WANDER past the Stoned Fish and Chip cafe towards the Bring-a-bong shop, directly across the road from the Hemp Embassy, and a young man will approach and ask, "Would you like to buy some marijuana?"
Interested shoppers will be directed down the lane that runs alongside the Rainbow Cafe.
The "lane boys", as they are known, are local Nimbin High graduates who have turned their backs on the dreadlocks and rainbow colours of their hippie parents, opting for buzz cuts, blng and sneakers, but the business is still the same.
"We're still hippies at heart," one said, before offering a half-ounce for $140. It is just an average day in the marijuana capital of Australia.
"We do have a street trade here; you'd have to be blind to miss it," said Andrew Walker, 42, who runs the tourism information centre.
The new police chief in town, Superintendent Greg Martin, 49, who started in December, has refused to turn a blind eye to the drug trade any longer.
"Is it acceptable to not do anything about Nimbin which is internationally known as a place to buy drugs; do we turn a blind eye? We are police; we are here to enforce the law," he said. "They say I am trying to make a name for myself, but it is just business as usual."
Along with immigration officials, he is targeting backpackers and visitors who travel to Nimbin on buses called The Happy Bus or The Grasshopper specifically to buy pot.
Such overt displays of drug tourism often end in raids, like last weekend when 50 police, sniffer dogs, immigration officers and RTA officials blockaded the town, boarded tourist buses, demanding passports and frisking locals.
The raid netted two ounces of marijuana.
"They are trying to crush the town," said Paula Vanvas, 62, a confessed hippie and pot smoker who works at the Hemp Embassy selling all things hemp. "Marijuana is just a herb and we'd like Nimbin to be a little slice of Amsterdam."
Ms Vanvas said the raids were getting heavier and it is driving tourism away.
Justin Smith, who runs the Stoned Fish and Chip shop, agrees. This week he won't be able to pay himself, let alone his employees. "They emptied the town, and when there are no customers I don't cover costs," the 42-year-old long- term local said.
After the raid, even conservatives in town were rattled. "There are heaps of us who don't grow it, don't smoke it, so we feel very targeted," said Andrew Walker. "The international visitors were upset going through cordons and having to show their passports, it affects business for weeks."
Like many locals, Mr Walker thinks the street trade overshadows the other positives the picturesque valley has to offer.
"It's always about the drugs; I get disappointed the positives never get in the paper," he said.Supt Martin is unapologetic about the perceived heavy-handedness and the futility of the raid given the trade was back in full swing when The Sunday Telegraph visited.
"I wouldn't say nothing changes. We are sending a message to the greater community: if you go to Nimbin to buy drugs, you could get arrested," he said.
The raid worked on one level this week: trade was down with few backpackers on the streets, but a busload of missionaries from Perth arrived and after eating cut lunches with cordial, started singing on the streets and pushing a different message.
The Sunday Telegraph
March 06, 2011
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