Tag Archives: Activist

In memory of cannabis activist Laura Kriho

By Sarah Haas – February 9, 2017

In September 2013, Boulder was soaking wet, but on the 23rd the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun shined down on the bricks of Pearl Street. It was there Laura Kriho joined a group of cannabis freedom fighters who gathered to hand out hundreds of free joints amid spontaneous chants of “Free the weed!” As with any good protest chant its meaning wasn’t just literal, but symbolic of a bigger picture.

The weed given away that day had been in jail, actually locked in an evidence room for the past two years. When it was released to lawyer Rob Corry, he, Kriho and others in the activist community decided to give it away. They hoped to call attention to the marijuana tax issue appearing on the upcoming November ballot as Proposition AA, a marijuana tax hike to which they were staunchly opposed.

Kriho thought that Amendment 64 was already too strict and the additional taxes that would be instituted with Proposition AA were a step backwards, away from a free market and toward prohibition. Later that week, Kriho wrote about the giveaway in a guest column for “Weed Between the Lines” in Boulder Weekly: “This tax debate highlights what has become a very clear division between cannabis supporters. There are those who support an expensive ‘strict regulation’ model paid for by high taxes, and there are those who continue to support simple “legalization” with reasonable taxes and regulations.

“To most people, ‘legalization’ means that prohibition laws are repealed, people are no longer punished for cannabis use, and police resources are used to fight serious crimes. However, A64’s ‘strict regulation’ model does the opposite of this in many cases. The A64 model allows some people to have some marijuana at some times, but it continues marijuana prohibition for other people with other amounts of marijuana at other times.”

A cannabis activist in Boulder since 1992, Kriho didn’t just fight for legalization, but for “marijuana freedom” beyond regulation, taxes and industry. Whether working to legalize industrial hemp at the federal level in the mid-’90s, ushering in Amendment 20 to bring medical marijuana programs to Colorado in the aughts or for patient’s rights and adult-use cannabis in more recent years, Kriho was a staple of the front lines, fighting to liberate cannabis from prohibitionist laws and attitudes.

Friend, fellow activist and chairman of the U.S. Marijuana Party William Wayward Chengelis remembers the day he met Kriho, in 2008 at a Youth International Party rally taking place at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“I’d heard about her before — I mean, when you look at hemp or cannabis in the state of Colorado, Laura’s been there since the beginning — she’s always been there,” he says. “And now that I’ve known her and worked by her side I can say that she always stood up for what she believed and never backed down, not once. She was a yippie through and through.”

A term from the ’60s for politically active hippies fighting for freedom and against war, Kriho wore the yippie badge proudly, but it wasn’t always easy. People didn’t always like her, even more people disagreed and still more categorically wrote her views off as unrealistic.

On top of that, she wasn’t successful half as much as she was unsuccessful. Her early federal hemp bills were killed in the Senate, year-after-year, the medical policies she espoused were disfigured beyond recognition by the time they made their way to state law and despite fighting against Amendment 64 because it was too regulated, too corporate and too prohibitionist, it passed. Even Proposition AA, which she sought to combat by handing out free joints, passed by a wide margin. And yet her influence cannot be overlooked nor her tenacity understated.

“One of the things about us yippies is that we get in your face,” Chengelis says. “Laura got in people’s faces. Sometimes she won, sometimes she lost, but she never gave up.“

For Kriho, there was no such thing as compromise and concession was not an option — she knew her stuff, knew what she believed in and didn’t temper herself in voicing her opinions. In many ways she was the epitome of Trump’s “nasty woman,” a term hurled as an insult but claimed as a heroic trait, and it is precisely in this spirit that she and her activism gain their most salient legacy.

“Her and I have two philosophies in life,” Chengelis says. “First, what you don’t know, learn. What you do know, teach.

“The other is: Show up, do the work and hope for positive results. That is where her and I met and that’s where we always agreed. You gotta get out there and you gotta do it. You can say whatever you want, but if you do not show up and do the work, nothing gets done.”

Surrounded by friends and family, Laura Kriho died on Jan. 30, 2017, in Boulder, at the age of 52.

