By MATT PEIKEN

St. Paul Pioneer Press; April 19, 2006©

So, like, check this out.

These dudes at Macalester College are throwing this righteous party Thursday. They’re calling it CHEEBAdanza—”the Twin Cities premier marijuana festival.” Says so right on the green flier. This isn’t one of those mediocre pot fests—it’s A-grade all the way.

Excellent.

First of all, OK, you have the date, right? Thursday, April 20. That’s 4/20. And you know the party starts at 4:20 p.m. That’s the legendary tokin’ hour, my friends.

So anyway, there’s gonna be all kinds of free munchies and jam bands playing on the Old Main Lawn, probably well past 7, and they promise, somehow, to parade up Grand Avenue to Fairview Avenue to Summit Avenue and back to Grand.

“It’s pretty short. We’re pretty lazy about these kinda things,” said Reid Lustig, a Macalester senior from Boulder, Colo., and a festival co-founder. “Marching long ways isn’t really our thing.”

No worries.

Just even having the festival, man, it’s like, how’d you pull this off? Turns out Lustig and his buddy Spencer Edelman and some other Macalester dude—think his name is Stefan—two years ago formed an official campus CHEEBA Club (Creating a Harmless Environment to Enjoy Buds Appropriately).

They held a chili cook-off, led a fall bike tour of Highland Park and threw their first marijuana fest last spring. They called it Cheebonanza, but a friend thought it was called Cheebadanza and the name stuck. Only about 200 people showed up, and some complained it was too disorganized, but the only thing school administrators harshed on was that the kids made all the food themselves. Health code, anyone?

“We probably gave out, like, 200 free tacos,” Edelman says. “One cool thing about CHEEBAdanza, we give out a ridiculous amount of free food.”

Oh, sweet!

People have been trying to legalize pot since, like, forever. The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws even has a Minnesota chapter. CHEEBA scored $2,300 from the Macalester student government for this year’s fest, and some of the cash has gone to a caterer to roast a 100-pound pig.

“We’re able to take little amounts of money and do a whole lot with it,” Edelman said.

They’re also going to play dodge ball and lawn bowling and spark up a bonfire. That is going to be one seriously tweaked game of dodge ball.

“The main reason for the festival has little to do with marijuana itself,” Edelman said with a straight face. “It’s more about offering an awesome festival for students. It’s part entertainment, but it’s also about social justice. You may not know it’s about marijuana unless you see some of the propaganda around at the booths.”

Yeah, right. Whatever.

“We don’t advocate our students to break any law in any way, shape or form, but our students are advocating a change in the law and we want to support their right to advocate for the policy change they desire,” said Brian Wagner, director of campus programming at the college. “We’re not here to tell them what to think.”

“Does an event like this encourage use? Every college in the U.S. struggles with student use of drugs and alcohol,” said Jim Hoppe, associate dean of students. “But this is a group of students who feel really strongly about the issue and want conversation about it and to raise awareness about it. We have to encourage and provide a forum for the discussion—that’s what higher education is all about.”

Right on.

“It’s culturally acceptable to talk about drinking and even binge drinking, but when it comes to marijuana, they’re silent about it,” said Lustig, who hosts a night of space exploration every Tuesday at the Macalester observatory. “There is the chance that by talking about it, there could be a backlash (against students who smoke). But I think we’re moving in such a positive direction, I don’t think anything bad’s gonna happen.”

Good vibes all around. But it’s going to be seriously intense at Macalester this weekend. There’s the 33rd annual Springfest on Friday, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who attended Macalester, is speaking Saturday.

“We’re calling it the weekend to remember,” Edelman said. “Or to forget.”