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Feature: Cannabis Nation Takes to the Streets in First Week of Global Marijuana March

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #584)
Politics & Advocacy

Marijuana aficionados and reform supporters took to the streets of more than a hundred towns and cities across the globe last weekend in phase one of the annual Global Marijuana March.

The march, first organized in New York City in the 1970s, has since grown into a massive international event. This year, some 263 cities on every inhabited continent are listed as holding the marches.

Vancouver, British Columbia (courtesy
Typically held the first weekend in May, the event this year was broken up into two weekends, largely to accommodate Europeans, where the May Day labor celebrations are taken far more seriously than in the US (where May 1 is not Labor Day, but National Law Day). Finland was the exception there, with a march in Helsinki last weekend drawing at least 300 people, and events in Tampere and Turku drawing about 200 people each.

But on this side of the water, marchers took to the streets in cities like Portland and Philadelphia, which both drew about a thousand people, among the largest crowds of the day. In San Francisco, where 15,000 people gathered last year, crowd size -- if not spirits -- was dampened by drenching downpours all day.

The marches also hit middle America, if in smaller numbers. In Champaign, Illinois, hundreds marched, while in Cincinnati a similar crowd gathered. In Ogden, Utah, 30 lonely cannabis supporters rallied together, while Palm Springs, California saw a few dozen marchers.

Things were a bit livelier in Canada, with some 15,000 people gathering in Toronto and a thousand more in Vancouver. Even Edmonton, way out on the northern plains of Alberta, drew several hundred participants.

"It was fantastic, we had a lot of people show up here in Vancouver," said Jeremiah Vandermeer, production editor for Marc Emery's Cannabis Culture magazine, one of the organizing foci for the marches. "It was a great march. The Liberals were having their convention here, so we marched on that shouting that they need to stop C-15, the Conservative bill that would impose mandatory minimum sentences even for growing one plant."

When asked why Canadian cities appeared to be able to generate larger turnout than American ones, Vandermeer made several points. "Canada has a very strong cannabis culture, we have a lot of organizers who have been working very hard for years, Marc Emery included, of course, and our newspapers are very friendly," he said. "They promote the marches before they even happen, and that's a big help."

While the US has its cannabis friendly elements and its veteran organizers, too, it does not generally have a press that is willing to provide free publicity beforehand for the marches. Nor, with the exception of the two groups mentioned below, do the marches garner any meaningful support from drug reform organizations. And, unlike the case in some European cities that draw huge crowds, events here have not drawn sponsors willing to put up cash to publicize the marches.

In some cities, events are organized by independent activists. In others, local chapters of groups like the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) take the lead. But in all cases, the size and success of the events is determined largely by local resources and talent.

"With some legitimate organization ahead of time and funding and promotion, perhaps these turnouts would be bigger, but as it stands now most of these US efforts are loosely organized at best, said NORML's Paul Armentano. "And perhaps culturally Americans are not as likely to take to the 'streets' as are their counterparts in other countries like Venezuela and Greece."

GMM 2009 poster (courtesy GMM)
Cures Not Wars is the primary US-based organizing focus for the Global Marijuana March. It does what it can, but its resources are limited.

"We at Cures Not Wars provide material and logistical support for the marches," said Douglas Greene, one of the group's cofounders, along with Dana Beal, the man present at the beginning. "But that support is basically limited to providing posters and contact lists, things like that. We don't have money to hand out to make them happen, so these marches are primarily financed by what the local grassroots people can do," Greene said.

"I think the 4/20 events just a couple of weeks before the marches may drain energy and resources from the marches," said Greene. "Press coverage helps, but unlike Canada, we don't have prior coverage here in any city I can think of."

Greene pointed to some of the European cities, such as Rome, Athens, London, and Berlin, that regularly see crowds of thousands or even tens of thousands. "In Berlin, where the events rival the size of the Boston Freedom Rally, they have at least 10 major sponsors. We don't get that in this country," he pointed out.

Greene also said that perhaps the drug reform community should rethink its disdain for the marches. "These have evolved into an expression of the cannabis community, and it's unfortunate that they haven't become something the broader drug reform community has come together on," he argued. "Here in New York City, we had a lot of kids chanting 'We smoke pot and we like it a lot!', and while that is not going to necessarily change the law, at the same time we always have people who come up to us who are really interested in learning and changing the laws. These marches are going to happen no matter what the reform community thinks; it seems like it would be a good idea if we could work together and attract some serious people and try to educate those people who show up."

