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The Cannabis Culture of Nimbin

Nimbin YHA gardens
I can't recall how we heard about Nimbin or why we decided to take a trip to this small village west of Byron Bay. Whatever the reason, we found ourselves on a mini bus packed with backpackers taking the 65km journey through green countryside to get there.

Nimbin has become synonymous over the years with cannabis due to its open use around the village and its annual celebration of the drug, cleverly named Mardi Grass.

At this point I should point out that I have never taken or wanted to take any form of recreational drugs and find I am extremely uncomfortable in its presence. So maybe taking a trip to Nimbin, where I would be in its vicinity 24 hours a day wasn't such a great plan.

The people of Nimbin YHA

Though it remains illegal and the occasional police raid on the town takes place, cannabis appeared readily available to those who wanted it.

We were staying at the local YHA where it didn't take long for the first mention of weed to be dropped into the conversation. Saying "No thanks" became my default answer to most questions over the next few days.

Despite the undisputable smell of marijuana in the air I felt quite comfortable in the company of these strangers, all with interesting tales of their travels. From the coughing Chinese man who seemed to live at the hostel to the Italian chef who prepared delicious lip-smacking meals for the group each night and who had spent time in our home town of Bolton sampling the products from the fish market.

One of the other guests, an Englishman, told us of how he had left his tented commune in Wales to travel with nothing but a small bag of clothes and a guitar. He was very trusting and though he had known me for little less than 48 hours, handed me his credit card to book him a flight as he had no idea how to use a computer.

The hostel itself provided peace and calm that we needed following the few days we had spent in the more raucous coastal town of Byron Bay. Hidden alcoves allowed us to put up our feet and gaze across the rolling green hills that surrounded Nimbin whilst the small pool was the perfect refreshment from the hours lazing in the sunshine.

Cannabis paraphernalia? No problem

The centre of Nimbin was a ten minute walk away from the hostel and is a mix of cafes (including the popular Rainbow Cafe) and arts and crafts shops. The small town centre is also home to the Hemp Museum and Hemp Embassy which aims to educate people about the drug whilst also selling anything to do with hemp except cannabis itself.

As we walked around the town it's difficult to escape the cannabis culture with shops such as Bringabong selling smoking accessories and every third person seemed to be offering to sell us something to smoke.

On the one hand I found Nimbin a great place to put my feet up and relax away from the usual hustle and bustle of Australia's east coast tourist spots yet the issue of drugs was always playing on my mind and would make me seriously consider whether or not to revisit.

Though it would make for a better experience if the issue didn't exist it's hard to imagine Nimbin would make it as a destination without the tag it has wound up with.

Have you been to Nimbin? What was your experience? Would you consider visiting knowing of its drug culture?