DRCNet readers first read of Tracy Johnson and Jeff Jarvis in June, when the Oregon couple publicly outed themselves as pot-smoking good neighbors in a full-page ad in the Portland alternative weekly the Willamette Week (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/192.html#neighbors). Since then, the pair have done more full-page ads in Seattle and San Francisco, garnering local and national media attention. Now the clean-cut couple is trying to organize a massive, emphatically non-countercultural benefit concert to aid drug reform organizations.
POTaid will be an "un-hippy, no pot leaf, non-tie-dyed, come out of the closet so you can be free" concert," Johnson told DRCNet. "We're going to lose the counterculture symbols, bring together 100,000 pot-friendly neighbors, and invite world-class entertainers to come and give us a world-class show," she said. "We want to raise a million dollars in net ticket sales, to be distributed to various nonprofit groups working to change drug policy."
Although the plan is still in its formative stages, Jarvis and Johnson are looking for a venue in Portland for September 2002. "It will be in Oregon," said Johnson, "and with September only two months ahead of the fall elections, we think that is a strategic date. It will certainly help increase awareness of the issue," she said. "Securing a venue is just the tip of this iceberg. We also need to handle security, sanitation, publicity, production, and of course, we must attract top-shelf entertainment. This is a huge undertaking."
As for the finances of such an undertaking, "the details are down the road," said Johnson. "We're just starting with this, although we do have some financial backing already." Although the couple say they want to handle no money themselves and are encouraging potential donors to pay directly for benefit budget items, someone will have to coordinate financial details. Who that will be is unclear at this point. Still, Johnson and Jarvis are optimistic. "This will actually come off," Johnson predicted, "and if we can get 100,000 people, that million-dollar net could be conservative."
The search for performers is just beginning. Johnson would not name names, but she did tell DRCNet "we've been talking to world-class entertainers."
Jarvis and Johnson plan to create 100 shares of the POTaid pie, to be divided among drug reform organizations including Change The Climate, The November Coalition, NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, MAMA, Voter Power, DRCNet and The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, among others. If the project works out, each share would end up as a $10,000 donation.
The "un-hippy, no pot leaf" theme is a continuation of the couple's campaign against inaccurate stereotyping of all marijuana users as members of the counter-culture. "Tens of millions of Americans smoke pot, and you don't know who they are," said Jarvis, "because they are afraid to talk about it."
"We are not hippies," added Johnson. "We are the everyday folks who accept your bank deposits, deliver your packages and educate your families. POTaid is about demonstrating the lunacy of clinging to a law that makes criminals out of more than a tenth of the American people."
In their print ads, the couple proclaimed: "We're Jeff and Tracy. We're Your Good Neighbors. We Smoke Pot," and told readers they were just ordinary folks. "Do you remember the guy who stopped to help you when you blew a tire and didn't have a jack?" asked Jarvis in a rejected paid radio ad reprinted in the Willamette Weekly. "And I was the woman who brought you a smile and a fresh loaf of baked bread when you moved in across the street," added Johnson. "Are you sure you want to throw us in jail?"
The print ads brought a huge response, said Johnson. "We've had 24,000 hits on our web site (http://www.potaid.org) and thousands more emails. Everyday my mailbox is overflowing." The local media frenzy over the print ads also got the couple a slot on the nationally syndicated Inanda Lewis show, said Johnson. Lewis, a former MTV DJ, is seen in 140 markets. "We had an ex-DEA agent and a prosecutor on the guest panel, along with Will Foster, High Times' Steve Hager, and us," Johnson recounted. "The audience was highly emotionally charged and clearly thought the marijuana laws were ridiculous. So did Inanda Lewis."
Somebody call Willie Nelson.