Outside magazine, October 1996
The protest was pure Joan Baez, except for the cell phones. On a scorching day in June, Woody Harrelson strolled into a weedy field with a rusty grubbing hoe--and a TV crew, and a lawyer--to break Kentucky law by planting four Cannabis seeds.
Harrelson, whose lifetime body of activist achievement had already moved us to dub him the Embarrassing Enviro Celeb of His Generation ("The Outside Prognosticator," January), was trying to urge the state to legalize industrial hemp, an eco-friendly fiber outlawed nationwide in 1937. But his plan may backfire: Charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, Harrelson will stand trial on the 25th of this month, facing up to a year in the slam. And, assures Lee County prosecutor Thomas Jones, he will not receive star treatment. "There are better ways to protest the law," reasons Jones. "He should have written his congressman."
Harrelson's lawyer, Burl McCoy, plans to argue that Kentucky's statute is unconstitutional--and will likely note that his client cares. For instance, the actor is now sponsoring Harrelson's Essay Contest, enticing local students to extol the virtues of hemp with $3,000 in prize money. Still, the prospect of prison, and its notable lack of his cherished macrobiotic chow, looms large. "He'd have to eat what everyone else eats," says Lee County jailer Danny Townsend, "You know, regular American meals: potatoes, pancakes, roast beef. If he didn't, he'd go hungry."