Harry Pinsent is not blowing smoke when he says he’s a big supporter of Oregon’s now 5-day-old law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
“I wanted to make a statement, basically,” says Pinsent, sitting in his Magic Mushroom/Oregon Gifts shop that sits just on the east side of Interstate 5. “It’s been illegal now for (years). It’s a plant. It should be legal. So, I did it as a protest.”
What the 72-year-old Pinsent did during the past six months was build what is perhaps the world’s largest doobie so he could put it on top of his shop for I-5 travelers to see.
No, it’s not really filled with pot, just made out of foam, chicken wire and cardboard. But the point of this joint is getting across, even if not everyone in this Douglas County town is exactly buzzing with delight over Pinsent’s display.
“I do not feel like that is a good representation of Sutherlin as a city or a community,” says Tami Trowbridge, president of the Sutherlin Area Chamber of Commerce. “And I’m not so sure I’m pleased that he has such great freeway access.”
A pot smoker for 50 years, and a grower who has a medical marijuana card (for aches and pains, he says), Pinsent realizes that in a conservative town with patriotic fervor, his big joint might not be a hit with everyone.
Especially when it’s blowing smoke, funneled through a smoke machine inside the shop, next to a giant U.S. flag on adjacent property dedicated to America’s veterans.
“Biggest flag on the West Coast, so they say,” Pinsent says, standing on the roof of his store and looking up at the flag put up by the city years ago, the sound of freeway traffic rushing by in the background. “Right next to the biggest joint on the West Coast, and the biggest mushrooms on the West Coast.”
The shop Pinsent runs with his wife, Linda Pinsent-Fox, is filled with mushroom-related gift items, including the distinctive mushroom lamps he has sold for years, made of manzanita wood for the bases and coral for the shades, for as much as $700.
And there are two giant mushrooms, also made of foam, chicken wire, etc., on top of the store. There’s also the Flintstones-like mushroom mobile, made from a 1957 E-Z-Go golf cart, parked out front.
Pinsent, born and raised in Southampton, England, got the idea for making his mushroom lamps as a young lad camping with friends in Southern England’s New Forest, while all were high on hallucinogenic mushrooms, says Pinsent in his still-distinct English accent.
“I woke up in the morning, in my sleeping bag, and right by my head was a cow patty. And right in the middle of the cow patty was a ‘magic mushroom.’ And I saw a pretty good idea for a lamp. That’s how it started.”
In addition to the mushroom lamps, the shop also sells the usual gift shop trinkets, posters, T-shirts and “Oregon” coffee cups, as well as a few glass bongs and pipes.
Pinsent, who moved to the States in 1974, living in Los Angeles until 1994 before moving to Sutherlin, christened his big joint last week with friends who helped build it in his home studio.
They also tossed, from the store roof, free joints and baggies filled with now-legal pot to those waiting eagerly in the parking lot below.
“Beautiful,” Pinsent says of the event. “Lovely. There were lots of people here. Everyone was smiling and cheering, especially when the joints were being tossed off the roof.”
Pinsent says he got the idea for creating his supersized joint last year while smoking pot with friends.
“And I took a hit on a joint, pulled it back like this,” he says, mimicking holding a marijuana cigarette with thumb and index finger and looking closely at it, “and I said, ‘This would look fabulous if it were a thousand times bigger.’”