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Roll Reversal

Marijuana decriminalization proponents have been busy trying to get beyond the image of a red-eyed, VW bus-driving, couch-surfing hippie on a constant hunt for a dime bag and slacker zion. A recent surprise legislative victory has not only given advocates a newfound credibility but has turned a preplanned concert at the Westheimer Street Festival and corresponding event at the Last Concert Cafe, together known as Cannabis Odyssey 2001, from a political rally of sorts into a celebration.

What has the groups cheering is a bill co-authored by conservative state representative and drug warrior Terry Keel (R-Austin) meant to relax Texas's marijuana laws in cases of medical necessity. The Criminal Jurisprudence Committee coughed out the legalization bill onto the House floor -- a Texas first. What makes this even more surprising is the fractured nature of Texas's decriminalization effort.


Cannabis Odyssey 2001 takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6, at the Westheimer Street Festival, along Allen Parkway, west of downtown. Featured speakers include Dr. Joel Hochman, South Texas College of Law professor Buford Terrell, Drug Policy Forum of Texas director Jerry Epstein and Houston NORML director Steve Nolin. The Texas NORML Benefit is Saturday, May 5, at 4:20 p.m., at the Last Concert Cafe, 1403 Nance, with Moses Guest, Sun Bocina, Olospo and Lingus. For more information, call (281)752-9198.

Drug advocates typically come in two groups. One faction, personified by The Drug Policy Forum of Texas, wants to end the war on drugs altogether and shift the focus from the criminalization of users to treatment and preventative education. This includes the legalization of cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs. Texas medical hemp proponents, embodied mostly by the Texas branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), would rather emphasize easing the pain of AIDS or cancer victims than appear to be a bunch of hippies who just want to get stoned legally.

Whether the event reforms their hippie image or not, both sides can still appreciate a good concert. A lineup of bands -- Given, Simpleton, Faceplant, Leaf, Lower, Urban Renewal, Derisitic, Sunburst 17, Paris Green and Rag Tag -- ought to give them plenty to cheer about.


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