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Nimbin Hemp Embassy, Mardi Grass & The HEMP Party

Updated: May 28, 2023

Nimbin is a small town within the Northern Rivers Region of NSW, arguably the cannabis counter-culture capital of Australia. In 1973, tribes of hippies attended the Aquarius Festival in the Northern NSW town of Nimbin. The prevalence of a drug culture in Nimbin since 1973 has been accompanied by a prevalence of collective and public creativity: colourful and spiritually motivated art (including large paintings above shop awnings), music, poetry, craft, and fashion can all be seen on the main street. The town is known as a hotspot for alternative social activities, grassroots political discourse, and the espousal of naturalist, humanist, anarchist, feminist, permissive, new-age, mystical, and radical social philosophies (which can all be seen as collective creative endeavours).[167]

The Nimbin Hemp Embassy is a non-profit association that was established in 1992. The embassy's objectives are cannabis law reform via an education program for the community about hemp products and cannabis and "promoting a more tolerant and compassionate attitude to people in general".[84] According to the HEMP Embassy website, "the Nearly NORML Nimbin group formed in 1988 as the district's first enduring drug law reform outfit and later became Nimbin HEMP – Help End Marijuana Prohibition – then later in 1992 the name changed to the Nimbin HEMP Embassy. Generally the group discussed the cannabis laws of NSW and how they might be changed".

In March 1993, after a decade of raids and arrests, and a particularly intensive recent period of random (and illegal) street searches, arrests, rough treatment, pre-dawn raids, regular intimidation and that crushing sense of a province facing conquest, undercover police officers had been discovered buying cannabis in the area. This enraged a small portion of the townsfolk from Nimbin to such an extent that they chased the police officers back to the police station and tossed eggs and toilet paper. Concerned about bad publicity members from the Nimbin HEMP Embassy decided to come up with a more peaceful form of protest that ordinary people could comfortably join. That is when  Bob Hopkins (a.k.a. The Plantem) came up with the idea of MardiGrass. Saturday 1 May 1993 was designated and so the Mardi Grass was born. Despite a lack of police participation and the stern opposition of the local council who refused the marchers the right to march and use of the local park, over 1,000 people, mainly locals, came out in defiance and took part in a powerful ritual of personal and community empowerment. They paraded from the local Bush Theatre uptown to the village centre, then on to the police station where they danced and wished the police well. To a tumultuous percussion beat they returned to the Hall for their rally. The contact high was tangible for days afterwards and they vowed to hold  Mardi Grass every year until prohibition's end and is still held to this day.[168]

The next year, 1994, the May Day "Let It Grow!" Mardi Grass and Drug Law Reform Rally was held on Sunday 1 May accompanied on the Saturday by a National Conference called "Beyond Prohibition". This boasted an impressive array of politicians, academics and sundry experts in their chosen fields. The Parade/Rally, along with the annual Harvest Festival Ball and Pot Art Exhibition, became a two day Fiesta.[168]Following in the footsteps of the Cannabis Cup in the Netherlands, the Cannabis Cup in Australia is a competition run by MardiGrass to judge strains of cannabis. Growers submit samples of their crop for judging and the Hemp Olympics, held at MardiGrass, includes events such as bong throwing, joint rolling and "a growers' Ironperson competition, which requires participants to crawl through lantana tunnels dragging large bags of fertilizer".[169]

Nimbin and the Nimbin HEMP Embassy are also home to the HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) Party, The group was founded in 1993 by Nigel Quinlan, who ran as a candidate under the name Nigel Freemarijuana. In 2001, Freemarijuana's name was assessed by the Australian Electoral Commission as to whether it was suitable to be added to the electoral roll – the Commission found that it was, meaning Freemarijuana could run as an electoral candidate under the name. They have a number of objectives including to legalise Cannabis in all states and territories in Australia for personal use, medical and therapeutic and industrial purposes.[170]


Some of the street names used to buy Cannabis in Australia are Mary Jane, bud, dope, smoko, green, sesh, chop, choof, spliff, honk, ganja, yarndi, mull, hydro, green action, heads, hooch, weed, joints, cones, laughing lucerne, chronic and 420.[171]

Other commonly used terms in Australian cannabis culture are:[172]


Term to describe a bong/water pipe used to smoke cannabis.