The marches may not be politic, there may be too many tie-dyed t-shirts, too much hair, and an uncomfortable number of young-looking public tokers, but the marches aren't going away and they are an authentic expression of cannabis culture. Perhaps the different strands of the movement will find a way to move closer together.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Because they think that victory is won by being as much as possible like the enemy and they want to show how "responsible" and "upstanding" we are, i.e. how middle-America-like we are. Nossir, no hippies here, jes' ordinary folks, and medicinal marijuana really helps against the pain from the war wounds we suffered while defending America's freedom and precious bodily fluids. Their path to victory is to gain acceptance of medicinal use, and then when everybody sees how "responsible" we are, full legalization. There is something to be said for this approach, especially since it seems to be working.

Personally, I like what the kids do. They get into the faces of such as Sandra Bennett and Joyce Nalepka, for example, diehard drug warriors who agonize about The Children(TM) and the Impressionable Youth. It's so much sweeter when the drug warriors are overpowered instead of being allowed a climb-down. So it's a useful combination, the policy reform organizations with the wonks and their degrees as well as those who see a future in mainstream politics, and the people on the street, the kids who rub it into the drug warriors' faces that

"we smoke pot,
and we like it a lot,
and we're going to smoke it whether it's legal or not,
so up yours!"

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 1:04am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Any organisation is only as powerful as the people behind it . People have the power to overrule any laws not serving the people in peace and freedom . But first the people must wake up and then unite !
The biggest Freedom Revolution on earth has begun !
Power and Peace to the people united !
---Black Lizard -- Australia

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 1:38am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The terrorists posing as law enforcement made herbs and drugs illegal illegally by manufactured consent to double standard based dictatorship. You know there a terrorist posing as government if they continue the fraud of prohibition. They have to be unrecognized from having power over other people like with any other serial murderer/rapist. Everyone knows that the fossil based oil and drug corporation terrorists are committing industrial espionage by fraudulent prohibitions.

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 4:38pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Okay, I know i"m going to sound like the biggest hypocrite here because I smoked my first time at 15, but maybe we ought to rethink this overly youthful perception. To have KIDS toking publicly will certainly do harm to our cause, if the cause is full legalization. The message we want to be sending is that marijuana is an ADULT privilege, and when kids become adults, they, too will have the choice of whether or not to smoke up. Without this boundary in place, the cause loses credibility and gives the prohibitionists one more argument to use.

We got the momentum going, let's not lose the credibility!

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 4:55pm Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

The "adult" reform community takes the lead and presents a different image of reform young Americans in the streets IS the image of reform. In this war like all wars it is the youth of a nation who man the front lines.

The only loss of credibility is for people like you who denigrate the bravery and efforts of others while not not having the guts to do jackshit yourself.

I know for fact that there were older reformers at the Philly march because my older brother and I were there. Since I personally remember the Nixon press conference when he announced the creation of the DEA it should tell you something about the age range of participants in Philadelphia.

"We got the momentum going.." When you are out in the streets screaming at the politicians to end the drug war then you too can claim to be helping to get the momentum going. Its the young Americans who have gotten the momentum going and you have no right to take that away from them.

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 6:41pm Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

but you are waging an argument based on one mention of the word "kids". But there is no age reference in the article to juveniles.

You are trumping up a big argument over your baseless assumptions about the use of one word in an article.

I'm in my fifties and tend to refer to anyone younger than I as being a kid.

Reading this article, and rereading it, I see nothing to legitimately inspire your angst or the volume of your negative argumentative postings. Your argument is whole cloth.

Tue, 05/12/2009 - 9:18am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Beyond the Global Marijuana March:
Re-Legalization Under the MERP Model

I am the originator of International Drug Policy Day which was the first International event in history to call for the immediate Re-Legalization of Marijuana. It was celebrated globally for six years between 1990 and 1995. The Global Marijuana March began four years later in 1999 and celebrates a 10th Anniversary on May 2nd and May 9th 2009. Since 1999 the Global Marijuana March protests have been celebrated in 556 different cities from 54 different nations; yet such protests have been largely ignored by the Corporate Controlled Media as well as the moneyed drug reform organizations.


I see the 2009 Global Marijuana March as the launching point for a unrelenting international campaign to Re-Legalize the Untaxed and Unregulated Cultivation of Marijuana under what is know as the MERP Model. The MERP Model is a much better solution than Marijuana Prohibition, the Medical Marijuana Model, or the worst model of them all: a model under which Marijuana is highly taxed and regulated.

The MERP Model is the only model that will immediately destroy the drug cartels and put a stop to the arrest of over 800,000 US Citizens every year. None of the other models can pretend to achieve these two important goals. And despite the naysayers at the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance and other “moneyed” drug reform organizations, there is no reason why this cannot occur as early as 2009.

