Ray Hartmann had to cancel his speaking engagement Saturday at Missouri NORML's Spring Conference on Cherokee Street.
Maybe it was just the mellow attitudes of the two dozen or so people gathered for the marijuana law reform meeting on a sunny spring morning, but nobody seemed to mind. Especially after Cottleville Mayor Don Yarber stepped to the speaker's podium.
Yarber, the driving force behind two recent medical marijuana ballot initiatives in his tiny suburban St. Charles town, was funny, engaging and thoughtful as he discussed his support of prescription pot, the political blowback he received in a staunchly conservative county and what he thought the average citizen could do to help make medical marijuana a reality in Missouri.
Yarber began by joking about his new nickname: "Mayor-Juana."
He then launched into his now-familiar story about his wife's diagnosis with breast cancer more than 15 years ago. One of the drug's she was prescribed to treat nausea had a side effect of causing nausea. She was had no appetite and felt miserable.
"So bought a couple joints and see if that might work," he said with a smile. "Well, maybe it was several joints."
His wife survived her battle with cancer and Yarber went on to propose two non-binding ballot initiatives asking Cottleville voters to encourage state lawmakers to support medical marijuana. Both measures lost by a mere nine votes in last Tuesday's election.
"If we'd have had a better turnout we'd have stomped 'em," Yarber said. "Or if I could have convinced five people I'd have won by one vote."
He added: "What I was doing was putting my money where my mouth is. Here I am urging my state senator and state representative to support [medical marijuana] I had to put it on my own ballot."
Yarber lamented the lack of support from other lawmakers in St. Charles County but said the local media was generally fair in their coverage. As for what those in attendance could do to further the cause, Yarber urged everyone to contact their local lawmakers and be brief but firm in the conversation.
"They don't care that you have epilepsy or that you're bi-polar," he said. "They care if you vote."
Finally, he announced plans for a music festival to be held on June 13 in Cottleville. He's calling it "Cottlestock"
"It's similar to Woodstock only without the weed and the nudity," he said to a round of laughter. "So I guess you're not coming."