Term used to describe standardised single dose's of cannabis from a bong. Also used to describe Cone Piece (see below)

Cone piece/CP

Small brass attachment commonly used to dose Cannabis to be smoked in a bong.


Common homemade bong, usually fashioned from a used Gatorade bottle. A stem is made with a small length of garden hose and a small hole (carb/shotty) is added to the back to help control airflow.


Short for "session". Generally used in the context of sharing in a cannabis smoking experience with friends or acquaintances.

Mission / Misho / Mish

A term describing the process and/or journey required to follow in order to obtain Cannabis.


Term for chopped or grinded cannabis

PGR (aka reds, hairy, dirt, bikie buds, brisbane red & canberra gold)

PGR stands for Plant Growth Regulator. Plant growth regulators are often used by outlaw motorcycle gangs and other organised crime syndicates. Cannabis is grown with Plant growth regulators to increase harvestable weight, at the expense of quality. Cannabis grown with PGR's lack the terpene, flavonoid and cannabinoid profiles usually found in Cannabis. Plants grown with PGRs can lead to adverse health effects. The most commonly used PGR in Australia is thought to be Paclobutrazol, though others are used too.


Term used to describe an arrangement where the customer will purchase cannabis on credit, usually to be repaid on one's pay day, or when cannabis is sold for commercial applications.

Online trends

Australians have transitioned into utilizing the online space when it comes to accessing and purchasing their favorite cannabis accessories. Online trends differ from city to city, and per capita, in 2016 Brisbane, Adelaide and Launceston were searching online the most; followed by Toowoomba, Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast. As far as the cannabis accessories searched for the most online, in 2016 Australians were particularly keen on shopping for bongs as they made up 72% of searches, while vaporizers made up 15%. These higher quality methods of ingesting marijuana smoke or vapors were followed by pipes at 10% and rolling papers at just 3%.[173]

Interest has grown in the last decade for cannabis related news, data sourced using AHREF in 2020 showed that cannabis related news and articles per year grew 18,850% since 2010.[174]

In 2020 the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved Australia's first medical-cannabis app. Patients will be able to use the app to order and pay for pre-approved prescriptions. Patients requesting medical cannabis prescriptions will not be eligible for the platform before being granted access to the Special Access Scheme by the TGA. The app will also allow approved providers to prescribe medical cannabis products to regular patients – without the need for multiple in-person visits.[175]

Cannabis expos

There is a number of cannabis related expos and expos showcasing cannabis related products in Australia, they mainly hope to give their guests information and greater awareness around the crucial benefits the hemp and cannabis plant has already unlocked, and its sustainable solutions for the future. They have a number of experiential and educational interactive activities for all ages alongside local and international exhibitors. Through workshops, displays, speakers and exhibitors showcasing everything from hemp fibres, foods, beverages, clothing and textiles, medicinal products, extraction equipment, building materials, beauty products, gardening, hydroponic equipment and much more.

Annual 420 rallies

20 April has become an international counterculture holiday, where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. Many such events have a political nature to them, advocating the liberalisation / legalisation of cannabis. Vivian McPeak, a founder of Seattle's Hempfest states that 4/20 is "half celebration and half call to action". Paul Birch calls it a global movement and suggests that one cannot stop events like these. In Australia the annual 420 in the park rallies held in major cities across the country aim to be a celebration of culture, creativity, compassion and the wonderful diversity of good-people who for various reasons, choose to consume cannabis. The rallies give the cannabis community an opportunity to demonstrate very clearly to the general public and to Australia at large, that there is nothing to be afraid of, and to stand united in calling on the Government to legalise adult cannabis use, and ensure that dismantling cannabis prohibition is on the agenda.[176]

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