and bongs.

At the Pentagon press conference, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was smiling and joking as he discussed "search and destroy missions", "secret ops", "collateral damage" and of course finding better ways to kill "the enemy". At the Pax Party House, Stephen Gaskin, his wife Ina, and other 60s icons like Paul Krassner were likewise smiling and talking about hippies, the counterculture, the environment, helping people with Aids, cancer, MS and other illnesses with cannabis.

In both cases the propaganda is meant for a wide audience, but while the right-wing fascists think only of war and retribution, cannabis activists still long for the freedom to self-medicate, to replace non-renewable resources with superior, natural hemp products, and to smoke marijuana openly without fear of imprisonment, loss of job or loss of property.

America's War on Drugs has continued unabated for decades now, and after spending around $100 billion, what have they got to show for it? Stephen Gaskin seemed to sum up the sentiments of many present when he said "I am so profoundly ashamed of the idiots running our country."

Stephen Gaskin, the eternal hippie!

Meanwhile another war has taken center stage, and made an impact not only on this year's Cannabis Cup (attendance is down about 30%), but it has also temporarily sidetracked the whole effort to decriminalize and legalize cannabis growing and consumption.

Thankfully, the annual Cannabis Cup again reminds us that we have not yet won the battle to free the plant and those who use it from ongoing persecution and imprisonment. We were reminded that despite the fact that we are now growing more cannabis than ever and we're more organized than ever, there is still much to do to change the perception of the masses towards this gift to mankind.

Vivian, director of the Seattle Hempfest and Washington State's Norml chapter, easily the most "colorful" speaker.

In Europe the movement to decriminalize has gained a lot of momentum as the U.K. and other E.U. countries review their laws and reclassify cannabis or legalize consumption like Belgium and Portugal. Holland is still at the forefront of cannabis culture, with around 900 coffeeshops licensed to serve marijuana products.

Yet, as Arjan, the spokesman for the Dutch Cannabis Retailer's Association, pointed out, although Holland has the "best drug policy in the world", and the lowest amount of HIV, hepatitis and heroin junkies in Europe, it's still illegal to grow marijuana in Holland.

For some like those who profit from arms sales, it is the best of times. For others like us cannabis activists we are still waiting for our good times to come, and the Cannabis Cup is just a taste of what to expect!

Note: The Cannabis Cup is an annual institution in Amsterdam. Stoners from around the world come to try out the best marijuana and hashish in the world.

A Tale of Two Wars, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bong!
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