If this is the first week in May, then it is time for the annual celebration of cannabis culture known variously as the World Marijuana March, Global Marijuana March, the Million Marijuana March, or, more informally, International Weed Day. This year, because of the calendar, the marches are being held over two weekends, with the first batch occurring last Saturday. From Auckland to Austin and from Madison to Missoula, marijuana supporters took to the streets to call for legalization and to free the weed.
Reports from Europe and Latin America are that most marches there will go off tomorrow, with large crowds expected in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. In one European city, Brighton, England, 200 people marched last Saturday to call for legalization, saying they wanted to "enjoy a smoke without the hassle of being arrested." Two of them were, though, perhaps making their point.
The same sort of problem emerged in Denver, where police picked two protestors out of a crowd of about 100 and ticketed them for pot possession. That led to angry yelling and the rapid reinforcement of police before the march resumed peacefully. Only two weeks ago, thousands of people rallied in Denver in the annual 4/20 celebrations.
In Canada, where the Conservative government just this week announced plans to reintroduce its draconian mandatory minimum sentence for growing marijuana bill, 20,000 people gathered in Toronto, the largest known march so far this year. Thousands more rallied in Ottawa and Vancouver. In Toronto, "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery addressed the crowd, seeking support for his effort to avoid deportation to the US to serve a five-year prison sentence for selling seeds and calling on Canadians to "overgrow the government."
In New Zealand, where police just weeks ago busted hundreds of people in a scheme aimed at grow shops and their customers, thousands of people turned out in Auckland, Wellington, and other communities to protest the attack on Kiwi cannabis culture. New Zealand NORML president Phil Saxby called the raids "a waste of time and money" and said they contributed to a large turnout across the country.
"It's our biggest J-Day for years, both in terms of crowd numbers and the number of centres participating: Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin," he said. "The police are working hard to sell the story that they have hurt the local cannabis cultivation industry, but there are no reports of any big quantities found. It looks like they have wasted all this time and money on a few small operators growing a low-level, low risk drug. Police continue to tell us that Operation Lime has been a success in 'breaking the cornerstone' of the cannabis industry in New Zealand, but there seemed to be no shortage of cannabis around the place on Saturday", said Saxby.
Both Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas saw around a thousand people show up for pro-pot rallies. In Portland, marchers were energized by the prospect of either a medical marijuana dispensary initiative or a pot legalization initiative or both making the November ballot, and signature-gatherers worked the crowd. In Austin, the counterculture capital of Texas as well as the actual state capital, the Third Annual Texas Cannabis Crusade marched through downtown before rallying at the capital.
"It's not a war against drugs, it's a war against people, it's a war against your personal liberties and personal freedom," shouted one marcher, sharing a sentiment echoed by marchers around the globe.
Both Oregon and Texas saw other, smaller marches as well. In Eugene nearly a hundred people marched, while in Dallas about 50 enthusiastic pot people rallied downtown, waving flags and posters and cheering at passing cars.
Larger rallies took place in Raleigh, North Carolina and Madison, Wisconsin. In Madison, at least 250 ralliers marched to the annual Mifflin Street Block Party, where they were joined by thousands of celebrants. A march is set for this Saturday in Milwaukee. In Raleigh, hundreds more rallied at the State Capitol before marching through downtown to demand that the legislature pass a medical marijuana bill.
Smaller events occurred in cities and towns across the country, from Wichita to Missoula to Toledo, while numerous college campuses also hosted rallies. There will be more this weekend. Come back next week for part two of our coverage of the Global Marijuana Marches.