Medical marijuana celebrated

DEVORE – Ron Downey says that because he has cysts in his back and knees that are “bone on bone,” he was on so many pills he would never have gotten out of bed.

“That’s why I became a medical marijuana advocate 10 years ago,” says the Riverside resident, a 60-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran.

It helps the pain, said Downey, adding if it weren’t for medical marijuana, he wouldn’t be able to do half the things he can do.

“All we’re asking,” he said, “is that people obey the law.”

Downey was passing out literature as medical marijuana users gathered Saturday to celebrate music and legalized pain relief.

The daylong Purple Haze 2009 Music Fest, the first of its kind in Southern California, featured speakers, vendors and music headlined by Reggae superstars Eek A Mouse – in brutal 105-degree heat.

By day’s end, organizers anticipated as many as 2,000 would crowd the stage and vending area in the open field behind the Screaming Chicken biker bar in Devore.

According to festival organizer, Steve Caprio, his motivation for coordinating the event was “freedom.”

“My grandfather and so many others fought – and a lot of them died – to be free and have independence,” said Caprio, a hip-hop artist on the entertainment lineup.

“It’s freedom within the boundaries of the law while at the same time trying to change the law in a nonviolent way.”

A detail of about 20 private security officers was visible at the festival.

The festival was billed as a “15-hour celebration of music and marijuana” by Lanny Swerdlow, a registered nurse/medical marijuana advocate/local TV and radio personality.

“We’ve developed this mass amnesia and forgotten that cannabis has been used safely for thousands of years to treat all kinds of problems,” Swerdlow said. “Cannabis is tailor-made for older people, especially, for back pain, joint pain, depression, appetite loss.

“Whether it was ancient China or ancient Egypt or any civilization, it was written about as a medicine. Nobody ever saw it as a recreational drug.”

Lori Green, parent chairwoman of the Inland Valley Drug Free Coalition, said the organization’s position is that Saturday’s organized event is what the county has taken a stand against.

“We’re calling on the county to do something about this. They should not be allowing an event like this to go forward. It sends mixed messages,” Green said.

“There are a lot of discrepancies in the laws and how they are enforced.”

Paul Chabot, founder of the Coalition for a Drug Free California, agreed.

“We all have to be on the same page with sharing information to tackle the important drug issues and dispensary issues in the state.”

For medical marijuana patients, a special “medicating area” was set up, although no cannabis was sold and medicinal users were requested to bring their own.

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