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Kinky Friedman's "Legalize It" Campaign Hits Mucky Duck

Kinky Friedman on the stump
Kinky Friedman on the stump
phot by TexasRedd

The Kinky Friedman Agriculture Commissioner campaign rolled through Houston this weekend, with the candidate playing a sold-out show at Mucky Duck Sunday night and speaking at a NORML luncheon this week.

As reported in a recent Houston Press cover story, Friedman, who previously ran for governor as an independent, is running on the Democratic ticket with legalizing marijuana and the growing of hemp as a cash crop as his main platform planks.

Friedman's evening began with a small snafu when he learned at 5:00 p.m. that his show start time was 6:00 p.m., not the 7:30 p.m. shown on his master schedule. When Hairballs arrived, Friedman and the sound man were doing a double-time sound check.

Fortunately with only two microphones -- acoustic guitar and vocal -- the check proved to be a minimum hassle. Still, Friedman was sweating profusely and was clearly not in the mode to take the stage and sing when Hairballs first talked with him about 5:45.

By start time, the place was packed with mostly graying, well dressed couples. Duck owner Rusty Andrews noted that "this is a great crowd, but the only time we see most of these folks is when Kinky plays."

In spite of his somewhat rattled entry, by the second song, "Sold American," all seemed right with the candidate and the crowd, who hung on every word as if the song had taken on an even deeper meaning in the current nut job political atmosphere.

Mid-set, Friedman finally got down to politics. While he promised only "three minutes and four seconds," his stump speech stretched out to 14 minutes as he enunciated his positions. The crowd was totally silent and attentive the entire time, interrupting with applause after Friedman's statement about legalizing pot and the state stopping the practice of incarceration for a mostly young population of pot users.

"Putting these young people in jail for smoking pot, sticking them in a cell for six months, a year, two years, is a great way for the state to help ruin a bunch of lives," Friedman appealed. "What with the cost of law enforcement, the cost to our judicial system, and the cost to keep these non-violent guys locked up, it costs the taxpayers of this state hundreds of millions of dollars with zero return.

"We could send every one of these people to Harvard with what this costs," Friedman quipped. "You're the ones paying for this. Which is the right thing to do?"

Friedman also reeled off details of the latest medical research about Israeli scientists announcing recently that they had destroyed cancer cells with marijuana.

"Right here in Houston, Texas, we have arguably the greatest cancer hospital in the world, but there is not one single research project going on there. That's insane, given what researchers elsewhere are learning. And let's face it, there isn't a person in this room who hasn't had a family member with cancer and the problems that come with chemotherapy and its aftermath. This is an issue that affects every last one of us."

 

Friedman went on to poo-poo attacks by is opponents that he is not someone who works in agriculture.

"At 400 acres, my ranch may be the biggest non-producing ranch in the state," says Friedman.

Kinky Friedman's "Legalize It" Campaign Hits Mucky Duck
photo by TexasRedd

He then gave details on his Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, and followed with a rundown of other candidates in the race. He summarized that "I'm the only candidate strictly in this race to do something right for Texas. And that's why outfits like the Farm Bureau and other agriculture lobby groups are contributing money to my opponents and ignoring me."

"Unfortunately, the past 20 years, the Agriculture Commissioner's seat has been little more than a stepping stone for Republicans looking to climb the ladder to some higher office."

Friedman, who invoked Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, and Sam Rayburn as role models and his political inspiration, also noted that, as he is approaching 70, "this may well by my last race for public office. If that's true, I want to go out having done something that really makes a mark on Texas."

He went on to note that he just got back from a tour of Australia with a stop in Hawaii, where he played a gig in a small club with Willie Nelson.

"From what I saw and heard while I was out there, Texas is viewed as a backward-thinking reactionary state by most of the world. People are enamored with the idea of what they think Texas is, but our standing in national and world opinion is at an all-time low right now.

"But if Texas moves to legalize pot, the whole perception turns on a dime. I want to be a big part in making that happen."

He laughed off suggestions by opponents that "marijuana is a gateway drug."

"Hell, every Texan knows the gateway drug is beer," he quipped to the delight of the throng.

At 7:30, Friedman leaves the stage to a standing ovation. 45 minutes later the merchandise line is still past the door as people wait patiently for their private moment with the candidate. Friedman doesn't rush anyone, lets them get their story out, signs their books and Cds, poses for innumerable photos.

Friedman puts his arm around a woman and strikes his usual pose, but the husband is taking forever to frame the shot with his ancient flip phone. The woman chuckles, "No rush, honey, I'm quite enjoying this." It's obvious that Friedman is enjoying the interaction with his constituency too.

A 74-year-old Vietnam veteran waits until the throng finally subsides before ambling back to meet Friedman. He has a distinct limp. Not aware that anyone else is waiting, Friedman has already packed his merchandise case, but when the veteran requests a certain CD and a copy of his book, Friedman opens up again. He spends another ten minutes listening to the former Navy man tell his story.

Afterwards, Friedman is ebullient.

"I know it's very difficult to get a sense of it this early, but I think we've got a great shot at still being in the race after the Democratic primary. Is Texas ready to decriminalize marijuana and legalize it? We'll know pretty soon."


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