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( archives / 2000 )

Hemp of Northeast Kansas

1/00 / High Times / Caz Loth


Kansas Activists' Quixotic Crusade

Since torching a joint in the police station here 10 years ago, Mark Creamer, 52, has been waging a war against the forces that keep marijuana illegal. His partner is Thomas Trower, whom he met at an anti-Gulf War rally here in l991 where Trower was giving out copies of Jack Herer's "The Emperor Wears No Clothes."

In the sweltering heat of Kansas summers and the piercing prairie winds of winter, Creamer and Trower stand on the corner like gargoyles for hemp. They come equipped with a radio, bottles of frozen water, a staff with raw hemp hanging like a scalp from the pole of a warrior, and their "hemp bucks," with President Clinton's portrait on strips of faux currency marked "Legally Tender Public lssue."

Every Saturday night and Sunday afternoon they prop open their placards that read "HONK FOR HEMP" and "SAVE TREES, FREE HEMP" and go to work. "We're professionals," says Creamer, who drives the "war wagon," a Schwinn two-speed that hauls a trailer ofwelded bike parts which support their rotating three-panel box sign with wind scoops -- "HONK! HEMP! SAVE! TREES!"

"It's a futile symbolic gesture, but somebody's got to do it," says Creamer, who works as a computer-graphics instructor.

"Passers-by won't give any time," interjects Trower, a dog-food plant employee, "they won't give any money and they won't get out and vote. But they will honk."

How did they get started on this decade of spectacular futility? "It came to me that if I got publicly arrested, it would be a strong statement," says Creamer. So before President Bush's notorious 1989 War on Drugs speech, Creamer announced that he'd smoke pot in protest until arrested if Bush didn't legalize marijuana.

The funny thing was, he had a hard time getting arrested. Pot-smoking wasn't regarded as terribly heinous in Lawrence, a campus town that became quite a psychedelphia in the '60s. He finally got himself properly popped by torching a joint in the police station, after calling 911.

At his trial, when Creamer raised the free speech issue, "I was told that standing on the corner is free speech, smoking marijuana is a crime. And that's where the idea to stand on the corner came from."

After a decade or so he says, "We've been told that we have institutional status now." At one point, the city fathers hauled out an ancient state ordinance that prohibits honking except in emergencies, but when Creamer and Trower seized on that to declare that the War on Drugs has created an emergency for American civil liberties, that was the last time they were hassled.

"The Chamber of Commerce hates us," Creamer declares with satisfaction. "We're like a black spot. We don't exactly have them by the balls, we're more like a bad case of jock rash."

10/19/00 / Pitch Weekly

Best Activist - Mark Creamer

Pitch Weekly's Best of Kansas City graphic

Anyone who has caroused Lawrence's Massachusetts Street on a Saturday night has seen Mark Creamer with his "HONK FOR HEMP" signs and his phony three-dollar bills printed on paper made from the sacred herb. It doesn't matter how bad the weather is, he's out there stumping for the legalization of his favorite weed. He says he'll be out there every night until it's legalized. That's true dedication. But it's nothing compared with the devotion Creamer exhibited in 1989. That was the year he heard President George Bush vow to toughen the war on drugs. Disgusted, Creamer vowed to smoke pot until he got arrested as a martyr. He called 911, smoky joint in hand, imploring the cops to come down and get him. They declined. He decided to go down to the Lawrence police station and light up again. He practically had to beg the cops to lock him up. He served six months. What makes Creamer "the best," however, is how well he fits into his surroundings. Weekend night in Lawrence already crackle with a dopey buzz. A hyped-up hemp activist in the middle of it seems, well, natural. In fact, the festivities just wouldn't be the same without him.