CONTINUE READING…

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The life and tragic death of cannabis advocate Jenny Kush

Thursday, September 19, 2013 | 2 years ago

The life and tragic death of cannabis advocate Jenny Kush

Labor Day weekend is regarded as one of the biggest drunk-driving holidays on the calendar, right up there with Memorial Day, New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving. Statistics support it: According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 1,342 people were arrested over a nineteen-day stretch between August 16 and September 3 of this year for suspected driving under the influence.

One of them was Rebecca Maez.

CONTINUE READING…

‘The Solution I Propose Is Massive Civil Disobedience’

Scholar Charles Murray wants “to make large chunks of the regulatory code unenforceable.” How? “I want to put sugar in the government’s gas tank.”

 

ASPEN, Colo.––Scholar Charles Murray traces his latest book back to a story he heard from a family friend: a small business owner who found himself targeted by a federal regulatory agency. “Like most businesses of his sort, he employs Latino workers, non-citizens,” he said during a session Monday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “Unlike almost all employers of such labor, they’re all documented. He spends $20K or $30K a year on visas to bring the same people back year after year. He pays good wages. And he made himself a soft target by documenting his workers.”

As Murray tells it, this perversely led to more federal scrutiny, a fine for technically violating a niggling regulation, and the businessman’s vow to fight that fine.

Then a federal regulator vowed to put him out of business if he dared to fight. And this so infuriated Murray that he nearly stopped listening––that is, until a vision came to him.

“I had this image in my mind of a guy in a pin stripe suit appearing out of nowhere,” he recalled, “tapping the bureaucrat on the shoulder, and saying, ‘We are taking this man’s case. He won’t pay a dime for it. We will pursue this case until you are sick of us. We will use all of the legal procedures we can to drag it out. And when at the end you finally fine him for violating this stupid, pointless regulation that he did in fact violate, we will reimburse his fine.’” That made him feel better.

 

And now, at book length, he is arguing for something like that approach to fighting a regulatory state he regards as far more powerful than the Constitution permits.

He is advocating for massive civil disobedience of a particular kind, wherein Americans willfully ignore the most absurd, unfair rules and penalties imposed by independent regulatory agencies, meanwhile paying into a legal defense fund that covers costs for whoever bears the brunt of the government’s always-selective enforcement efforts. His notion is that with enough participation by the regulated, the regulators will no longer be able to bully their way to imposing fines–they’ll find themselves stymied by the same costly legal process they would otherwise use to their advantage.  “I’m trying to make large chunks of the regulatory code unenforceable,” he declared. “I want to put sugar in the government’s gas tank."

He is quick to add that he is perfectly fine with a wide range of sensible regulations, and that only a narrow subset of regulations ought to be disobeyed, offering this rule of thumb: if the matter in question were to become a news story in the mass media, the vast majority of Americans would side with the rule-breaker. He offered the example of a bartender with whom he corresponded––she was fined $3,000 for failing to card a customer, and while he granted the legitimacy of requiring alcohol sellers to check the ages of customers, he felt it was unfair to fine the bartender in this particular situation as the customer was her father. (It was presumably a state rather than a federal bureaucracy imposing that fine).

Discussing a trend of voices on the right advocating for civil disobedience, James Poulos aptly explained why they would have trouble succeeding as broad social movements. “Without a shared understanding of the nature of American freedom,” he wrote, “any attempt to use civil disobedience to resist a particular set of policies will come off as just another expression of the thirst for political rule.”

Yet it isn’t clear to me that the course Murray is urging requires a broad social coalition to succeed: perhaps deep-pocketed interest groups collaborating to fight battles against the regulatory state can quietly succeed in grinding enforcement to a halt. If so, I see no reason to think that the legal strategy would be used restrainedly, on the narrow category of instances when Murray would regard it as legitimate.

