On Saturday, millions of people around the world rallied together for the 2015 Global Cannabis March. Rallies took place all over the United States, many in states where marijuana is still illegal. These organizations gathered together with one common goal, to urge lawmakers to reform their states’ drug polices to be in line with the needs of the American people.
Thousands of people attend rally in Fort Worth, Texas
More than 3,200 people participated in Fort Worth’s third Global Marijuana March. The demonstrators marched toward the courthouse in downtown Fort Worth, gathered there, and staged a massive protest. Dozens of police officers stood by and watched protesters openly smoke marijuana.
Support has grown more than 600% since Fort Worth’s first Global Marijuana March. In 2013, 500 people attended the first Global Marijuana March. In 2014, over 2,000 attended the march.
The event was organized by the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The event was a major success even though it faced obstacles such as a $5,000 charge for the event, significantly more than previous years due to the increased number of participants. This unexpected cost prevented the group from putting up billboards and other forms of advertisement.
The event featured a number of speakers who delivered a consistent message to supporters: “contact your legislators.”
One of those speakers, Barbara Humphries, who has been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer, at one point read aloud the phone number of State Representative Abel Herrero, who recently manipulated procedure in the state Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to vote down a marijuana penalty reduction bill.
Humphries urged everyone to save the phone number and call Representative Herrero’s office to demand that the bill be voted out of committee.
Many residents watched the rally from the sidewalks and most were either supportive or neutral. One man, however, kept yelling at marchers telling them they needed to go back to their couches.
Houston also saw increased support for medical marijuana this year. Dozens of advocates marched in downtown Houston in support of marijuana bills. The marchers wanted to raise awareness about various marijuana legalization bills in the Texas legislature.
The first Global Marijuana Day March was held in 1999. The event on Saturday was the first large scale marijuana march held in Houston.
Iowans rally for medical marijuana
Iowa has been at the center of a controversy in the medical marijuana industry. Two weeks ago, the Iowa Senate passed Senate Bill 484 which expands upon the number of conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana. The bill would allow up to four growers regulated by the state to sell marijuana through independent dispensaries. The bill, however, has seen significant pushback from House Speaker Kraig Paulsen who said that the House will not consider a medical marijuana bill this session.
On Saturday, hundreds of marijuana advocates rallied across downtown and stopped at the Iowa Capitol to discuss why the state needs to legalize medical marijuana. Advocates heard from a number of supporters like 39-year-old Angel Francis-Kline. Every day, Kline takes around 12 to 16 pills to treat her fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and early on-set menopause. The combination of her medication, which include Cymbalta and Hydrocodone gives her seizures, which causes dangerous situations, especially when she is driving.
“It’s living every day in pain,” Francis-Kline. said. “What they’re making me take is poison.”
Kline stated that one day she took a hit of hash oil concentrate and said that she safely drove home, felt no pain for over six hours and was able to fall asleep around midnight rather than the usual 3 a.m.
Ray Lakers, organizer for the Iowa Hemp Freedom Rally, spoke out against Governor Terry Branstad for his stance against legal marijuana. Lakers referred to the governor as “Terryble.”
Advocates in South Carolina rally for medical marijuana reform
In South Carolina, Emily McSherry organized an event at One City Plaza in Greenville. Approximately 100 medical marijuana supporters gathered together to create awareness.
McSherry suffers from seizures caused by epilepsy and she uses cannabidiol (CBD) to treat her illness. McSherry hopes that a medical marijuana bill introduced in the South Carolina Senate will be approved. Medical marijuana is illegal in South Carolina. Residents who suffer from certain illnesses, however, can access cannabis oil.
“Even though I started out researching for my own use, now I feel the compassion of being able to expand this for everyone in our state, everyone in the country, in the world even,” McSherry said.
There are a number of people who do not agree with McSherry. One of them is Rich Jones, the executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, an organization that helps people recover from substance abuse. Jones says medical marijuana shouldn’t be legalized.
Jones said, “The picture of it being safe and benign and not a big deal is a problem. It creates a mentality that it’s acceptable and it’s okay, and increases the number of kids who will try this.”
Idaho petition for medical marijuana gains steam
On Saturday, a large group of medical marijuana advocates marched in downtown Boise. The advocates were creating awareness by distributing a petition to legalize medical marijuana.
A group called New Approach Idaho, along with other supporters, marched and rallied for the legalization of cannabis in Idaho.
Serra Frank, the President of New Approach Idaho said, “There are children all over the state of Idaho who need this as medicine, or at least need the opportunity to try this as a medicine, and they don’t have time to wait.”
The petition that they were creating awareness for would legalize medical marijuana, create an industrial hemp program for Idaho farmers, and decriminalize the possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana.
Organizers of the petition have seen much more support this time around. This is the third time that the New Approach Idaho group has tried a similar petition. The group needs to gather over 47,000 signatures over the next year and they already have about 4,000.
The Administrator of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy, Elisha Figueroa, says her office is opposed to marijuana legalization, including medical marijuana.
Figueroa said, “Medication in the United States is approved only after extensive, scientifically rigorous research is conducted, and the Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly ruled that marijuana is not medicine.”
Marijuana advocates in New York rally for recreational marijuana
On Saturday, hundreds of people participated in the fourth annual NYC Cannabis Parade in New York City’s Union Square. The demonstrators rallied to support the legalization of marijuana in New York State.
Troy Smit is the organizer of the parade. Smit told NBC News that the purpose of the NYC Cannabis Parade is to “end the war on drugs, release the medicine, free the prisoners, heal the sick, and unite the nations.”
Jack Cole, Co-Founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a retired New Jersey state police officer and undercover narcotics detective, told the crowd, “When I retired, I felt very bad about my role in implementing this drug war because it’s destroyed so many people.”
Support for legal marijuana continues to grow at rapid rates and the American people are reaching a breaking point. On Saturday, thousands of pro-marijuana rallies took place all over the world which further proves that the world is ready for change. Governments need to be proactive when it comes to important social issues like marijuana. Change is coming. The legalization of marijuana is no longer a question of if, but when. Governments continue to delay the inevitable which is time consuming, expensive, and completely unnecessary.