The East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC) organized the Third Annual 420 Trenton Smoke-Out on April 20, 2016. For the third year in a row cannabis activists smoked in civil disobedience outside Gov. Chris Christie’s office at the Trenton State House, and no one was arrested… sort of. NJWeedman, co-organizer of the smoke-out and founder of the Trenton 420 protest in 2014, was arrested at the DMV by Trenton police on April 19 under a warrant for missing a court date. He was held in jail for several days, missing the 420 rally he helped organize. NJWeedman believed the police intentionally arrested him on April 19 to prevent him from attending the 420 rally and to kill the spirit of rally attendees. But as he sat in his jail cell on April 20, over 100 potheads smoked out the State House without arrests.
Legalization of cannabis reached a new record high for 420 in 2016. An Associated Press/University of Chicago poll released in March 2016 showed that 61 percent of Americans supported legalization, against 39 percent who opposed it. This survey mirrored the findings of the October 2015 Gallup Poll showing 58 percent of Americans supported legalization, which was the same percentage of supporters in 2013, when Americans supported legalization by 58 percent for the first time ever. Thus the entrance into the 60+ percentage of Americans supporting legalization is a big deal, showing the significant jump over a few percentage points in such a short amount of time.
At 2:45 we gathered in front of City Hall and took pictures of all the banners and signs, including the popular sign, “Free NJWeedman.” Without having a permit to march in the road, we took over the streets and called for bystanders to join us. The majority of people we passed showed full support of legalization and ending mass incarceration. I ended up carrying the marijuana cross that NJWeedman had made in 2014 to represent the state’s persecution of him and cannabis users. Additionally, I wore a black-and-white prison suit that resembled the one NJWeedman wore when he smoked inside the State Assembly and was arrested back in 2000. I even wore this prison outfit in the Democracy Spring march from Philadelphia to D.C., April 2-10, and even wore it when I was arrested with 430 other activists at the Capitol Building on April 11. Democracy Spring demanded money out of politics to ensure one voice had one vote, and by the end of the week at least 1,400 people risked arrest for this cause, marking it as the largest mass arrest in the 21st century. During my speech just prior to 4:20, I declared: “Marijuana won’t be legalized until we get money out of politics.”
During the march and rally we carried the ECCC’s large, fake marijuana joint, a.k.a. the “Unity Cypher,” which was part of the ECCC’s “Unity Cypher March” along the East Coast in the “Olympic-inspired event.” Beginning April 14 the Unity Cypher was transferred from one state to another by representative activists along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. On April 19 the Unity Cypher appeared at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Narcotic Drugs (UNGASS) in New York City, and arrived for the rally in Trenton on April 20, before going to Philadelphia that night.
At 3:00 speeches began at the State House. Speeches were made by Jo Anne Zito of CMMNJ and read a letter written by NJ cannabis POW Jon Peditto, NJ MMJ patient Lefty Grimes of Sativa Cross, NJ MMJ patient Karen Signore, NJ Anonymous Hemp Sector organizer Barack Oganja, producer of Fully Baked Radio Phil Charles, Michael Chazukow of Libertarian Party, Kyle Moore of NJ Legalize Marijuana Party, and the event was MC’d by Vanessa Maria of ECCC.
Three police officers stood on the steps of the State House throughout the rally. When everyone lit up at 4:20, the police turned a blind eye to the action. For a brief moment people were startled when police began heading towards us, but we were relieved when they announced they only wanted us off the government property while smoking.
The rally should have gained more attention due to the fact that NJWeedman was arrested, but the media didn’t have much time to react to his arrest only the day before the rally, plus an arrest over a small warrant is not as exciting as being arrested for possession. NJ 101.5 fm radio covered the rally under the title, “NJWeedman Arrested – But Not at 4/20 Smoke-Fest at State House.” NJWeedman suspected the police arrested him in retaliation for the article he wrote in the Trentonian on April 15, inviting Gov. Christie to smoke with him at the State House on 420. “Mr. Christie, 4/20 is here again” read the title of his article. This article got spread the word about the rally and received notice from NJ 101.5 fm radio on April 16 and NJ.com on April 19.
Afterward, hundreds of people gathered at NJWeedman’s Joint, hoping to see NJ’s top marijuana activist walk through the door, but alas he remained in jail until April 22. Live music was performed by LNJ sessions.