Roughly 150 cannabis legalization activists hit the streets of Trenton, NJ, on Saturday, October 17, 2015, for the “NJ Cannabis Freedom Rally.” Beginning at “Weedman’s Joint” – the restaurant/ cannabis church operated by NJ Weedman since June – demonstrators marched across the street to City Hall by 2:45, and proceeded to march down the street to the State House, with no police oversight. Demonstrators carried dozens of placards and multiple 15-feet wide banners down the street that read: “Say No to Christie!,” “Marijuana is Safer than Alcohol,” “Legalize NJ,” and “East Coast Cannabis Coalition.” At the State House, again with no police present, speeches were made from 3:00- 4:20 by cannabis activists, medical patients, parents of sick children, military veterans, and those previously arrested for cannabis. At 4:20 over a hundred persons openly smoked cannabis across the street from the State House at the World War II Memorial. Again, no police were present and no arrests were made.
The NJ Cannabis Freedom Rally was one of many cannabis protests organized by NJ Weedman and the East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC) over the past year. The rally served as the anniversary of last year’s protest that landed on Saturday, October 18, 2014, when 250 demonstrators smoked out the State House. For the year 2015, this was the 6th rally hosted by Weedman or the ECCC: 350 persons smoked out the State House on March 21; nearly 100 did the same thing on April 20; then several hundred smoked at a concert in Mill Hill Park five days later; just under 100 smoked in Camden, NJ on May 2; and around 300 smoked in Philadelphia, PA, on July 10. No arrests occurred at any of these rallies, although police intimidation has certainly been common.
What made the NJ Cannabis Freedom Rally so unique was that it introduced for the first time the concept of local resolutions to call for cannabis legalization. This is a recent phenomenon in the state that launched after the passing of the legalization resolution in Asbury Park, NJ, just this past summer. This resolution is non-binding, however. “While the resolution holds no legal merit, it is symbolic and makes the south Jersey shore town the first in the state to publicly and widely advocate legalizing weed for recreational use…” stated the South Jersey Journal. “The move by the Asbury council shows that there is a growing shift in attitudes toward recreational use of the drug,” said Asbury Park resident Randy Thompson. Thompson, representing “Help Not Handcuffs,” spoke at the NJ Cannabis Freedom Rally and supported similar measures being passed across the state. Other speakers at the rally included ECCC founder Vanessa Maria and Ricardo Rivera, the father of a little girl who requires medical cannabis for epilepsy, and the two of them together introduced a similar resolution in Camden County just last month. In August, NJ Weedman introduced a similar resolution to Trenton’s City Council, and Ken Wolski of CMMNJ introduced another resolution in Trenton just last month.
“In addition to the municipal legalization campaign,” wrote NJ.com about the rally, “activists are also calling for Governor Christie to sign Assembly Bill 4587, which would require schools to establish rules that would allow students with developmental disabilities to consume edible cannabis on school property.” AB-4587 was filed by Maple Shade, NJ, residents Roger and Lora Barbour, the parents of 16-year old Genny, who suffers from epilepsy. Genny continues to suffer from epilepsy episodes in school because Chris Christie has refused to sign AB-4587, which would grant the right for Genny to take her required oil medicine on school grounds. At the rally Roger told a moving story of his daughter’s first words being made possible by the use of medical cannabis, as Lora stood next to him holding back tears. The day of the rally marked the 117th day since AB-4587 has sat on Christie’s desk without a response.
Heading into 2016 the ECCC is planning even bigger and more dramatic protests throughout NJ during the election year, in an attempt to shine true light on Chris Christie’s views on cannabis. Christie is driving hard against legalization of any kind, although he pretends to tout his medical cannabis policies, which he originally inherited, and opposed, when he first took office as Governor. The ECCC unambiguously points to the fact that: “Chris Christie does not care about Medical Marijuana Patients’.”
-(Full video of NJ Cannabis Freedom Rally)
-(Rich Cuccagna, NJ.com, “Hundreds participate in N.J. Cannabis Freedom Rally in Trenton,” October 17, 2015.)
-(Cristina Rojas, NJ.com, “N.J. marijuana legalization activists plan march, rally at Statehouse,” October 16, 2015.)
-(NJ Weedman, The Trentonian, “Do #blacklivesmatter in the Marijuana Legalization Movement?,” October 9, 2015.)
-(William Sumner, Marijuana Investor News, “Hundreds Attend Marijuana Rally in New Jersey,” October 19, 2015.)
-International Business Times