But I think he would reply that elites are already inoculated against overweening regulatory rules and their selective enforcement––he noted that the rich presently have the power to shape administrative regulations through lobbying, to keep the best attorneys on retainer, and to hire people to deal with the tremendous amounts of compliance burdens that government requires. But a typical American who runs up against the regulatory behemoth scarcely has a chance. Success as he defines it would mean that, to these less privileged Americans trying to run business or pursue a profession, the state suddenly looks “more like the Wizard of Oz after the curtain has been pulled aside than when you just hear the booming voice."

CONTINUE READING…

RE: Erin Grossman Vu

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Ms. Erin Grossman Vu, a popular activist for medical marijuana in Kentucky passed from this life on April 10th, 2015.

She was born May 30th, 1974.  She was 40 years old.

She suffered from “congenital heart disease”.

She passed at home where she was staying with Henry and Debbie Fox since December 2014.

Kentucky Activist’s  lost a great partner in the fight for freedom from prohibition of Cannabis.

I first met Erin in 2010 when she and her Sister visited me in Louisville when I lived there.

Her funeral arrangements are being made at this time and the details so far are as follows:  (please

watch Henry Fox on Facebook for any updates).

 

Mike Whosoever Miller will be holding the services.

The services will be held at Newcomer Funeral Home at 7 pm Wednesday.

The address is:

235 Juneau drive, Louisville KY 40243.

If you need info or anything at all please call Henry Fox at 502-640-5609.

 

Your presence will be appreciated.

Donations to “Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition”.

Marc Emery Prison Blog: How I Began My Plan to Overgrow the Government

By Marc Emery – Thursday, February 27 2014

 

CANNABIS CULTURE – Since the 20th anniversary of my activism in British Columbia is approaching on April 11th, I thought I would write a series of blogs about my early years, when there was no movement, no legal medical marijuana anywhere, books and magazines about cannabis were banned in Canada – in essence, there was nothing. Over the next few months I’ll tell you about great moments in my life where I contributed to the marijuana movement and helped changed several laws.

My history is packed with well-documented campaigns and pivotal moments. It includes the day in August 1996 when Dennis Peron was was with me in Vancouver for a large rally in historic Gastown, occupying the intersection that, 25 years earlier, had been the scene of the "Grasstown Police Riot" (where cops attacked and injured dozens of peaceful pot advocates and innocent bystanders), and his pioneering medical cannabis building in San Francisco was raided. I encouraged him to make a phone speech rallying his supporters to not back down – the after-effect of which really pushed the California voters in favour of Proposition 215.

Other significant events include my times with Jack Herer in the very early days (1991); selling banned marijuana books and magazines door-to-door in early 1994 to establish myself in Vancouver (after doing the same in Ontario years earlier, to challenge the laws prohibiting marijuana literature); producing the first issue of The Marijuana & Hemp Newsletter in 1994, which became Cannabis Canada magazine a year later, then Cannabis Culture in 1998; how I was inspired in November 1994 to "Overgrow the Government" by funding activism through seed sales; publishing my 1995 article "How To Open Your Own Hemp Store" that kickstarted a revolution across Canada (and continues to this day); underwriting the early days of the Marijuana Policy Project (1998); contributing to the success of the medical marijuana initiative in Washington DC (1998), Colorado and Arizona (2000); my role in making medical marijuana legal in Canada (1999); creating Pot TV, the first online cannabis video website in the world, with its construction beginning on January 1, 2000; going to the Canadian Supreme Court to legalize pot in December 2003 (and the ten years of court battles leading to that); and stories of how my many adversaries who once persecuted and prosecuted me became activist anti-prohibitionists, including Vancouver Mayors Philip Owen and Larry Campbell, Vancouver ‘GrowBusters’ chief Kash Heed, and Washington State District Attorney (and my prosecutor) John McKay.

Some great history reviews lay ahead, in this, the 20th anniversary year of Cannabis Culture and the retail-activist revolution that is now growing everywhere. I should start with my early efforts in my hometown of London, Ontario.

