The East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC) traveled to the Million Marijuana March (MMM) in New York City on Saturday, May 7, 2016, where the international protest was first organized in 1998. Around 1,000 demonstrators came out for the NYC Cannabis Parade at Union Square. No arrests were made when everyone lit up at 4:20. ECCC founder Vanessa Maria spoke shortly after 4:20, announcing the ECCC’s End the Drug War rally at the Philadelphia DNC this July.
Multiple organizations endorsed the rally such as Bernie Sanders groups, Libertarian Party, and NYC Green Party. Jack Cole represented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and DCMJ brought the 51-foot joint that made an appearance at the April 2 White House Smoke-Out. The NYC rally was reported on by Crain’s New York Business, 420Intel.com, FlavorPill.com, EV Grieve, Law Street Media, Marijuana Stocks, Viewing NYC, Mediaite.com, Europa Newswire, Political Storm, and a video was posted on Vimeo and Youtube. According to the Russian Times, MMM protests took place in 829 cities and 72 countries.
MMM was founded by NYC marijuana activist and founder of Cures Not Wars, Dana Beal, who organized the first Smoke-In in 1967. The International Marijuana Day of protest, based off the 1965 “International Days of Protest against the war in Vietnam”, eventually spread to hundreds of cities worldwide. Cures Not Wars enlisted the help of The Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana, C.A.M.P., which formed in 1978 to unite broad forces under one legalization group. The Yippie front-group, “The Fifth Avenue Marijuana Parade Coalition,” formed out of this; again based off the largest NYC Vietnam peace group in the 1960s, the “Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Against the War in Vietnam” (formed in 1965). Some report that the “high” point for Yippie chapters holding Smoke-Ins across the nation took place in 1978-1979. San Francisco, Madison, Ann Arbor, and New York were among the few cities that continued them into the 1990s. The New York events were held in Washington Square Park, with parades involving music bands going down Fifth Avenue. This was mostly led by the Yippie! front-group, “The Fifth Avenue Marijuana Parade Coalition.”
Yippie members Dana Beal and Aron Kay Pieman, who both spoke at the 2016 MMM rally, originally connected the marijuana movement of the 1960s-1970s with the antiwar rallies against the war in Vietnam. By 1973, NYC held a Smoke-In on May 1, a.k.a. May Day (“Jay Day”), declaring it “National Marijuana Day.” This was the inspiration for having the MMM on the first Saturday of May each year. On July 4, 1970, Yippies and antiwar protesters crashed a pro-war event called “Honor America Day” in D.C., smoking tons of marijuana and invading the stage with Viet Cong flags. Then next year they returned to D.C. on the fourth of July, setting off the annual July 4th White House Smoke-In.In 1971, massive Vietnam demonstrations plagued the Nixon Administration, while the Shaffer Commission on weed was being conducted. On April 24, 1971, around 750,000 persons demonstrated against the war in one of the largest rallies ever organized in D.C. The May Day protests began in D.C. on May 3, when roughly 7,200 persons were arrested that first day in the largest arrest in U.S. history. By the end of the third day on May 5, over 13,000 demonstrators were arrested overall. At this same time, Nixon blamed the massive protests, not on the unpopular war he was waging, but instead placed blame on the demonstrators for smoking marijuana, on homosexuals, on blacks, minorities, academics, wild youth, etc.Nixon claimed that “every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.” (weed people, 44)
The DNC in 2016 will be huge for cannabis legalization, but DNC protests began decades ago. Dana Beal, Aaron Kay and Tom Forcade organized the first DNC cannabis legalization rally in Miami in 1972. A concert was held at Flamingo Park during the Smoke-In, where 1,000 demonstrators gathered, including Allen Ginsberg, who led a song at the park. NORML members were present passing out literature during the organization’s first ever Convention. Beal led the march of 300 persons to the Convention Hall, where he yelled “free pot” as he tossed handfuls of joints into the crowd. He also led the chant, “we smoke pot and we like it a lot.” They carried anti-heroine banners, and Beal was quoted saying: “We’re against death drugs like heroin.” No one was arrested at the Convention Hall, despite marijuana clouds floating everywhere. (july 10, 1972, NYT) Beal spoke with Democratic candidate George McGovern that weekend about marijuana legalization. Beal wisely pointed out that marijuana was a safe alternative to the reports of CIA heroine in Vietnam, saying legalization could save millions of people from hard drug use. McGovern said he personally spoke out against the CIA heroin on the Senate floor, but said he was not ready for the Dutch model of separating marijuana and hard drugs.