I want to thank all of the activists that have been promoting the MERP Model through their websites and encourage consumers and non-consumers alike, to:

(1) Attend one of the Global Marijuana March Protests

(2) Distribute our mini-flyers at and beyond the Global Marijuana March Protests in May of 2009.

(3) Contribute your time and money to implement the MERP Model immediately. You can send your checks and money orders to New Age Citizen in order to help us in our campaign.

To get involved in the great push to get the MERP Model implemented I invite you to visit “MERP Headquarters” which can be easily accessed from the homepage of

In 1970 activist John Sinclair was sentenced to 10 years in jail for just 2 Marijuana cigarettes. Thankfully John Lennon, from the Beatles, threw a benefit for John Sinclair which contributed to his eventual release as a political prisoner in the War on Marijuana consumers..

I would now like to read the email that John Sinclair sent me on March 19th, 2009, endorsing the MERP Model:


I see that you're starting to get some play here & there on the MERP Model, keep up the good work and don't let anyone discourage you. It's time to end this War on Drugs at last. Not that I support it, but the events in Mexico show what happens when you have a War on Drugs and the other side SHOWS UP TO FIGHT. They've just been pushing people around in the States under this rubric for 40 years and it's time to stop!

That ends John Sinclair’s letter to me.

I believe that together we can end 71 years of Marijuana prohibition and actually achieve some of the “change” that Obama lied to us about during the 2008 Presidential campaign. And I believe there is no reason why it cannot happen immediately. I challenge Obama and all detractors to explain why this cannot happen right now. What possible legitimate reason could there be?

Possibly the strongest argument in favor of implementing the MERP Model immediately is that it would rob the Mexican Drug Cartels of 70% of their profits which originate from the sale of Marijuana in the United States. MERP would deprive them of these profits, destroying the Cartels and keeping over 27 Billion Dollars in the US economy each and every year after MERP is implemented.

What possible argument could Barrack Obama, or Congress, have against moving forward with the MERP Model immediately given the irrefutable benefits that true Marijuana Re-Legalization would reap under the MERP Model?

Please join me in a peaceful crusade to derail the “New World Order” of Barrack Insane Obama by Re-Legalizing Marijuana under the MERP Model as early as 2009. For more information please go to the and click on the “MERP Headquarters”

Yours in Peace and Freedom,

This is Bruce Cain, Originator of International Drug Policy Day, Author of the MERP Model and the New Agenda for America of which it is a part: and finally the Editor for the New Age Citizen website.

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 6:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

not in the slightest. I think it hurts, it's the nightmare of a lot of parents.
I see that creep is still insulting every reformer who doesn't think like him.
I have no interest in letting the rights of adults to use weed being held hostage to the interests of marijuana using youth anymore that I do in letting them be held hostage to the interests of hard drug users. Adult cannabis use absolutely deserves discussion on it's own merits and it seems to be finally receiving it.

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 8:26pm Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

can fight our wars they can oppose our wars however they choose to oppose our wars.




Sat, 05/09/2009 - 9:11am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

You're the one who needs to learn how to stop the abusive language to fellow reformers and be more constructive. Calling Obama an asshole is not constructive, it's pure self-indulgence.

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 9:45am Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

it is not "pure self-indulgence" to call Obama an asshole. Calling Obama an asshole is calculated political rhetoric conceived to show Obama supporters that their hero is on thin ice among some people who he manipulated into supporting him.

Calling Obama an asshole is calculated political rhetoric designed to put the Democrats and Obama supporters on notice that they will not get another free pass.

Calling Obama an asshole is done with the political intent of inspiring others to look at Obama more cynically.

Calling Obama an asshole is intended to tear down the lying facade of Obama the president of change.

Tue, 05/12/2009 - 9:02am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The young people who see a cause and go out and fight for it have my highest admiration. They have always been the ones with the purest vision and they with their innocent sacrifices make the rest of us get off our butts and do something.

At the same time, an older person giving the appearance of condoning very youthful cannabis use would be seized upon by the prohibitionists and their mouthpieces, material for propaganda for years to come.

These are all legitimate considerations. I want to go to a cannabis march. I think it is important to take to the streets and not let the young people do it all. But I dont want to give the prohibitionists any propaganda material, either.

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 11:18am Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

the prohibs think is counter-productive. You already know that what they think is wrong so why let the potential of what they "might" say or think dissuade you from helping your reform efforts?

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 11:41am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by aahpat (not verified)

I admire your passion. That is what is needed to correct this and other wrongs. Most people just want to stick their head in the sand over these issues.

Heck, I myself want to stick my head in the sand over this issue, but now the sand smells like dog poo.

Somehow we have to gain some control of the political machine to accomplish our goals.