 

In 1990 I had a radio show at the University of Western Ontario’s CHRW-FM called "Radio Free Speech: Revolution Thru Rock N’ Rap" and I loved playing the Dead Kennedy’s and the spoken-word albums of lead singer Jello Biafra. When his 1990 spoken word album "I Blow Minds for a Living" came out, I decided to have a Jello Biafra spoken-word performance at Centennial Hall (Dufferin Ave by Victoria Park). We sold 450 tickets to cover the cost of Centennial Hall and Jello’s $3,000 fee. As part of the contract, he was obligated to go on CHRW with me for a special 3-hour show the next day (Saturday), which was a highlight of my 18-month London radio career before I was fired in 1991 for criticizing the station’s lame newscast.

In this new album and at his Centennial Hall performance, Jello did as segment called "Grow More Pot", wherein, though not a pot smoker himself, he urged the audience to grow more pot based on his reading and recommending the (seminal) work of the then-ascendant hemp movement, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes". It was a book by Jack Herer – and it was banned in Canada!

Nowhere in Canada was this book offered for sale (and remember, this was before Amazon.com and the internet existed!) and I found out that the federal government of Canada had prohibited all books and magazines that spoke honestly of marijuana. Since I had a bookstore in London, the City Lights Bookshop on Richmond Street (now owned and operated since July 1992 by then-employees Jim & Teresa), I decided I would get this book and challenge the ban by selling it at City Lights.

After some cursory research, I found that everything to do with marijuana was illegal in Canada since an act of Parliament in 1987 had banned all books, magazines, pipes, bongs, video – all and anything to do with marijuana culture was prohibited under section 462.2 of the Canadian criminal code. Since 1987, over 500 shops selling bongs, pipes, High Times magazine, etc. had been shut down, and now in 1991 there were no longer any head shops (as they were called then), nor was High Times available on any newsstand in Canada! Penalties for a first-time conviction for selling books like "The Emperor" or magazines like High Times, or bongs and pipes, included a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to six months in jail for a first offense, and up to $300,000 for a second offense!

 

So I bought an ad in the daily London Free Press newspaper and announced that I would be selling the banned Jack Herer book to get arrested and go to court to challenge this law.

I sold over 100 copies of "The Emperor", but got no charge by police, nor was I raided. As a historical note, I had already been arrested and charged in previous attempts to change laws regarding Ontario’s Sunday-shopping prohibition (1986), and the province’s ban on explicit rap music (1990), so this was a technique that I had had good success with, up until this time. So I decided to go a little further and smuggled in hundreds of copies of every available marijuana grow guide, dozens of copies of back-issues of High Times, every copy of The Freak Brothers comics, all in huge quantities.

When we bought an ad in the London Free Press announcing this massive sale of over fifty different books and magazines – more than one thousand individual copies – I had over 150 people lined up outside the doors of City Lights at the 10:00am opening. Still, no police raid or arrest.

So I brought Jack Herer to town, to autograph copies of the book, and bought more ads flouting the law. Still… no arrest or charge. Then I flew in Ed Rosenthal to autograph copies of his books; Steve Hager (editor of High Times) for a special celebration dinner at the City-owned London Art Gallery, where over 100 people paid to attend; Paul Mavrides, writer and artist of the Freak Brothers, to autograph his comics.

 

I even gave away 300 copies of High Times to 300 people in front of the London police headquarters in February 1992 (since they law said ‘distributing’ any book or magazine was illegal, not just the selling of them) to force the London police to charge me. But they didn’t! So while I may not have had my day in court then to make marijuana literature legal, by having the law overturned, I did succeed at bringing important cannabis and hemp information into Canada when we had nothing available at all.

In 1994 I moved to Vancouver, and continued selling banned books and magazines on what became a huge scale. It was the cornerstone to getting established in my new West Coast base of operations; by June 1995, I was distributing 2,000 copies of High Times every month.

In the autumn of 1994, my friend Umberto Iorfida of Canada NORML was charged by Toronto police for handing out pamphlets to students at a high school where undercover narcs had entrapped teens by asking for marijuana. I undertook to finance his defense, and in July 1995, with lawyer Alan Young, Umberto and I got the aspect of the 462.2 law regarding media (books, magazines, video) struck down by Judge Ellen McDonald, in the Ontario Superior Court. This law, by the way, is still in the criminal code, because it was not overturned in the Canadian Supreme Court, but since the Ontario Crown did not appeal the Superior Court decision, the decision stands as law in Ontario.

