On February 28, 2015, I was one of 50 marijuana demonstrators who marched through Wilmington, Delaware, in the “March for the Love of Cannabis!” The event was sponsored by Delaware-NORML, one of the most currently active NORML chapters on the east coast. The organization held a similar march in the city on December 5, known as the “Repeal Day Rally.”
The protest was in support of the state’s recently introduced Decriminalization Bill – House Bill 39 – which would make possession of an ounce of marijuana or less a civil offense (instead of a criminal offense), punishable by a fine of $100. Smoking in public would be a misdemeanor that could result in a $200 fine or a maximum of five days in prison. Many activists are concerned about how restrictive the legislation is, especially compared to Philadelphia’s recent Decriminalization Bill. Nevertheless, the passage of legislation would be a significant step in the right direction compared to the current laws that make possession of a small amount punishable by up to three months in prison and fines. Moreover with an aggravating charge under current DE laws, citizens can face six months in prison and up to $1,150 in fines.
The march launched from Tubman Garrett Riverfront Park and proceeded down Market Street into the downtown business sector. Along the way we stopped on corners and conversed with supportive bystanders. Speeches were made by DE-NORML members Cyn Ferguson and Mike Murray at the Wilmington Public Library, which attracted a crowd from across the street. We briefly stopped at the New Castle County Courthouse, and then concluded the hour-long parade at the park where it began.
Despite only having 50 persons, DE-NORML gained significant attention through props and theatrics. Cannabis costumes are very popular among DE-NORML. The most eye-catching costume was that of “Hempy,” a marijuana leaf-shaped mascot with the blazed eyes of a real stoner. People were also dressed up as Uncle Sam and what appeared to be a Weed Woman costume. For props there was an 8-foot bong with the word “Legalize” inscribed along the side, which Hempy used for his own amusement.
The large amount of support from the community made the demonstration a success. The protest also reinforced the inter-state alliance between DE, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. Cindy Ruggiero, Jo Anne and I represented NJ, and William Haney and Richard Dyott represented PA. After the rally most of us met at a bar where we discussed the March 21 Smoke-Out in Trenton, NJ. The DE activists were very excited about the event and many confirmed they would be there along with their magnificent prop collection. Cyn Ferguson also confirmed that she would speak on behalf of DE-NORML at the Smoke-Out. This will be the first time DE marijuana activists will travel to NJ to demonstrate alongside NJ activists.