Both a celebration and an act of civil disobedience, the “Legalize NJ: 420.5 Festival” went off without a hitch on Saturday, April 25, in Mill Hill Park, Trenton, NJ. The Marijuana Festival was originally supposed to take place on Monday, April 20, but was pushed back to Saturday due to weather conditions. In contrast to the previous smoke-outs in the state, Saturday’s Festival included live music, vendors, grilled food and a relaxed atmosphere. At 4:20 P.M., roughly 150 demonstrators smoked in the park, but about 300 persons attended the Festival throughout the day. No one was arrested, despite the presence of Park Rangers and Police. The Festival was organized by NJ Weedman.
Numerous local bands played throughout the sunny afternoon in Mill Hill Park, ranging from hip-hop to classic rock and to stoner genres. Attendees shifted between listening to music and walking across the bridge to explore the multiple vendors. For vendors: Chris Mixon headed the glass pieces tent, Jim Miller the CMMNJ table, Billy Huff the Jersey Support Jersey tent, William Haney sold cannabis shirts, and Wayne “Kannabisking” Burrini worked the grill. From a distance some people were seen playing a game of volleyball. The ‘high’ atmosphere was much needed for many persons there that day, since most of them took part in previous marijuana rallies and smoke-outs over the last year. Outside the State House in Trenton, hundreds of demonstrators smoked in civil disobedience on April 20 and October 18 in 2014, and again on March 21 and April 20 in 2015. These Freedom Fighters deserved a day to celebrate their hard efforts, and the Festival did just that.
At least two Park Ranger vehicles and a police car were visible throughout most of the day, but no one was harassed or arrested. I saw at least one Park Ranger smile in a picture with one of the demonstrators. At 4:20, Weedman made a short speech and the entire crowd proceeded to smoke, disregarding the presence of authorities. Shortly after 4:20, a police officer stared down from the bridge as people continued smoking without skipping a beat. For this reason the NJ Festival resembled the Boston Freedom Rally, Seattle Hempfest and other musical gatherings for pot, only on a micro-level. At all these festivals, however, participants can be seen openly smoking without fear of arrest. Weedman hopes to make the music Festival an annual tradition in NJ.
Legalization supporters will return to demonstrating in the streets this Saturday, May 2, in Camden, NJ. This is for the internationally celebrated pot holiday known as the “Global Marijuana March,” with other actions on the East Coast taking place in New York City and Delaware. Organized by Weedman and the East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC), the “Poor People’s Parade for Pot” will be the first time in years that marijuana activists will travel outside of Trenton to rally in Camden. But potheads should be grateful that this Camden rally will not be like previous ones.
The “1st Annual Camden County Smoke-Out” was organized by Weedman on April 24, 1998, when several dozen demonstrators joined him at Wiggins Park. During this time Weedman was facing several decades in jail after getting busted in Camden in November 1997 with over 40 lbs of weed. Nevertheless, he was running for Camden County freeholder under his own Party, the Legalize Marijuana Party (he received 3,468 votes), and on April 27 he smoked two joints by himself in the office of Congressmen Rob Andrews, and smoked a joint the next day at the Camden County Democratic Headquarters. At the “2nd Annual Smoke-Out” on April 25, 1999, only 70 persons came out. Police prevented demonstrators from passing out literature, and Weedman, who was in a back-brace, had 50 t-shirts and $150 stolen from him by a young group of demonstrators! The “3rd Annual Smoke-Out” in May 2000, was led by Weedman at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, a good decade before Poe’s and Goldstein’s monthly Smoke-Downs. Still, only about 75 persons attended. Now in 2015, we expect hundreds to attend, as well as having more support from the public and press. Weedman led the crusade alone for so many years that all smokers have an obligation to join him this year!