That having been said, over the years, I have traveled to places that tried to ban my Cannabis Culture Magazine or High Times, like in Timmins, Ontario in 1999. The police went to convenience stores and told them that selling those magazines was illegal, and they’d have to stop. So I bought a half-page ad in the Timmins newspaper and went there to hand out 300 copies of my publication, Cannabis Culture Magazine, for several hours in front of the Timmins police station, daring them to try to charge me under 462.2. We ended up having an hours-long smoke-fest and street party in front of the police station. Media from all over Ontario covered that event, and Timmins police never tried that again.

In my peaceful civil disobedience regarding marijuana laws, I have been arrested 28 times in Canada, and jailed 22 times, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and this one very long stint in federal prison in these United States (where, as most people know, I did not travel to or spend any time as a seed seller).

I regard all of this as punishment for my political activities, as all of them were acts done under clearly-political auspices, and most – if not all – are unique in North America, Canada, or the USA. For example, I have been arrested and convicted in Vancouver of giving away one gram of hash (the witness was brought 2,000 miles from the United States to testify against me for one gram I gave him, for free, at my Cannabis Cafe in 1997); arrested and convicted for promoting vaporizers, a charge I can hardly believe exists; arrested and convicted for selling seeds (to my knowledge, no other Canadian has ever been convicted of selling just seeds); and arrested and convicted (and sentenced to three months in prison!) for passing one joint in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, at a rally after my speech at University of Saskatchewan in 2004 (although no joint or pot was ever produced to prove their charge, merely a 22-year-old witness’ claim, upon police inquiry, that I passed him a joint).

 

I was arrested and jailed six times on my 2003 Summer of Legalization Tour across Canada, which was a campaign to demonstrate that the marijuana prohibition laws were of no force and effect due to a court ruling in Ontario (click here to see archive coverage on Pot TV and Cannabis Culture). To challenge the law nationwife, I promoted a tour where I smoked a bong or one-ounce joint in front of police station headquarters in every major city in Canada – eighteen stops in nine provinces – and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in front of a huge RCMP phalanx. In those six arrests in Alberta (Calgary and Edmonton), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick, I was charged, but my charges – and charges against many Canadians – were later dropped when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in October 2003 that there was, in fact, no valid marijuana possession law in effect in Canada from 2001 to 2003 (it was reinstated by that court at the time, unfortunately).

I was not arrested during the other 12 stops that tour, in cities in British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I was also not arrested when I led a march in 2002 in Montreal at the Quebec Cannabis Cup after Montreal police arrested the organizer. I quickly responded with a bellicose protest immediately, took over the streets en route, and had a very confrontational conflict with riot-clad Montreal cops at the police station. I was also not arrested in my numerous attempts to get charged for selling banned marijuana literature in London, Ontario or Vancouver.

So whereas I have been arrested 28 times, jailed 22 times, and convicted on about ten of those arrests since 1990 to 2010, I have also attempted to get arrested – or risked getting arrested – well over 45 times, all related to fighting against marijuana prohibition or promoting cannabis culture.

And you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

If you’re interested in seeing more about Marc’s earliest freedom activist causes and campaigns, watch the 1992 documentary "Messing Up The System" by the late Chris Doty (one hour), the 2006 CBC documentary "Prince of Pot: The US vs. Marc Emery" by Nick Wilson (one hour), and the thorough multi-part 2010 documentary "The Principle of Pot" by Paul McKeever (four hours).

CONTINUE READING ON CANNABIS CULTURE…

In Honor of Richard James Rawlings 1961-2013

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Richard James Rawlings with Gatewood Galbraith in Glasgow, Kentucky 2011

 

The U.S. Marijuana Party, did, on February 24, 2013, loose one of its first and most influential Presidents, 

Second only to Loretta Nall, who preceded him as the first President of the USMJParty in 2002.

Richard James Rawlings took the head of the table in 2005 after Ms. Nall’s resignation.

