From Buenos Aires to Budapest and Tokyo to Tel Aviv, from Albany to Albuquerque and Fort Wayne to Fort Worth, tens of thousands of people marched over the weekend in more than 200 cities around the world to call for the legalization of marijuana. The marches, coordinated by veteran Yippie organizer Dana Beale and his organization, Cures Not Wars (http://www.cures-not-wars.org), have gone on for nearly 30 years and will continue until the herb is liberated, Beale told DRCNet.
"This is a huge international event. We're not gonna stop," he said.
While reports are still coming in from cities around the globe, early highlights include Buenos Aires, where an estimated 12,000 people gathered for a day of rock and drug reform politics; London, where an estimated 20-30,000 people marched, and Tel Aviv, where some 5,000 people sat down for the annual Marijuana Day Picnic organized by the Green Leaf Party. The event in Mexico City also reportedly drew thousands, while in Nimbin, Australia, the pot capital of the island continent, the annual MardiGrass and Cannabis Reform Rally drew thousands more in a carnival-like atmosphere featuring competitive events like the Growers' Iron Person Competition, the Bong Toss and the Joint Rolling Contest.
Police generally responded with a hands-off approach. In Dunedin, New Zealand, police ignored protestors smoking inside the police station, while in London, bobbies manfully vowed to ask pot smokers to put it out. "If a police officer comes across someone who is smoking cannabis, they will be asked to stop," said a police commander on the scene. "If they don't stop, the police officer will take appropriate action that could include confiscating the drug."
But it was not all sunshine and sweetness everywhere. In Budapest, attendees at Hungary's first pot protest were attacked by counter-demonstrators throwing eggs and tomatoes. Police kept the two sides apart, but the melee caused an early end to activities in a country that has some of the harshest drug laws in Europe.
And in New York City, home base for Cures Not Wars, only a meager few hundred people came out to march. With large numbers of arrests at the New York march in recent years -- 148 last year -- some observers thought fear of arrest kept the numbers down. But Beale also pointed to other factors. "We had to do something about the arrests," he said, "so we put out the word there would be no pot smoking at this event. So we got a smaller crowd because all the people who just came to party didn't show up."
The New York effort also suffered from lack of publicity and organizing glitches, Beale said. "Last year, we had eight ads in High Times, but this year there was only one ad and it was three months ago," Beale said. "The arrests in recent years really freaked them out. High Times may be a national magazine, but in many ways it is a New York City magazine, and it is very important for a New York event."
Organizers also sought funding for promoting the event from High Times and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), but failed to get anything, Beale said. And Canadian marijuana seed magnate Marc Emery, who had paid in previous years for the posters that Cures Not Wars distributes worldwide, didn't kick in this year.
Still, said Beale, he'll be back next year and as long as necessary.