It's a quiet day in the park. Time to kick back, relax in the sun, and take another hit from the bong . . . huh? Last Saturday, the Cannabis Awareness Project -- led by University of Waterloo student-activist Davin Charney -- invited the local community to Victoria Park in downtown Kitchener to investigate the herb at the centre of a continuing controversy.
Special guests at the festival included Michael Baldesaro, a member of the pot-smoking Church of the Universe (and potential Tory leadership candidate), who recognizes Cannabis as a holy sacrament; Terry Parker, an epileptic who in 1988 won the right in court to cultivate and grow marijuana for personal medical use; Umberto Iorfida, the president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Canada (N.O.R.M.L.); and Erika Kubassek, uninvited member of the Moral Support Movement.
Early in the day, the tone of the festival was mostly, and not surprisingly, laid back, as just over a hundred people gathered around the clock tower to hear music, see the latest hemp fashions, attend a joint-rolling seminar and listen to the guest speakers.
Things quickly changed when Kubassek arrived at the festival with her own megaphone and agenda. Shouting "You're ruining your body and your personality by taking drugs", "You all need mothers", and "There is poison in this earth, sin in this earth, I know the way", Kubassek was on a mission to stir up trouble at the otherwise peaceful festival.
Pointing at a man who was apparently smoking a joint, Kubassek shouted at the police officers on the scene and demanded an immediate arrest. After a brief conference and by directly smelling the smoke of the "joint", the police officers determined that the man was in fact smoking tobacco, not cannabis.
The police did make one arrest and seized four grams of weed. A 20-year-old man was charged with possession of narcotics when the police suspected he was selling marijuana to others at the festival.
Yet the police all but ignored high priest Baldesaro as he lit up for the CTV and Global cameras that were on the scene. Several other individuals were also visibly smoking pot during the festival, but managed to avoid arrest as well.
Although the Kitchener-Waterloo Record was told that no extra police officers would be on patrol in the park during the festival, at least four and as many as eight officers were in the area. Commenting on the police presence, Baldesaro stated, "Police are good, they are our protectors; why don't they protect me and make sure nobody steals my marijuana?"
Defending the increased police presence, Officer Kidnie of the Waterloo Regional Police force explained that marijuana is "not as harmless as they would have you believe. One joint is 20 times worse than a cigarette [in terms of carcinogens and tar]." Responding to this charge, epileptic activist Terry Parker said, "He is totally misinformed", claiming that despite smoking pot for 20 years, his lungs are very clean. This fact, Parker explained, was verified by doctors at the Toronto Hospital during a recent lung scan.
Charney explained the ultimate goal of the festival and other actions like it during his speech: "We want people to legalize marijuana yesterday, today is too late."