How Not to Legalize Marijuana

Believe me, I understand as well as anyone the frustration that often gets stirred up in the fight for marijuana reform. Watching as our opponents lie relentlessly, as innocent lives are lost, as another opportunity for peace and justice slips by each day this vicious war rages on, I can completely sympathize with anyone who's more than a little upset about it. But whatever you do, make sure it isn’t this:

Wellington, New Zealand police will decide Friday whether to charge cannabis legalization activists who pushed a shopping cart full of burning marijuana into the central police station foyer.

Officers will study CCTV footage showing the shopping cart loaded with smoking weed being pushed into the central police station at the height of a legalization protest, reports 3 News. [Toke of the Town]

Ok, ok, so it's kinda funny. But seriously, this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes people think marijuana reformers are a bunch of hopelessly stoned psychos who will terrorize our communities if allowed to do as they please. Rioting in the streets isn't going bolster our argument that legalization will make the streets safer. Burning cannabis in public isn’t going to placate people who don't want to smell pot in public places. Acting angry and crazy isn't going help us persuade anyone that we're nice normal people. It doesn’t work that way.

This principle applies not only to zealots playing outrageous pot pranks at the police station. It applies all the time, anywhere and everywhere that the debate over marijuana laws is taking place. If we want to win, we have to earn the respect and trust of people who might otherwise think we all belong behind bars. We have to relate to them, which means any protest idea that seems hilarious to a group of pissed off potheads is probably a terrible plan for changing minds about marijuana laws. And in this case, also a rather ridiculous waste of perfectly good pot.

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Yes and No

Scott - 

I hear your concern loud and clear.  And I agree that in general, democracy at its best, is a dialogue in which both sides speak their minds, listen to each other and work out their differences through compromise.

Unfortunately, democracy at its worst is when a powerful minority oppresses a politically disenfranchised minority and nothing changes until the minority takes a stand, heads roll, people die, and finally laws are changed (i.e. the Equal Rights movement).

But I gotta say - I was so psyched when I read about these New Zealanders.  The message it sent around the world is - normal every day people are sick and tired of this shit and they're (we're!) not going to take it anymore!  The brazenness of their act sends a clear message, too.  People aren't afraid.  People are finding their voice - and it feels good.  Will this incident add fuel to the prohibitionist agenda?  Maybe.  But maybe it will also encourage people around the globe to stand up and be counted instead of hiding in the closet.  Change is happening and it can't be stopped.  

Re: Yes and No

The message it sent around the world is - normal every day people are sick and tired of this shit and they're (we're!) not going to take it anymore!

I dunno, I think the message it sends is that crazy people with more weed than they know what to do with are sick and tired of this shit and they're attacking police stations.

Kick Out The Jams

Scott, don't be such and old fogie. You've become too middle-class. Flower power was always about weed.

Dispensaries and Doctors?

While we're talking about legalizing cannabis, let's focus our attention on the incredibly dubious connection between doctors and dispensaries. Basically, dispensaries are nothing more than buyers clubs for cannabis. They have no connection to doctors other than as legitimizers, in the eyes of the law, their trade. For instance, no MD is going to write a prescription for Blueberry Skunk vs. OG Kush.

So what?

Not sure what point you're trying to make there. Doctors are legally prevented from a proper medical approach to cannabis by virtue of its schedule 1 status at the federal level. Does that mean they should refuse to work in accordance with state law to help sick people gain access to safe and effective medicine? The doctors are simply working within the awkward confines they're given. The hippocratic oath demands no less.

New Zealand Bush burning


I guess I could be described as a conservative New Zealand Cannabis law reformer , well more so medical cannabis but lobby for recreational as well.

While I personally cringed when I first heard about the burn up in the police station, on reflection and after having chatted with some of the participants I grudgingly accept they may have done more good than harm.

For a start ,any publicity is good publicity , and frankly unless its a stunt like this the media ignore us. secondly it sent a rather load message the Police do not consider cannabis to be anything other than a non event, otherwise they would have arrested a whole bunch of people,,rather than grin as they wheeled the smoking stems of cabbage away.


The outcome has been rather interesting , for the most part people think it was a foolish act but are more vocal about suggesting its a foolish law that forced them to go that far in frustration.


The strange thing is under 9 yrs of a green/ left wing  govt we made no progress towards any sort of CLR even medical, Under an ultra conservative right wing govt we have now, Sativex was given the green light.

