Hi, Ho Come to the Faire

I was listening to Dan Ernst. He was saying the government has no right to tell us we can’t grow plants. He was talking about Cannabis sativa, not gladiolus. Its illegality is a plot by big oil and chemical companies to suppress competition and by the CIA to control our minds.

Dan wasn’t kidding. While he cannot verify that the CIA is actually involved in mind control, he feels reasonably certain that laws prohibiting growth of cannabis are due to lobbying efforts by the aforementioned industrial giants.

Cannabis, you see, produces hemp, from whose oil and fiber all kinds of beneficial products are derived, including the very shorts Dan was wearing. It also produces the devil weed marijuana, which many believe was the real reason the growing of cannabis was outlawed in the 1930s.

I learned all this over the weekend at the Hemp Faire on the lawn of the Westwood Federal Building, L.A.'s chief gathering place for devotees of lost causes. In this case it was a coalition of those who love hemp, those who love marijuana and those who love both.

Dan was my primary source of information not only because he represents the sponsoring American Hemp Council, but because he was dressed the way someone who utilizes both hemp and the devil weed ought to be dressed.


Long-haired and bearded with a kind of amiable hippie attitude, he wore a tie-dyed T-shirt, hemp shorts and a cloth lei around his neck laced with ersatz cannabis leaves.

Over the course of our conversation, I got the feeling Dan was more interested in smoking cannabis than in weaving it.

About 2,000 gathered for the two-day faire. They ate hemp flour hempburgers, bought books on hemp and the cultivation of cannabis, purchased hemp hats, listened to speakers advocate the legalization of you-know-what, boogied to rock music and generally had a hemp of a good time.

It was like being back at Sather Gate 30 years ago, smoking a little grass and asking a flower child to point me the way to the protest.

That’s a joke. I’m not a doper. Well, maybe I did take a toke once, which is to say a puff, but, like Bill Clinton, I didn’t inhale. I also ate Alice B. Toklas cookies. But I didn’t swallow.

Dan Ernst says he uses marijuana for recreational purposes and to relieve stress, maybe a couple of bongs every other day. A bong is a water pipe.

“A bong helps filter out the tar and nicotine,” he said as we stood near the hempburger stand and watched the people. “Also, you don’t have to hold the smoke in. You damage your lungs that way.”

I trust the bongers among you will put that information to good use.

Dan, obviously, is for the legalization of marijuana, but only for those over 21. When I asked how he figured we’d keep teen-agers from getting zonked on the stuff, he said that wouldn’t be a problem because legalizing it would eliminate the “curiosity factor” and the kids would lose interest. I see.

As we stood there I smelled a different kind of aroma drifting through the crowd. I’m not good at smells. It could have been anything from incense to cheap perfume. When I asked Dan, he replied enigmatically, “It’s a whiff.”

There were mostly young people at the faire. There is no question in my mind that the majority was more interested in cannabis as something you smoked than in something applied in the making of vegetarian burgers.

When I asked one kid with a far-off expression what he thought about hemp, he looked at me as though I’d just asked him to define the function of a superconducting supercollider and replied, “It’s cool.”

Well, OK, that’s one way to put it, although there are more sobering definitions. Hemp is a natural product that probably ought to be utilized for food, medicine, fuel, clothing and a bunch of other things beneficial to the human race.

Unfortunately, not a lot of good comes from the stupefying byproduct of cannabis, except getting high. I’ve heard all about its medicinal application, but I doubt that its use in treating asthma and glaucoma would be the primary result of its legalization.

What we’ll have is yet one more euphoriant on the market for 12-year-olds to ingest in a mad effort to scramble their brains. We don’t need it.

If there was a way to utilize hemp without the proliferation of cannabis’ etherizing effect among kids, I’d be for it. But there isn’t. You know that, I know that and anyone who traffics in human misery knows it too.

You can put that in your bong and smoke it.