Sunday, February 23

Throwback Thursday: The hazy story of Bruin Libertarians’ marijuana-smoking event ‘Hemp Fest’

(Daily Bruin archives)

Twenty years ago, a cloud of marijuana smoke lingered above the steps of Kerckhoff Hall as students enjoyed the warm sunlight and shared an abundance of pot. The occasion: Bruin Libertarians was sponsoring a smoking event called “Hemp Fest” for weed enthusiasts on campus.

On April 23, 1997, the Daily Bruin, which was still in the experimental stages of its online platform, published a story about this Bruin Libertarian marijuana-smoking event to fundraise its undergraduate student government slate’s campaign.

Craig Ruben, a UCLA alumnus and owner of the hemp product store 2000 B.C., attended the smoke-out to educate students about hemp’s ability to go beyond recreational use. According to the Daily Bruin’s story, Ruben educated students about how hemp, which is the fiber of marijuana plants, can sometimes be used for fossil fuels, paper and food.

Ruben even noted the drug’s profitability and proudly stated that the cannabis industry allowed him to earn more money than his friends earned through traditional jobs.

Taking notice of this, Bruin Libertarians partnered with Ruben’s business to raise campaign money for UCLA’s student elections. At the smoky Hemp Fest, the group organized a “bong raffle” and students were able to win multiple hemp products as prizes. The Bruin reported Claire Lagao, a third-year psychology student at the time, went home with one-eighth of an ounce of some precious maryjane.

The event did have its naysayers, however. Gregg Tipton, a member the then-Bruin Victory Fellowship, objected to the Bruin Libertarians’ philosophy of letting students act of their own free will with little regard for the consequences.

“Where do we draw the line?” Tipton said to The Bruin.

Justin Sobodash, then-president of Bruin Libertarians, however, merely dismissed Tipton as “the burn-in-hell guy” and the crowd returned to burning some of its own stuff.

It’s worth noting the event went uninterrupted, as no one cared to notify the university police department, despite weed being illegal on campus. When asked why they didn’t show up on the scene, campus police responded with one of the best defenses possible:

“There are a lot of things on campus we don’t know about,” said then-Sergeant Rick Sanchez.

How comforting. Students happily passed along pipes and joints without fear of punishment and Bruin Libertarians raised its campaign funds.

Twenty years later, however, you don’t hear much about Bruin Libertarians on campus. And California legalized marijuana in November with the passage of Proposition 64. However, holding another Hemp Fest on campus would still be against university policies.

Actually, that might be dependent upon the UCPD having knowledge of “a lot of things on campus.”

Alumni Director

Alvarez is the Alumni Director and a senior staffer in the Opinion section. She was an assistant Opinion editor in the 2017-2018 school year and previously contributed as an opinion columnist. She writes about topics such as campus life, Westwood and Los Angeles city programs.

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