Steve Miller-Miller speaking at the Independence Mall Smokedown February 9th. Photo by Dustin Slaughter
By Kenneth Lipp
Twice now, once in December of 2012 and again last month, approximately 150 people gathered at the northeast corner of Independence Mall, gave speeches both satirical and curtly political extolling the merits of ending the legal prohibition of marijuana, and at 4:20 p.m. lit and collectively smoked dozens of doobies. This Sunday, they aim to blaze one at the Liberty Bell again, and in contrast to the two previous frigid dates, where the glassy-eyed demonstrators largely had the National Historic Site to themselves, they’ll likely have a good bit of company due to fairer weather and St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
4:20, ‘Moment of Cannabis Reflection.’ Photo by Dustin Slaughter
‘We have chosen St. Patrick’s day, a holiday known for people’s excessive use of alcohol and belligerent behavior, to demonstrate the stark difference between behaviors associated with cannabis and alcohol users. It’s very clear to see that cannabis is safer. There have never been any deaths or overdoses associated with cannabis. And while thousands of Philadelphians get drunk and abuse alcohol on this day, cannabis, an herb which is known to treat multiple ailments and even cure cancer remains illegal. We hope these acts of civil disobedience will debunk stereotypes about cannabis and further our movement to legalize it in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,’ said Panic Hour organizers from their undisclosed bunker location.
The purpose of the Smoke Down Prohibition events is to raise awareness about the social issues that are directly related to the prohibition of cannabis and support recent bipartisan moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a hefty federal pot tax.
The press release also included an advisory: “Those who may be participating in civil disobedience are aware of the following: The National Park Service can issue a citation for marijuana possession. This is usually not a custodial arrest – it is a summons to federal court that can be settled by paying a $175 fine. This only applies to those in possession of a SMALL amount (i.e. a joint) and their legal ID.”
No arrests or citations were reported during the first Smokedown on December 15, nor was there any law enforcement involvement on February 9th when I attended (sober, as a member of the press). A US Park Ranger in an SUV observed from a distance by the Visitor’s Center, and the Philadelphia Police Civil Affairs officers on site never left their unmarked white Taurus (in 2010 Philadelphia made possession of small amounts of marijuana a summary offense, a move William Bender of the Philadelphia Daily News accurately described as “backdoor decriminalization,” which provides a similar monetary penalty as the federal charge).
This Sunday, however, the sight and aroma of 100-200 congregants demanding pot legalization over a loudspeaker before cranking up the Reggae and smoking dozens of joints and blunts will likely be noticed by parents in line with their children to see the Liberty Bell.
The Declaration will be on scene Sunday to bring you coverage of the demonstration.
Time: Sunday March 17, 2013 from 3:30PM to 4:35PM, 4:20PM – Moment of Cannabis Reflection
Location: Independence Mall located at 5th St and Market Sts, Philadelphia, PA