For a $5 donation at the entrance to Hempfest, you got a green plastic necklace and a 32-page program with lots of words in it. Because of the way it was stapled, the program fell open to a two-page spread by Rick Steves, headlined "Why I Believe Marijuana Should Be Legal" and accompanied by a photo of Steves in a field in the Netherlands with some hilarious-looking cows.
Steves is Marco Polo, basically. His career: taking trips and reporting back on them in travel guidebooks and on his PBS series. One of his favorite things to report back about European exoticism is that lighting a joint there is equivalent to opening a beer. This was the first thing he said when he took the stage on Sunday, and it was the first point in his essay in the program, which went on: "Last year 800,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges—an 800 percent increase since 1980... While our nation is in a serious financial crisis, it spends literally billions of dollars annually chasing down responsible adults who are good, tax-paying citizens in all regards except for the occasional use of marijuana."
Along with his essay—nothing you would call Literature, but certainly persuasive—was a chart with pot-related criminal offenses and their corresponding fines and jail times. (Possession of more than 40 grams? A $10,000 fine and five years in jail. Second offense? A $20,000 fine and 10 years in jail.) There weren't any other interesting articles in the program, glossy and colorful as it was, so for fun (and hoping to find something to write this column about) I started scanning it for typos. For a booklet by stoners, there were fewer than you'd expect.
Some friends interrupted to say that we needed to be at the far stage immediately. At this certain stage at 4:20 p.m., thousands of joints were to be thrown onto the crowd. The idea of free joints raining down on us seemed far-fetched, but we got there, the clock struck 4:20 p.m., and thousands of free joints rained down on us. I don't exactly know how this happened, but it happened, and by 4:21 p.m. the entire field was smoking. It looked beautiful. Like mist. I was going to take notes, but I couldn't think of what to jot down. Sometimes language doesn't cut it.