Olympia, WA (Heritage Park, 7-27-14) — The annual Hemp Fest in Heritage Park may have angered the gods, judging from the whirlwind that upturned vendor tents, destroyed exquisite glass bongs and assorted marijuana paraphernalia, but the event drew crowds of all ages, lifestyles, speakers, political affiliation, and musical persuasion. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon by the lake while children frolicked in the geyser fountain across the street.
Unlike the panic struck citizens of Mason County who recently literally wept before their Commissioners at a public hearing in protest after finding a marijuana processing business had been issued a license pursuant to Washington State law in their small rural residential zoned neighborhood, the State had granted a 2-day permit for the festival which became a historical event this year given the law now allowed recreational adult use of marijuana in private venues. Accordingly, fans were warned not to get caught smoking the herb in the park. This included the consumption of marijuana laced comestibles. (Marijuana butter/cookies/drinks, etc.)
A quarantined medical marijuana tent was on hand for those with a doctor’s prescription and ID. Petitions were circulated seeking to preserve Washington’s existing medical marijuana law/protocol which includes the legal right of those who can procure a prescription to grow their own weed in their own yard. A separate petition sought to legalize the growing of the plant by any/all adult Washington residents.
The festival went off, as expected, without a hitch except for one isolated incident where a man was cited after being warned repeatedly by the event’s security staff, campus police officers, and well wishers his act was still a criminal offense under the currently existing law. Marijuana still may not be legally consumed/smoked in public. Many, of course, violate this prohibition, but do so discreetly or in venues (e.g. Seattle Center) where the local cops have chosen to focus on more serious offenses. You have been warned–don’t blow smoke in the local gendarme’s face…at least until the petition to further relax the law about marijuana’s use is passed.
A faction of the Libertarian Party was present, promoting the further expansion of individual liberties and bridling under the thumb of a nanny state. The image of the State Capitol building across the lake was in stark contrast to the reality of how it was the people through the initiative process who changed the law, not our elected public representatives. The gathering was full of good vibes, smiles, and an assorted collection of true Americans who love freedom, who hunger for individual liberty, who loathe being told as adults what they can do in the privacy of their own homes by a government out of control. There were many speakers who repeatedly drove this point home from the stage in between musical sets.
On a sadder note, Gideon Israel appeared to address the crowd which honored him with warm applause in recognition of his support for marijuana reform over the years. He was barely recognizable from his salad days in the early 1980’s when he resided in the Queen Anne Hill district of Seattle with the Love Israel family. Gideon was morbidly obese and confined to a wheelchair now. He had lost his property, he said, to the State after being prosecuted for gatherings he once hosted in Rainbow Valley which included marijuana at the annual event, sometimes with harder drugs also present.
Gideon started out as an idealist openly exploring different non-mainstream lifestyles and family structures. He was brought low and dispossessed not only by a State/society hostile to those ideas, but by his own lack of judgment under the circumstances. It’s said a man must be very honest to live outside the law. Gideon failed to live according to that dictate. He grilled attendees at the entrance to his Rainbow Gathering festivals, asking if they were police officers or affiliated with law enforcement. Those who were, of course, lied in response about the matter and the court later found no basis in law to support the argument they were ‘trespassing’ after Gideon got busted.
Gideon was busted because there were some resentful ‘snitches’ who turned him in, prompting the undercover cops to start investigating his activities while showing up at the Rainbow Gatherings. Rumor has it that on at least one (or more) occasion, some attendees arrived with drugs for sale. When Gideon discovered this, he seized the drugs upon the pretext they were illegal, but then proceeded to market them himself. The would-be drug pushers felt ripped off and went to the police in retaliation. During the time leading up to this crisis, many Thurston County residents felt apoplectic about Gideon and his festivals, so much so there was actually talk among them at at least one public County Commissioners Hearing about lynching Gideon! These were parents panicking in the belief Gideon was corrupting their children and perhaps turning them into drug addicts.
High Times contributed handsomely to Gideon’s legal defense and he avoided going to prison in a plea bargain that wouldn’t have been possible without his stout, though expensive, defense team. The lawyers were among the best there was in providing a defense against marijuana related charges. Gideon has been very public, including his pronouncements on the internet, in announcing his contempt for the criminalizing of marijuana. He became a marked man. In the end, the State settled for seizing his property instead of condemning him to a long term in prison.
Gideon wistfully and sadly mentioned the dispossession of his land in passing when greeted and reminded of the day when the reporter and he shared a romantic interest in the same woman. She was a member of the Love Israel family living in the Queen Anne Hill district of Seattle at the time. It was said by locals, attempting to discourage the interloper, the Love Israel family women would not sleep with any men outside the family. This advice proved to be inaccurate…at least in this one instance. But, therein lies a tale.
