WESTERN SLOPE: Freedom Fest an opportunity to educate and celebrate

By Sheridan Block

Cannabis consumers and activists have much to celebrate this Sunday, April 20, as the infamous pot smokers' holiday will be the first in the era of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado. To celebrate the historic occasion, the first annual Western Slope Freedom Fest will hold a three day celebration of cannabis, music and voters' newly gained freedoms.

Two days of the celebration will take place in Ridgway at the 4-H Event Center.
Organized by Dreamers World, LLC, the weekend festival is aimed at promoting the freedom for individual rights and the rights of the marijuana industry.
"Our vision is to promote, honor and celebrate the freedom of our rights, as adults over 21, to use cannabis in the first U.S. state to legalize it," said event coordinator Jessica Hines. "This is really an exclusive experience for the Western Slope."
According to Hines, the purpose of the event is not only to celebrate the achievements of Colorado's cannabis activists, but also to generate awareness for the statewide movement through communication and education. The Freedom Fest provides curious minds with the opportunity to learn about marijuana products, culture and laws, she said.
"We wanted to make sure we're honoring all the people who went after the vote. We realized we should celebrate this and honor the people who have spent their lives fighting for this, whether legally or medically, and to really bring awareness to that aspect as well," she added.
Colorado has been at the forefront of the country's marijuana legalization movement. Efforts began as early as 1978, when the state was one of only eight to have some form of cannabis decriminalization. In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, allowing for the use of medical marijuana. In 2012, voters passed Amendment 66, opening the doors for the legalization of recreational use.
Jan. 1 marked the first day that existing medical marijuana dispensaries were able to sell retail products.
On a personal level, Hines said that the festival represents freedom and celebrating her rights through music, dancing and honoring of the cannabis plant.
Interestingly enough, the well-known weed day coincides with the religious celebration of Easter this year, and while some may think that these groups are opposing forces, Hines said that the event and movement have not received any negative attention to her knowledge.
Hines, who stated that she is "spiritual but not religious," said that her experiences with community responses toward the cannabis movement had been more curiosity than negativity.
"It's really neat to have other people experience this with us," she said. "It's a first of its kind that we've been able to do out here since marijuana's been legalized… I'm hoping people have a really great time."
Freedom Fest kicks off on Friday, April 18, in Crested Butte and will continue on Saturday and Sunday, April 19 and 21, at the 4H Event Center in Ridgway. Live music will be performed by headliner Pato Banton and local acts Fractalia, Funkdafari and Elder Grown. A VIP pre-party will be held at 4:20 p.m. in Ridgway on Saturday and Sunday.
While the tour is focused on the celebration of cannabis, Hines said that attendees are still obligated to comply with state marijuana laws, including the prohibition of marijuana use on public property. Freedom Fest organizers will be working closely with local law enforcement and Ouray County Emergency Medical Services throughout the weekend.
"We're not promoting the use of cannabis in any public way. We're encouraging people to not even bring it on the premises," said Hines, adding that she isn't expecting any issues during the event. "People are just really excited about this happening in their lifetime, in this awesome place that we live in, right now."
Tickets to each of the three days of events are available at Ridgway's Acme Healing Center and online at www.wsfreedomfest.com. The event is open to adults over the age of 21.