Story by Mary Ought Six
“Know thy audience.” This is the mantra for Executive Director and Co-Founder of MPP, Rob Kampia. And it has served him well. MPP has had success in the last ten years, funding state initiatives all over the country to improve and reform marijuana policy. They are the main financial contributors to the Raich vs. Ashcroft Supreme Court case. Plus, they get taken seriously in congress, and that is no small feat. The marijuana stereotype can get thicker than the smoke in a hot-boxed VW, and since the beginning of marijuana prohibition, weed smokers have been seen as weirdoes, beatniks, and hippies. Kampia himself had hair down to his backside at one point, but sacrificed the traditional pot-activist hairdo when he became serious about taking on Washington. “I’m not actually trying to be a Republican geek, what I’m trying to do is represent the marijuana issue in a respectable way… I don’t think it’s good for people who have hair that is eight feet long who then think that they want to testify before members of congress who maybe actually want to only listen to people who either are celebrities, or people who look like Republicans.”
Kampia should know, he had plenty of both kinds at this well attended event.
Montel Williams, the Honorary Chair, started off dinner with a moving speech on the excruciating pain of living with MS and having the only medicine that works for him, cannabis, make him a criminal. He tearfully criticized supporting and defending a constitution that does not support or defend him and his right to treat his pain. He then made a fantastic celebrity exit to catch a red-eye out of LA, and as the door shut behind him and an awe struck audience looked back down at their meals, I chuckled at the outburst of a fellow stoner, “Montel has left the building!” The night went on with speakers and performers including comedian Tom Rhodes, activist Angel Raich, musician Lily Holbrook, and pot icon Tommy Chong, who received MPP’s Courage Under Fire award for his recent break into activism after spending time in jail because of the Bush Administration’s Operation Pipe Dreams. Chong was introduced by his beautiful wife, who joked that when the feds knocked at their door, she knew that she should have married Cheech.
HIGH TIMES’s own Rick Cusick was the presenter for the live auction. Kampia had seen Cusick’s charm work wonders at the National NORML Convention, and invited him to repeat his performance. Cusick had developed a plan to add a surprise item to the end of the auction: his ponytail. Tommy Chong was going to do the honors and hand off Cusick’s hippy hair to the highest straight shooting bidder, unfortunately MPP was running their normal tight ship, and Cusick felt that it was too big a sacrifice to be rushed through. In true LA style, the auction item that brought in the highest bids, finally selling for over $3000.00, was a walk-on non-speaking role in Showtime’s new series “Weeds.”
The dinner wrapped up with performances by cast members of Reefer Madness, including one of my favorite tunes “Little Mary Sunshine.” The buzz was high for a strictly non-smoking event, and the last thing I remember before making my retreat to the hotel rooms was some wild dancing with Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris. All in all, a good party is a good party, and when you can get that down and change the world for the better at the same time, then I can get past the suit mentality. It’s like Kampia said, “Everyone has a role to play. Find your role, know thy audience.”