I just hope some over enthusiastic prosecutor does not decide to enhance his standing and throw the book at them, but not so sure they would not welcome it as a way to get even more attention by mass roaring Lions.



civil disobedience

Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence.  ~Juvenal; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: rgb(182, 171, 142); line-height: 1.4em; font: normal normal normal 13px/1.5 Helvetica, Arial, 'Liberation Sans', FreeSans, sans-serif; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; background-repeat: repeat no-repeat; ">

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.  ~Albert Einstein

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.  ~Voltaire

When leaders act contrary to conscience, we must act contrary to leaders.  ~Veterans Fast for Life

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.  ~Mark Twain

Integrity has no need of rules.  ~Albert Camus

Maybe we should copy a technique from the drug cartels

and start hanging banners on highway overpasses, drenched in blood and with statistics on deaths caused by cannabis compared to deaths caused by alcohol and deaths caused by the war on cannabis. Maybe that would also be going too far for public opinion, but there must be some good ways to be in their stonewalling face about this. Maybe a banner could just ask the question of how many people each substance kills, and then the obvious follow up question: so why is it the safer substance that is illegal?

People are touchy about fire and touchy about police stations

Part of me of course admires this, but I think I hope no one imitates them. There's got to be more fully non-violent ways of doing this. If they've got pot to burn, maybe they could be giving pot away, maybe to MMJ patients who can't afford black or gray market prices, that would make a nice 'feel good' soft news story.

Wellington Protesters Flunk Provocateuring 101

They did it wrong.  Other than retaliation, the only possible value of a cannabis-bomb is to get authoritarians to freak out and do something crazy and evil enough to get themselves into big trouble.  It didn’t happen.  Big blah instead. Maybe all the authoritarians had the day off.

Ferreting out the authoritarian (AKA most prohibitionists) is an art—literally.  George Orwell wrote about it in “All Art is Propaganda”  Various art movements like Dada made it clear that authoritarians hate abstract art the way rats hate smelling cat piss.  Art that’s emerged from the drug culture is usually abstract and thus serves its function well.

The thing is that when a political movement is winning, it doesn’t need to do crazy stuff to get attention.  That’s yesterday.  Who cares if the authoritarians piss themselves?  They do it all the time, although it is fun to press their buttons and watch the idiots react.  What matters is that they never be allowed to assume power.

Winning means that the winners display a certain amount of decorum and dignity.  The drug war is a serious business.  And we’re winning.  It’s not just about the right to inhale or the ability to smoke the cops.  It’s about the death and destruction that spews from a pit of hell called the drug war.


Probably attempted arson.

I saw the video of the protest. They looked more like a bunch of drunks after a soccer game loss.

That was one group I would not of been involved with. Pushing a burning cart of anything into a building is also a stupid and dangerous thing to to. I can see arson or attempted arson charges from that.

I am embarrassed for the movement due to that groups actions.

They make pot smokers look like a roudy and violent group.

police plants

I think many of these kinds of incidents are done by people put up to it by law enforcement, simply to discredit cannabis users.  I'm not certain that was the case in this situation, but I'm pretty certain we had a lot of that during the Prop. 19 campaign.

getting off the point

Geez! So sorry these protesters didn't obey the proper protest etiquette and tie everything up in a nice neat little bow for y'all. Okay - they could have done it better - so what!! You're missing the point. The war on drugs is sheer bullshit and idiocy and the (debatable) idiocy of these protesters (1) pales in comparison; and (2) is a distraction from the main travesty here which is - Our war on drugs is a complete fleecing of the American public of gargantuan and tragic proportions. And to wax on about a protest that could have been conducted more maturely is like a slave complaining about another slave being too "upity". The problem here are not the slaves, folks. The problem here are the slave owners. No matter how you dice it - its not the victims that created this oppression. And I for one am tired of asking for freedom nicely.

The "(debatable) idiocy" is a distraction from the message

"The war on drugs is sheer bullshit and idiocy and the (debatable) idiocy of these protesters (1) pales in comparison; and (2) is a distraction from the main travesty here...."

The "(debatable) idiocy" is a distraction from the message and efforts to foster reasonable dialogue, like California Prop. 19 achieved.  If many of us dedicated reformers are having trouble sympathizing with the actions of those New Zealanders, do you expect the general public to be more receptive?  You go down that road of setting a container of weed on fire at a police station and there is always some crazy encouraged to take it to the next level.  What's next bombing police stations like the drug cartels to make them see our way?  Do you want the movement to be painted as fostering domestic terrorists and movement leaders being monitored, harrassed, and sabotaged by the FBI, because our govt is very good at that.  I'm in this movement to increase law and order in our society, not decrease it more than it already is thanks to our drug war.  I would not think twice about publicly speaking out against such idiotic behavior if it happened in this country.  The goal is to paint the opposition as increasingly unreasonable, violent and idiotic, not go down to that level.  We are on the right course, the winds are at our backs, the DEA and other narco hooligans are going down and know it, so lets not try to muddy the water. 

Reasonable dialogue

"The "(debatable) idiocy" is a distraction from the message and efforts to foster reasonable dialogue"

I don't agree that there has ever been a reasonable dialogue.  Prohibition (and debating it) has nothing to do with reason.  What you are talking about is waging a successful PR campaign in which weed is associated with families and people in suits and ties earning $100K or more (which is really a lie - or at least deceptive).  And you want to wage this campaign because you know, as well as I, if people listed to reason you wouldn't have to wage a PR campaign.