 

He actively ran for Congress in Peoria Illinois several times.  He promoted many legalization activities in the Peoria area of Illinois and attended many more events in various states until he began to become ill in 2009-10.

It was not until July of 2012 that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Throat, Lung and Adrenal Cancer.

At the age of 51, he died peacefully at his mother’s home where we had resided since shortly after his hospitalization in Glasgow Kentucky for two weeks in July 2012 where he received the diagnosis and the surgery for the trach which he would continue to wear until the night of his death when I removed it. 

All of his family were with him almost constantly during the last two weeks.  And I am forever grateful to them for all their support to me during this most difficult time.

His death broke my Heart.  We were not only coworkers, friends and companions – we were lovers and partners.

He will never be forgotten by me and I know the same sentiment holds true with all of his family, friends and followers.

May what he stood for never be forgotten:  Repeal of Hemp/Marijuana/Cannabis Laws at best or Legalization at least.

 

 

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May He Rest In Peace

 

Sheree Krider

Marc Emery is a Canadian activist imprisoned in the United States for selling marijuana seeds through the mail

Marc Emery

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Marc Emery is a Canadian activist imprisoned in the United States for selling marijuana seeds through the mail and using the proceeds to finance advocacy and political campaigns in the United States and worldwide from 1994-2005. See www.FreeMarc.ca for more information

 

……

When I first began my Vancouver hemp store, HEMP BC, in July 1994, my first hires were Ian Hunter and Danna Rozek, two people I’d met in the months prior to opening my retail shop at 324 West Hastings (across from the location, 18 years later, of Cannabis Culture Headquarters). I noticed right away that Danna and her friend, also hired at Hemp BC, Cindy Lassu, were ‘Deadheads,’ totally committed to the culture and language and music of the Grateful Dead.

I remember my surprise and curiosity when Ian and Danna both yelled elatedly at 4:20 pm each afternoon I was in their company, "It’s 4:20, smoke ’em if ya got ’em." I had never heard that phrase or ritual before, and yet I’d been smoking pot (in London, Ontario) since 1981. I moved to Vancouver in March of 1994.

I thought it was an odd west coast thing, something peculiar to Vancouver. In conversations I had with High Times editor Steve Hagar, I learned that it first became a ritual in the high schools of central California around 1976 or so. Up to the mid-70’s, high school classes went to 4 pm, so by the time school was out, and you got out of class, 4:20 pm became a time of congregation to smoke a joint.

Some of those high school students were followers of the Grateful Dead, joining in the legendary treks across America following that ubiquitous San Francisco band on what is known as ‘Dead Tour.’ There they continued their smoking pot at 4.20 pm ritual with an enthusiastic "It’s Four Twenty!"

So starting in those California high schools, those students graduated and continued their ritual in the very iconoclastic society of "Deadheads" that followed the band the Grateful Dead on their tours across America and Europe in the mid and late 70’s. 4:20 become an established part of Deadhead culture by the early 80’s, and when ever one Deadhead wanted to see how hip you might be, the question "What time is it?" began to be a litmus test of the culture. If you gave the regular time, you were ‘straight,’ but if you responded "It’s 4:20!" (no matter what time it was), you were cool, ‘one of us.’ In Deadhead culture, at 4:20 pm, one yelled out to friends, "It’s 4:20!" and joint smoking ensued.

When in July 1994, in my little revolutionary activist headquarters HEMP BC shop open on Hastings St. in downtown Vancouver, I allowed the staff and any customers to smoke pot in the store, so at 4:20 pm every day, Danna, Ian, Cindy, and by November 1994, Dana Larsen, would yell "It’s 4:20" and everyone would light up. Back then, even most of our customers had never heard this ‘4:20’ thing before, as only a few months earlier, neither had I.

In March 1995, while working as manager of my Hemp BC store, Danna and Cindy asked me at my desk, "Marc, can we have a 420 celebration next door at Hemp For Victory Square (which is what we called Victory Square at Cambie & Hastings back then) on April 20?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, " You mean we should go over and smoke in the park at 4:20 on April 20 because that’s the 4th month, 20th day?"

