CANNABIS CULTURE – Six thousand people cheered as the Peace Tower clock hand moved to 4:20 PM on Parliament Hill in Ottawa this April 20th.
The demonstration was free of incident. There were no arrests. Many people brought bongs, pipes and rolling papers to smoke marijuana on the front lawn and steps of Parliament Hill. The day was overcast with occasional sun and a chilly wind. People danced to a saxophone and bongos. There were bubbles. Security stood at the edges with smiles and waves. Local head shops passed out business cards.
Russell Barth and Marc-Boris St. Maurice spoke through a speaker system.
Russell Barth shouted out, “Someone asked me, is this the day you encourage kids to smoke pot? I don’t know. Marijuana got me out of a wheel chair. Marijuana keeps me from drinking and drugging myself into a stupor every day.”
“Marijuana keeps me up and around, feeling fine so I can take care of my epileptic wife, twenty-four seven. So what I want to tell you guys today is to be active, use your vote. It’s your vote that counts. Start e-mailing your MPs, e-mail the Mayor. E-mail everybody. Don’t just sit home and play Warcraft. Get high, write some letters then play Warcraft.”
“Why are we here? We’re not just here to smoke pot which a lot of people do. A lot of people don’t. It doesn’t mean you have to be against legalization. Smoking pot is one thing, changing the law is important. We are wasting millions of dollars running after people who simply decided to smoke marijuana rather than having a drink or going to the casino. Marijuana is by far no worse than any other behaviour. Ninety percent are in favour of legal medical marijuana yet the government makes it virtually impossible for those who need it to have access. And even right now our government is passing worse and more harsh laws against marijuana users. Mandatory minimum sentences are absolutely awful.”
Boo Hiss Catcalls
Russell Barth said, “The harder the laws get the more people react and you people there, are proof that this new law is going to do nothing to stop people from using marijuana. Stephen Harper admitted the war on drugs is a failure yet he’s still going in the opposite direction with harder laws. He’s admitting to failure but going ahead with these policies. That’s the most absurd thing we’ve ever seen, especially when you look at South America. Fifty thousand people in the last ten years have been executed because of the drug war violence and it’s absolutely shameful and horrible. Innocent people. Innocent people are being cut down – being controlled.
“People also tell me you can’t legalize pot because the U.S. Will never let you. In California now pot is more legal then it is in Amsterdam. We’re a sovereign country. We don’t need anyone else to tell us what to do with our laws. We know it’s good policy. So today almost everyone is smoking pot. One day a year smoking a joint isn’t something we just do for fun. Today we enjoy it as a political gesture. What you’re doing is civil disobedience. You are telling them that the law is wrong and the best way to change it is to break it every day.
Marc-Boris St. Maurice said, “On this, the 30th anniversary of our Charter, thank God that we can actually come here and exercise those rights in front of Stephen Harper’s office, who obviously hates pot. Smoke your joint and there’s nothing he can do about it to stop you. For the sake of our future generations, to make way for a better world, we have to legalize marijuana. The best way we can do that is to break the law, show them how wrong they are, vote these people out of government. Enjoy yourself. So party on cause 4/20 is once a year, this is your holiday.”
“In ten minutes it will be 4/20. We hope the sun comes out for us and show Stephen Harper that marijuana users mean business. We’re not going to let him kick us around anymore.” Marc-Boris added and the crowd cheered.
Six thousand people counted down 3…2…1…
Massive clouds of smoke blew over the crowd. Someone shouted, “Call the fire department. You’re all under arrest.”
“My name is Albert,” said a man. I’ve met Marc once or twice. He’s a great guy. I ordered a book from him when he ran City Lights. I lived in London back then. I’d like to say, I hope you’re home soon, Marc. We really miss you and we’re really proud of you. A lot of people admire your courage and what you’ve done. The extradition was a bunch of bull. It was political. He protected his friends and for that reason alone, I know he didn’t fight the charges even though he stood a good chance of winning. Hope to see him soon. It’s a great turn out and shows how our government is out of step and needs to wake up. Change is coming. Redirect all that money into good stuff.”
A woman holding up a Free Marc Emery sign said, “I saw Marc Emery speak once and he was quite eloquent and I was already for it, but all the more after hearing him. I’ve been spreading the news, educating people, getting the word out.”
Jacques from Gatineau said, “I’m waiting for the moment when I can shake Marc’s hand right here. We demonstrate for him. At the Pride rally I spoke of him and said, to bring him back, end Prohibition. I remember one time Jack Layton stood on the same steps and said, ‘You are not criminals.'”
“We go to the Law School at the University of Ottawa,” said a man with a group. “I’ve heard a lot of recent marijuana cases have been delayed in the courts. I know there are defense lawyers in Toronto right now who are trying to show it’s cruel and unusual punishment. There’s no reason to take away a judge’s ability to adjudicate. Hopefully the courts will see it’s unconstitutional and Mr. Harper’s government will make that change. I don’t think there’s a link to organized crime when you just grow six plants. Maybe Harper can save a lot of money by getting rid of the judges.”
Marc-Boris St. Maurice said, “To everyone that came down, I’d like a special thank you to Graham. He did a lot of work here and had a lot of people who helped him. Also to Mr. Galapo. We thank the people of Parliament Hill and the police. Their tolerance is much appreciated. We understand it’s civil disobedience. We got a comfort zone going so let’s keep it that way. We respect them, they respect us. Everyone wins.”
People hung out, talked, made friends, laughed and moved to their inner music in this quiet, smokey, indictable sit-down riot. At a few minutes after five the crowd moved on to spread cheer to six thousand cash registers for dinner. That’s how that day’s indictable riot went down.
Roy Berger is the author of 2012 Rabbits and the Happy Apocalypse On Shortwave Radio and Cloud City Colorado in 1880 – Too Far West, both available on Amazon.com.