So the question is, does the ends justify the means?  Maybe it does.  Then again, maybe it doesn't.  And maybe, although it frustrates people, the important thing here is hanging on to our civil liberties - having the right to demonstrate - having the right to be an outcast and labeled a fool.  People in glass houses, I always say.

Re: "I don't agree that there has ever been a reasonable..."

"I don't agree that there has ever been a reasonable dialogue.  Prohibition (and debating it) has nothing to do with reason.  What you are talking about is waging a successful PR campaign in which weed is associated with families and people in suits and ties earning $100K or more (which is really a lie - or at least deceptive)."

I agree that Prohibition is unreasonable, but it's our job show how unreasonable the other side is, not to appear half-baked.  I don't understand why you think wearing a suit and tie at reform press conference or other event is associated with a particular economic status, or why showing parents supporting marijuana regulation and taxation is deceptive.  Out of the 4.5 million California voters who supported Proposition 19, I'm sure there were plenty of mothers and fathers that supported it.  We should work hard to put their face on the next initiative. 

 "it's our job show how


"it's our job show how unreasonable the other side is, not to appear half-baked"

Yes - the other side is unreasonable.  Whether or not you or I "appear" half baked, who defines what "half baked" is – and our right to be ourselves - is another issue.   I’m sure there are many faces that the marijuana lobby would like to avoid.  I find this distasteful, and contrary to the idea of civil liberties which, ironically, the marijuana lobby is fighting for.  This is what I meant when I wrote "the ends justify the means" in my previous post.

Defy stereotypes is the best way to piss off prohibitionists

Sorry but this sort of violence (even if nobody gets hurt) can get out of hand real easy once you get it started.

If you must hold an outdoor gathering, such as a vigil, the gold standard of all drug policy reform actions should be people well-dressed and conducting themselves professionally with moms and dads bringing their kids to gather at the right place at the right time with the right message.  Most people are normal productive members of society and they tend to relate best to people like them.  The "authoritarian" police and lawmakers, especially in conservative communities, will often crudely portray reformers and marijuana users as irresponsible college-age, counterculture types with no respect for the law, so by defying stereotypes (instead of playing right into them), you will either piss them off more or, even better, win them over.

this sort of violence?

"This sort of violence"?  

The violence here is PROHIBITION.  Demonstrations against prohibition was caused by prohibition.  Stop blaming slavery on the slaves!  

A tough call...

I think one of the biggest mistake these protesters made was attacking a police station, and not their courthouse/legislators/parliament.

The police only enforce the laws, they don't make them. But they are the front line in dealing with consumers, so I can understand why they made the mistake they did.

Unfortunately, as several others have pointed out, it doesn't really send the right message (Though I still applaud them for their disobedience!!).

If there is one thing cannabis consumers are known for, it's being non-violent -- and it's absolutely critical that we not do anything to show otherwise. This comes dangerously close to crossing that line, but I don't think it did.

Mmmm no

Take a minute and compare alcohol to cannabis.  How each is made, the side effects, the aftermath, the "dangers"...alcohol should be illegal, ever see a drunken rally?  You get people en mass, and you'll see a bunch of idiots.  It was quoted from Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black: "a person is smart, people are dumb, panicky animals...", how true. 

You can say there are plenty of dumb and dangerous people out there, but cannabis is NOT life-threatening, and should be an available choice for those who wish it.  If we were arguing acid, heroin, cocaine, then I wouldn't be speaking at all, but seriously, if you think cannabis is dangerous then you are weak willed and afraid of it, or never really tried it.  Get off your high horse and take a hit, I promise you'll be fine.



Until very recently, cannabis users have been stereotyped as "stoners."  This derogatory term has been part of a successful campaign to marginalize and disenfranchise a segment of our society in order to rob them of their political voice.  Now, in an attempt to become part of the political discussion and regain social standing, many in the marijuana lobby are trying to define the "face" of cannabis users.  Ironically, in so doing, they are marginalizing those who they don't want associated with their PR campaign.  

Who do you want to sell the idea of marijuana legalization?  Will it be a poor African-American who failed to graduate from high school?  Will it be a transvestite?  An overweight gay biker covered in tattoos riding a Harley with his partner?  People such as these are marginalized from society and the political process just like "stoners" were (and are).  And now they are being marginalized once again by many in the marijuana lobby who, like the rest of society, find them undesirable.  

Maybe that's one of the sacrifices we have to make in order to get marijuana legalized and regulated.  How ironic.  If we have to make this concession, we should do it knowingly and with gravitas, and be wary of judging others harshly.

No Effect

People always do what they believe. They don't want to consider what they need to consider. Once they need it then they will dare to use it even by breaking law which in the end breaks with creating a law. So, there won't be no effect by not legalizing the marijuana.

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