A table full of home grown ripe tomatoes greeted passersby outside one of the homes owned by the Love Israel family in 1980 (who have since largely migrated to the Everett countryside for communal living). Anyone with a taste for home grown tomatoes was certainly impressed with this free offering–especially someone who had suffered a recent divorce and morbid bout of depression. The produce was delectable except there was SO much more to the story of the Love Israel family.
Love Israel was not only the head of the family in the most patriarchal sense imaginable, but also the son of a famous entertainer, Steve Allen. Somewhat like the Bagwan Rajneeshis, the Love Israel family had acquired a number of expensive homes/property in Seattle’s Queen Anne district by requiring all members who were sufficiently infatuated with their lifestyle to join and voluntarily give up all their worldly possessions/wealth/estate to the group. The group claimed it didn’t believe in capitalism or private property and they certainly behaved consistently with this theory, at least in part. Yours truly was a guest of the family on a number of occasions including a room, bed, shower, and much needed camaraderie. Were these the offspring of the 1960’s flower children?
One devotee had turned over an estate worth 3.5 million$ to the Love Israel family. Others, much less. Yet there were tensions/schisms in the family. Moreover, the interloper was warned by locals in the neighborhood to keep a firm grip on his wallet and possessions, that family members were no respecters of the notion favoring private property. In addition, Love Israel himself viewed the love bereft interloper with suspicion, publicly implying as much during his weekly quasi-religions services/pep talks the family attended. It turned out the donor of the 3.5 million$ wanted it back after discovering Love Israel was involved in drug transactions that extended far beyond smoking marijuana. There was a bitter court battle underway with the plaintiff’s attorneys involving the police whenever possible. The police, in turn, were only too eager to investigate Love Israel and his love children–another critical part of this tale. Thus, Love Israel was very paranoid, but with just cause. He needed information on who this stranger was and whether he was working for the Man. Gideon’s love interest would serve as a conduit for this counter-intelligence.
Bicycling over 8-hrs/day spanned the width and breadth of Washington State in a desperate bid to fight off the morbid depression through intense exercise, diet, healthy sleep patterns–and, yes, counseling. Two women campers were met while biking on Orcas Island–the ice breaker being having forgotten to bring something as fundamental as toilet paper. They were generous enough to provide some. Conversation gave way to the revelation they lived in the Queen Anne Hill district of Seattle and they offered their hospitality if the clueless bicyclist was in their area while traveling. Some weeks later, it was in the room they’d provided the bicyclist where he consummated his romantic interest in Gideon’s girlfriend. The intimate details and memory has not faded over the years, nor the suspicion the woman was on a mission, if not from God, then His representative, Love Israel. It’s said it’s an ill wind that blows no blessings, And so it was. Love’s paranoia was baseless, but it ended up providing respite for a wounded soul trying to recover from a failed marriage. Her mom encouraged the daughter, but she wouldn’t leave the family. Love’s grip along with his paranoia were firm.
The undoing of the family didn’t just come from the State’s law enforcement apparatus investigating Love Israel, but the many children the family had in their polyamorous relations where paternity could be in doubt given 1980 had yet to see refined DNA analysis. Love was not shy about enjoying the fruits of his ministry, the most palatial house, the finest garden, the most opulent surroundings. He was considerably less interested in providing for the education, food, health care, clothing, and other necessities for the family’s young children. This became a source of great tension among the more responsible males and mothers who lobbied for resources from the family’s pooled funds. Love obstinately resisted these overtures which began to take their toll on the family’s unity. Yet remnants of the family continue to exist, dwelling in the Everett area as loyal to one another as ever if somewhat longer in the tooth. They’ve run into resistance from officials in that county who claimed the land the family occupies is not zoned for multi-family residential use while the Love Israel family argued they are but one, though large, family.
And so the 21st century has seen this saga come almost full circle with the State dispossessing both Gideon Israel, harrying Love Israel, and having dispossessed yours truly circa 1991. Gideon’s health has suffered more and he seems sadder. Oly’s 2014 Hemp Fest was, thus, bittersweet–seeing a battle scarred diminished champion of an alternative lifestyle hungering for the individual liberty we all do. It is well those who attended honored Gideon and his contributions over the years despite his human failings.
Life moves on, especially for the young. There were stunning bodies, beautiful personalities, radiant smiles, and free spiritual readings. Mason County could use some of that. It’s high time to clean out the dead wood, the patriarchs who would deny our birthright to compassion, individual liberty, the freedom to groove on one another, and the right to a clean sustainable environment–something only a sustainable economy can provide. It’s time to get our priorities straight and grow up as a society/nation. We cannot extricate ourselves from the hole we’ve dug by eating our children.