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 1:52pm Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Shame, guilt and fear. Those are the motivations of all politicians. If you want change you need to apply shame, guilt and fear to bring politicians to your position. It is shame, guilt and fear that keep politicians supporting the drug war.


Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia authored S-714 to create a national criminal justice commission to look into all aspects of the use of America's criminal justice system. Sen. Webb has even indicated that marijuana legalization is "On the table"

Thus far 27 senators have signed on to Sen. Webb's S-714 as co-sponsors. S-714 tally sheet of senators thus far co-sponsoring the bill. The bill needs all the support it can get because drug war supporters have offered a counter bill in the House of Representative.

Sun, 05/10/2009 - 1:58pm Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

on the streets in support of their political values don't deserve being back bit, nit-picked and denigrated by anyone. Especially not by people who are not themselves brave enough to do the things they are criticizing.

Viva la Revolution!

Screw the Democrats!

Especially SCREW Barack 'about face' Obama.

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 11:49am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It 's a question of what undecideds and possibly persuadable prohibitionists think. And soft supporters who will be put off by kids marching and proselytizing for kids to use weed. That should be obvious. Aahpat is avoiding or distorting the issue with his "worrying about what the prohibs think is counter-productive". This is the same guy who's been screaming that legalization will keep drugs away from kids (good chance it will help but not the total slamdunk he makes it out to be), but now it sounds like he's fine with kids using weed and marching to proudly proclaim how much they like it. Which is it?

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 8:12pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

This society has prolonged childhood past all reason. Around the turn of the last century, no one of the age of 15 would be considered a child. Instead most males of that age would be working at a job or managing a farm, most females of that age would be already married, managing a household, and have had at least one child, already.

I'm not sure extending childhood so long has been a benefit to humanity's progress.

I do agree that much of society, beyond the prohibitionists, would look askance at children under the age of 18 protesting prohibition, but protesters over the age of 18 are not going to draw any flack on reformers, I don't know anyone who thinks of 18 year olds as children.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Tue, 05/12/2009 - 3:22am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

When was 18 years old in 1967 I hitchhiked to California (from NJ) shortly after high school. Though I was against the Vietnam War, I looked down on the Hippies in Haight Ashbury and the Flower Children. I thought at the time that any political movement that depended in large part on 16 year old girls was doomed to failure. What I came to appreciate later--through participating in anti-war marches in San Francisco, Washington, DC and other cities--was that these same kids were willing to take to the streets, willing to face fearsome odds, willing to take terrible abuse, and willing to go to jail for what they believed in. They certainly earned my respect, and I can't believe how arrogant and dismissive I was of them when I was 18. I look at the kids who march today for marijuana law reform with the same respect. I march along side of them, proudly. (Yes, I'm still marching, 42 years later, and I'm still not tired.) Though today I believe that 16 year old kids should not be smoking pot, some of them are going to do it regardless of what I believe, and they certainly should not be going to jail for doing so. I welcome their involvement.

Sat, 05/09/2009 - 8:39pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

You're the champ around here, hands down. Kiss your own ass.
It's foul mouthed and violent protesters who led to Nixon's victory in 1968. Respect is the last thing I feel for their inflammatory self-indulgence.

Sun, 05/10/2009 - 6:05pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I think the general view among reformers is that penalties for underage use of weed should be equal to penalties for their use of alcohol. I guess that probably varies a lot from state to state. Personally, I'm a lot more worried about youthful cannabis use when combined with clearly problematic behavior, than I am by such use if it does not appear to be causing any problem. I think the demonization of weed has made it common to react so strongly to finding out a kid is using it as to do more harm than good, by destroying or weakening family bonds for example.

I don't think the current system of regulating alcohol, that treats a 20 year old as having no more rights than a 10 year old, is realistic, and it won't be realistic if it's applied to cannabis if and when it's legalized for adults. Some sort of graduated change from no use at all allowed to the unrestricted use allowed to adults would make more sense.

Mon, 05/11/2009 - 12:51am Permalink
aahpat (not verified)

I am told that my perspective and presence are not appreciated by some participants on the DRCNet boards.

People who can't succeed in argument will censor based on behavior. Kind of like blaming the actions of the protesters in Chicago for the rioting of Democrat Mayor Daly's white police. Or saying the Daly Democrats supported Nixon because of the behavior of the protesters. When in fact the Daly Democrats were Dixie-crats who hated the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

But I understand people needing cowardly ways to stop a discussion that is not turning in their direction, I've watched the politics of the drug war since its inception.

Later. I need to find some adults to hold real political discourse with.

Thu, 05/14/2009 - 7:42pm Permalink

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