To the Presiding Judge

Lismore Court House.
I began my life in Nimbin over 20 years ago when I rented the Museum shopfront as a second hand, antique shop. Dealing of illegal drugs was a small issue then in the village, but even then a divisive one. As tourism grew and the popularity of cannabis spread, so the dealing grew along with the shops in the town, now nearly all dependent on the tourist trade.
Over the now I5 years that I have operated the Museum as a tourism enterprise, my assistants and I have strived tirelessly to keep drug dealing off the premises. This has often been at great personal risk and many volunteers have quit because of the abuse copped in the process. There are numerous signs throughout the Museums 8 rooms saying ‘no dealing’, and even detailed, large writing explaining our predicament and asking for co-operation. Of course many of the young men dealing cannot read! The police are fully aware of all this and I have always tried to communicate openly and honestly with them for approximately twenty years. All that time I’ve been a member of the Police Community Consultation Committee.
The big change came when CCTV cameras were installed in the street, live to the police station, several years ago. Displacement is a well documented consequence, but it was accepted that this would eventuate, and it did. All over town, everywhere the cameras don’t cover, the dealing moved there. This included inside the Museum and in the extensive unfenced backyard and adjoining block, none of which is on camera, nor in my lease.
So it seems totally unfair that the Museum, Nirnbin’s main tourist attraction, is threatened because the more tourism grows here, and the more police stop walking the beat like they had to before the cameras, the worse the situation is getting. It doesn’t help that Nimbin has a closed Youth Club and SK8 Park, and the Museum building used to house the youth club.
Also, dealing occurs all over Nimbin and yet the police continue to target the two business premises, Hemp Bar and the Museum, who have both been lawfully and actively lobbying for cannabis law reform. The very reason we have been calling for a trial of licensed cannabis cafes is to deal with this impossible and longstanding situation. We have an implied constitutional right to political association and freedom of speech. The oppressive and unconscionable use of this legislation by the police in this matter is a burden on our rights I believe. I invite you to visit the Museum and Hemp Embassy’s websites, see links below.
Since the closure of the Museum at MardiGrass this year, May 3 & 4, Nimbin’s busiest weekend of the year, we have strived conscientiously to keep the dealing outside the premises and have succeeded mostly because the dealers take our threats more seriously now because we have a copy of the affidavit and police DVD of the April 1st raid. Police have observed this change and there has not been any supply charges that I am aware of over the previous 4 months. This can be confirmed by police records.
Before we reopened after that weekend closure I purposefully went to the police station to discuss what was expected from me by the police and was told by Detective Sergeant Michael Smith and the local Sergeant Mat Johnson, who agreed that the eradication of drug dealing from Nimbin was an impossible objective, and that I should just continue “to do my best and try and keep the dealing outside”. I have engaged in an endless dialogue with the Police including the Area Commander about how to make Nimbin more peaceful and how to deal with the illegal cannabis trade and the people attracted to it. It is disappointing that the police recently ceased to include me in any discussions and there is no acknowledgement of the more than reasonable effort we make everyday.
Please consider our situation in any decisions which you are required to make in relation to the Nimbin Museum. Please also note that I have only been given a few days notice on this matter the affect of which will have a major long term impact on Nimbin tourism and the many volunteers involved in keeping the Museum operational. As the occupant of the premises I ask to be given a say in the matter when it is heard. Please advise us of any hearings or how I should go about getting heard.
I have been advised that undercover police have been offered marijuana in the Museum since the MardiGrass, the fresh evidence, and wonder why they didn’t arrest these people. I cannot do their job for them.
The Museum won a major North Coast Tourism Award some years back and has an international reputation for it’s extraordinary art, murals, sculptures etc. Our joy is welcoming visitors from across the planet who come in busloads daily. I understand the police are just trying to do their job but I believe they will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this case. And it is not adressing the issue of the dealers who will remain everywhere else in town.
Wishing you could find the time and come and see the situation for yourself. My landlord lives in Sydney and has never been to Nimbin. I am a good tenant, always pay the rent on time and maintain the old and leaking building at my own expense usually.
If they cannot keep all drug dealing out of the jails, what hope do i have?
Your sincerely, Michael Balderstone
P.S. I offer to close the Museum for a month to see if it helps stop the drug dealing in Nimbin.
Nimbin Museum, 62 Cullen st, Nimbin, 2480 phone 66891123

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