Around two dozen of us entered Trenton City Hall on November 5, 2015, to oversee the Trenton City Council meeting. That night they were going to vote on a non-binding city resolution that called for the legalization of marijuana in NJ. The resolution, introduced by Ken Wolski of CMMNJ, was the same one passed by Asbury Park, NJ, over the summer.
The marijuana activists packed half the room. The other half were infuriated citizens who denounced City Council harshly, calling them corrupt. Even though it was an entirely different subject, we sympathized with the citizens, but remained peaceful and proper throughout our speeches. One black citizen who was there for another purpose, called the City Council criminals and threw his full support behind the marijuana bill. It was clear that City Council was full of dirty tricks.
There to denounce the marijuana bill were 2 white people, who both took the stage at one time. After they finished spreading lies about medical marijuana (although even they supported decriminalization) they immediately left the building with us staring them down.
After they left, we had our best speakers cover a variety of topics of City Council. Vanessa Maria went first, giving the best speech by listing every state and city on the East Coast that passed marijuana bills. Then Randy Thompson of Help Not Handcuffs, who lobbied for the passage of the Asbury Park resolution, offered his skills to explain any question the Council may have. I spoke next, explaining how the Millennial Generation smoked weed more than any other generation, and that prohibition was ruining our faith in government. Furthermore I added that the nation reached a “turning point” in 2014, after the majority of states passed marijuana reforms. NJWeedman spoke last. He talked about his history of imprisonment due to the war on drugs, explaining how prohibition continues to hurt people outside of prison, who are labelled felons just as Jewish people were forced to wear the Star of David.
We felt hopeful that the speeches would lead to enough council members to support the bill, but perhaps we were too naive. North Ward Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson, an older white woman who sponsored the bill, was the only person to raise her hand in support of the bill when Council called for a vote. Resolutions can only be voted on by Council if a second councilperson “seconds” the motion to vote. But not one other councilperson did so. Therefore, she requested a vote to push the resolution back until the next council meeting. Once again, no one seconded the motion. The resolution died then and there. “Are you serious,” Wilson screamed at the other City Council members, none of whom even looked up once during the whole process. All two-dozen of us stormed out of the meeting in silence, followed by Councilwoman Wilson.
We all found it astonishing that City Council could just ignore the subject of marijuana away. No wonder the other citizens in the meeting were willing to call the councilpersons “criminals” to their faces. By the time we got downstairs several people, like Phil and Alan, were suggesting to Weedman to “smoke-out” the City Council meeting. This idea was presented to Weedman in August, when City Council ignored his Decriminalization bill, but now he was ready to act on it. Around eight of us went back up to the meeting.
Weedman’s most famous stunt was when he smoked a joint inside the NJ Assembly chambers meeting in 2000, while wearing a prison uniform. He now held his second indoor “smoke-out” at a Trenton government building. Both actions caused a stir in the press and dramatized the marijuana issue. We walked back into the Committee meeting without trobule, and sat in the two back rows (while Jason and I videotaped from behind). Phil pulled out his piece and lit up right there in the Council meeting, and passed it to Weedman.
Weedman’s actions bring out powerful emotions in people. The security guard responded to Weedman by whispering to someone: “Is this motherfucker serious?” The guard’s emotions didn’t allow him to notice he was being filmed by Jason two feet away. When the guards headed over to Weedman, City Clerk Richard Kachmar asked that Weedman be escorted out of council chambers, claiming no smoking was allowed. Weedman followed by saying: “To the coward on the bench, F the law…” He was interrupted by repeated slammings of a gavel, and council saying “excuse me!” The court errupted in support, while three security guards surrounded Weedman, but none were even willing to physically touch any of the smokers. It showed how much support weed legalization had by this point in time. “All of you are cowards,” Weedman said as he left. “You couldn’t even vote. If you had some balls, you would at least say ‘no.’ You’re cowards.”
We all walked out of the room and regrouped with everyone else. We all took a group picture on the steps outside, before heading across the street to Weedman’s Joint. Several police cars arrived only minutes later, but we were safe across the street. We celebrated our own little victory, despite not getting the bill passed. It was an action that meant a lot to everyone there. We could no longer be ignored away.
- “Trenton – City Council Cowards,” Youtube, November 5, 2015. 1 minute 36 seconds.) (431 views by November 6.
- Christina Rojas, “‘NJ Weedman’ lights up in council chambers after pot resolution dies,” NJ.com, November 5, 2015.
- “‘NJ Weedman’ lights up at Trenton council meeting to protest ‘cowards,’” NJ 101.5, November 5, 2015.
- NJ Weedman’s speech at Trenton City Council meeting, November 5, 2015. Edward Forchion Facebook post. 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
- NJ Weedman calls City Council Cowards. Facebook, posted by Alyssa Gatti. 30 seconds.
- Christina Rojas, “Trenton council to consider supporting marijuana legalization,” NJ.com, November 4, 2015.
- Rich Cuccagna, “Hundreds participate in N.J. Cannabis Freedom Rally in Trenton, NJ.com, October 17, 2015.
- Cristina Rojas, NJ.com, “N.J. marijuana legalization activists plan march, rally at Statehouse,” October 16, 2015.
- Whaxy.com November 9, 2015
- Cat Country WPUR Radio 107.3 fm. November 6, 2015.
- WPG Talk Radio 104.1 fm. November 7, 2015
- OOYUZ Beta. November 6, 2015.
- Trenton Times News. Nov. 6, 2015.
- NJ 101.5 fm. November 8, 2015.
- Gloucester City News. Nov. 6, 2015.