PA US Attorney Taking Marijuana Protesters To Court

Tuesday, 03 September 2013

Dear NORML Supporter,

We are forwarding you this message on behalf of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- Philly NORML.

The NORML Team

PA US Attorney Taking Marijuana Protesters To Court


PhillyNORML – Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

CONTACT: Chris Goldstein or Mike Whiter media@phillynorml.org or (267) 702 3731

Pennsylvania - A crowd of more than 150 people gathered in Philadelphia on Saturday August 31, 2013 in the eighth monthly rally for national marijuana legalization called "Smoke Down Prohibition." 

Supported by PhillyNORML and local comedy activism crew The Panic Hour, the gathering took place in Independence Mall National Historic Park at 5th and Market Streets in space preserved for First Amendment activity known as "The People's Plaza."

Local activists gave speeches in front of the Liberty Bell and the group participated in a "moment of cannabis reflection" at 4:20PM when many lit marijuana joints in an act of civil disobedience. Video - http://youtu.be/7oG0XBkehgQ

Five citations for "possession of a controlled" substance were issued. Emily Yates, a musician and anti-war activist, was scheduled to perform her song "I'd Rather Be High (Than an Asshole...)" but she was arrested and jailed by Park Rangers before the rally began.

Chris Goldstein, Co-Chair of PhillyNORML, was cited at the June rally and received a second citation on August 31st. Don Dezarn, a Libertarian Party candidate for New Jersey Senate also received his second citation for participating in the civil disobedience action.

Authorities are not allowing Goldstein and Dezarn to pay a simple fine but are requiring them to appear in Eastern District Federal Magistrate Court to face the charge. Their court dates have not been set.

Ken Wolski is a registered nurse and Executive Director at the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey (CMMNJ). Wolski spoke at several of the Smoke Down Prohibition gatherings, saying on 8/31 "Civil disobedience is a powerful weapon against injustice. I may be too old to do it myself anymore, but I have great respect for the people who still practice civil disobedience. You are repudiating unjust laws in a very dramatic fashion."

From December 2012 through April 2013 there were no citations or arrests at "Smoke Down Prohibition" gatherings and hundreds of people took part. Beginning in May 2013, a massive and expensive multi-agency police response has been mounted against the peaceful protest. National Park Service Rangers, US Fish and Wild officers along with dozens of Philadelphia Police, SEPTA Transit Police and armed Department of Homeland Security agents have been present to intimidate participants and issue a handful of citations.

"The US Department of Justice has been very clear in repeatedly publishing memos telling federal agencies not to use their resources to target individual cannabis consumers," said Chris Goldstein today, "It seems like those same agencies in Philadelphia are ignoring that direction and going a step further by attempting to encroach on our First Amendment rights."

The next "Smoke Down Prohibition" is planned for September 21, 2013.

Mike Whiter, founder of Pennsylvania Veterans for Medical Marijuana and PhillyNORML Co-Chair said, "Overall I think these have been very successful events and we're excited to keep them growing until cannabis laws change."

Pennsylvania has active cannabis reform legislation. The Regulate Marijuana Act, SB528, was introduced in Harrisburg by Senator Daylin Leach this year. The bill would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana in the state-operated alcohol stores. Rep. Mark Cohen plans to introduce the companion bill in the PA House this fall.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Chris Goldstein or Mike Whiter media@phillynorml.org or 267-702-3731