Cannabis supporters will have a chance to come together to raise awareness and funds through speakers, music and camaraderie for Ohio NORML at its fourth annual Harvest Fest this Friday through Sunday at a campground in Meigs County.
It’s probably not a coincidence that the Ohio chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chose Meigs County for its annual festival. Probably more than any other county in Ohio, Meigs has the underground reputation as the state’s pot capital.
Ohio NORML is a “nonprofit public-interest advocacy group” that “represents the tens of millions of Americans that smoke marijuana responsibly,” according to Ohio NORML’s website. Organized by NORML’s Ohio chapter, this year’s Harvest Fest will be headlined by the band Poobah and feature speakers Tonya Davis and Rob Ryan.
Ohio NORML state director Cher Neufer said that one of the main goals of Harvest Fest is to raise awareness for House Bill 478, which would legalize the physician-supervised use of marijuana. Much of NORML’s efforts have been geared toward this objective - to remove cannabis from the black market in order to benefit medical patients.
The second purpose, she said, is to raise funds. Half of the profits will go to national NORML, which works on a federal level. The other half of the proceeds will help Ohio NORML pay for members or professionals who may need to testify when hearings for house bills take place, as well as the lawyers who represent them. It will also be used to print educational materials and complete other goals.
Harvest Fest’s speakers will take the stage on Saturday. Davis, a medical patient, heads the MMJ (medical marijuana) Action Network, which aims to dispel marijuana myths, and is actively involved on the state and national levels to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
The second speaker, Ryan, is treasurer of the Miami Valley NORML and vice president of the Ohio Patient Network. According to www.ohiopatientsnetwork.org, OPN is “an organization of patients, caregivers, activists and medical professionals who support the compassionate use of cannabis for various medicinal purposes.”
Neufer founded North Ohio NORML in 2001, later simplifying the title to Ohio NORML when chapters were founded in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati as membership grew. As stated on its website, the Ohio group “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a better understanding of the current status of drug laws in Ohio and the United States.” Besides spreading awareness, NORML also enlists the help of lawyers to assist marijuana supports in need of legal support.
She said that a basic belief of NORML is that marijuana use is a personal decision for adults that should not be governed by law.
“You can die from aspirin but there’s no recorded death of overdose of marijuana,” Neufer said. “NORML’s stance is that pot is not for underage. It’s not good for young people who are developing and don’t have a value system yet… You don’t want young people drinking; well, we don’t want young people smoking. I agree 100 percent.”
She emphasized that marijuana use should be left to responsible adults, adding that even Harvard graduates make up some of the attendees of NORML conventions.
The festival will also showcase a skit by the Passions of Pot Smoking Patriots, depicting the role hemp played in our history as far back as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and will feature bands including Willy Mac Music, Danny Longhair, The Stone Wheels, Hambone/Jambone, SC Butter Band, The League of Proper Musicians and Johnny Philco.
There will be food vendors as well as jewelry and clothing stands.
The festival will take place at the Wisteria Campground near Pomeroy. Camping is encouraged and included in admission.
“Our group of people are there for a certain purpose,” Neufer said. “It’s not just a big party. I’m not going to say people aren’t going to enjoy themselves, but I’m hoping people will see this is for a cause.”