On June 5, 2004, about 3,500 Canadians from all across the country gathered at the Parliament buildings in the nation’s capital of Ottawa, Ontario. Perfect weather and the Madison Avenue-quality event promotion skills of 23-year-old organizer Jody Pressman left activists feeling victorious after the biggest pot rally ever held in the center of Canada’s government.
The gathered crowd heard speakers like Loretta Nall, an American victim of police harassment and judicial prejudice, who leads the US Marijuana Party and anchors the Pot-TV news. This firebrand from America’s conservative south seems destined to become America’s unofficial ambassador to Canada. She delivered her opening line in a smooth Alabama accent, “Hi, I’m Loretta Nall from the United States, and I think our government sucks too. So let’s get off our asses and do something!”
Other speakers included a retired American narcotics cop, high-profile Canadian attorneys, leaders in the Canadian Federal Marijuana Party, Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery, BC activist David Malmo-Levine, and other prominent pot-people from across the country.
Although scheduled to appear, Canadian senator Pierre Claude Nolin and federal NDP MP Libby Davies were both no-shows. However, both had prepared messages of support to be delivered by others in their stead. Along with her paternally congenial boss, NDP leader Jack Layton, Davies advocates full, but regulated, legalization of marijuana use and cultivation.
To this American’s first visit, Ottawa proved itself a clean and classy city that brings together the polarized personalities of stodgy members of Parliament with headshop hipsters and compassion club devotees. The next time I’m in Ottawa, I don’t think you’ll find me snapping shots of the Parliament clock tower. Instead, I’ll be down at Fill the Hill sponsor Mike Foster’s Crosstown Traffic head shop, still high on life from Fill the Hill 2005.
? Fill the Hill: www.fillthehill.ca