IT'S 10 o'clock in the morning and I'm on the balcony of a B&B, overlooking a valley, when the manager appears and asks me if I'd like to share a joint. For a moment I think she's joking until she flops into a fluorescent beanbag and lights one up.

I'm spending a few days in Australia's marijuana capital, Nimbin, in northeastern NSW, not necessarily because I want access to cannabis, but because most of my family live here. My nephews, eight and 10, have fairly common names like Jack and Charlie, but their closest friends are called-no kidding-Tao, Zameal and Lotus. They ride horses to school and are taught by bare-footed parents in a two-roomed building in the hills. At lunchtime they swim in the adjacent creek.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law is busy rehearsing her role as Ganja Fairy for the town's annual Mardi Grass festival, during which she and scores of other sequinned sprites will dance down the main street in a parade celebrating the wonderful world of weed. Her best friend lives in an old bus and earns his living making ocarinas outside the Hemp Embassy and selling them to passing tourists.

My brother, a drummer, plays at the weekly African-Interpretive Dance classes in the local community hall, while his mother-in-law sips a tincture of medical marijuana and water while she cooks a Sunday roast.

Everyone's so relaxed here that if something is broken nobody really cares. When I walk into a cafe and order a bowl of soup, I'm told the kitchen is closed indefinitely because the oven has blown up, but would I like a glass of wheat grass instead?

I cross the road and glimpse a blackboard outside yet another cafe, chalked with a list of lunch specials. I stroll inside and order the vegetarian lasagne, but the cashier merely stares at me wide-eyed, as if I'd requested a plate of boiled eyeballs. "You can't have that," she replies. "Why not?" I ask. "It's on the menu outside."

She rolls her eyes, as if I'm some kind of ignorant tourist who has yet to adjust to nuances of Nimbin, which in a way I am.

"The chef hasn't turned up," she says, glancing into the empty kitchen. I shake my head and walk outside, where I almost bump into an elderly woman wearing a velvet turban. "Hash cookies," she says, holding up a wicker sewing basket. "Five dollars each."

By now I'm so famished I pull out 10 bucks and reply, "Why don't you give me two?"

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: The Australian
Author: Mandy Sayer
Contact: The Australian
Copyright: 2010 News Limited
Website: Nimbin, where the grass is greener

* Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article