"No," replied Danna, " I mean we should party over there all day on April 20, not just at 4:20 in the afternoon."

"My God, no, that’s decadent, we can’t party all day" I said, being very much of the Ayn Rand school of cannabis liberation, and thinking a day-long party was unthinkable to my capitalist work ethic.

So Danna and Cindy went back to work in the store. An hour later Danna came back to me and said, "Even though you don’t approve, can we do it anyway?"

I thought about that and asked, "Well, what would you do?"

Danna replied, "We’d get a PA system, invite a few bands, give speeches, smoke lots of pot, from, say, noon to 5 pm."

"Do you think we’d get away with that?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes! It’ll be so much fun."

"All right. You can give it a shot." I conceded.

"Will you help us because you have the money and we’ll need electrical power, cables, PA equipment, and other things?" she cajoled.

"Okay," I remember laughing at her audacity, "I’ll help you."

On April 20, 1995, it was a beautiful sunny day, and 6 cables ran from various electrical outlets at Hemp BC seventy-five feet to Victory Square to supply power for the PA system, the microphones, amplifiers. The party began around noon but because it was a very new idea, never done on April 20 any time before, there were about only 150 people by 2 pm, peaking at 250 people at 4:20 pm. Nonetheless, open pot smoking went on for about 6 hours without any police interference, much to my surprise, only 25 feet from a major intersection of Hastings and Cambie. Everyone who came seemed to have a wonderful time.

The following year, in 1996, at Victory Square again, 500 people came at its peak. For 1997, we moved the event to the Vancouver Art Gallery, its current location, where about 1,000 people came. By 2003 and 2004, 3,000 people attended at its peak at 4:20pm, but in 2005, the number attending exploded to 6,000, and every year since then, numbers increase, with 10,000 in 2009, 13,000 in 2011, and upwards of 15,000 expected this year.

You can see video of Vancouver 4/20 from 2006 to 2011 at the website www.Vancouver420.com. My pioneering video website www.Pot.tv has archival footage of the 4/20 from 2002 to 2005. When YouTube came out, videos of our smoking protest party went viral and the event was emulated in other cities. Now the Vancouver event is so popular, hundreds of people come as early as 9 am to start the party, with thousands at the art gallery grounds by noon, and by 3 pm it is densely packed.

From 2000 to 2008, the master of ceremonies was activist David Malmo-Levine, who at 4:10 would ask people in the crowds to sit down while he and other ‘volunteers’ tossed joints out to the masses, making sure all would have something to smoke at 4:20 pm. Then Peter Tosh’s ‘Legalize It’ would play at 4:20 pm and a huge, incredible plume of bluish smoke would rise above the assembled mass; you could smell it 3 to 4 blocks away, and on video and in photographs looked spectacular.

Over the years pot vendors selling joints, bags of pot, pot cookies, pot brownies, and various cannabis consumables became a prominent aspect of the festivities. Never in the history of the 4/20 celebration have police interfered with selling or consumption of cannabis. Beautifully, there have been very few incidents of cannabis overuse and virtually no unhappy medical emergencies.

For 2011 and 2012, the event has become very sophisticated, with excellent musical entertainment organized by Adam Bowen, featuring musicians and genres from across the musical spectrum, with prominent staging and sound amplification. Media from all over Canada photograph, videotape, broadcast and cover the event. As always since the beginning, www.CannabisCulture.com has coverage of the event.

In the recent decade, April 20 celebrations by the cannabis culture began to be seen everywhere around the world, certainly every major city in the United States and Canada now has a April 20 celebration, and in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. That’s the power of YouTube and 4/20!

This day is now famous everywhere in the world now as ‘the national holiday of the cannabis culture,’ but we’re proud it started here in Vancouver first, 17 years ago, in 1995!

Marc Emery is a Canadian activist imprisoned in the United States for selling marijuana seeds through the mail and using the proceeds to finance advocacy and political campaigns in the United States and worldwide from 1994-2005. See www.FreeMarc.ca for more information