Reefer Madness: Law Enforcement Targets Marijuana Activists in Philadelphia

On May 18th, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML held “Smoke Down Prohibition V” in a free speech zone near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA. As the name suggests, this was the fifth such event they had organized. The previous four were well attended, with hundreds of legalization advocates attending and peacefully demonstrating against our country’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition. You can view video of the largest event, held on April 20th of this year, by clicking here.

The previous rallies went off without a hitch. Protestors were peaceful and respectful while law enforcement kept their distance and allowed them to voice their constitutionally guaranteed rights (as evidenced in this video, where National Park Police refuse to interfere with the event). This time, things were different. It was immediately clear from the outset that the police were taking a different approach to Smoke Down Prohibition V, from the very beginning the police presence was massive, with a couple dozen officers standing by and a newly erected fence in place to keep the attendees contained.

Smoke Down Prohibition V continued as planned, despite the inclement weather and ominous group of National Park Service Officers and Philadelphia Police keeping watch. Speakers addressed the crowd of about 100 through the rain and things seemed to be going smoothly. However, as The Panic Hour’s N.a. Poe began the countdown to 4:20, a time at which the crowd traditionally engages in a moment of “cannabis reflection,” the police made their move. Rushing past a crowd of people openly smoking cannabis, they stormed the stage and began the process of violently detaining several marijuana activists, including N.a. Poe, radio host Adam Kokesh, and New Jersey Libertarian candidate for Senate, Don DeZarn. The travesty that followed can be best understood by watching cell phone video captured from the scene below:


(Poe’s arrest starts around 1:50 mark, he is in the hat and yellow shirt being violently pinned to the ground by law enforcement.)

When the dust settled, several were detained and released. N.a. Poe and Adam Kokesh were taken into federal custody. For six days they were held in solitary confinement at a nearby federal detention center, with Poe being denied even a single phone call. The confinement was supposed to provide him with one hour out of solitary for every 23 hours he was in, but this often did not occur, with Poe spending over 36 hours straight in his cell at points. During these six days, he was also denied recreation, access to lawyers, and medical treatment.


Photo Credit: Vanessa Maria, The Panic Hour

When they were brought up for a hearing on their charges, Poe was charged with felony assault on a federal officer and resisting arrest though Kokesh ultimately had his charges dropped to citations. Unfortunately, Poe still must appear in court under these trumped up allegations, which it seems rather clear to any who watched the countless videos, filmed at multiple angles, never happened.

Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to silence him, Poe remains undaunted in his fight against our nation’s absurd marijuana policy. “The suppression of freedom of speech and targeting of activists expressing their views at the birthplace of liberty is a travesty that casts a bright light on the failure of marijuana prohibition at a federal level,” he stated.

N.a Poe and The Panic Hour have long been supporters and friends of NORML and the marijuana legalization movement and the seemingly purposeful targeting of him and several other marijuana activists is an appalling example of the lengths law enforcement will go to, not just to criminalize marijuana smokers, but to silence our ability to utilize our First Amendment rights speak out against this prohibition. NORML will keep you updated as his case moves forward, you can click here to learn more how you can help by supporting N.a. Poe’s legal defense fund.

Not ones to be intimidated, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML will be hosting Smoke Down Prohibition VI on June 30th, featuring a pro-legalization march with the Cannabus and live comments from N.a. Poe (who will have to be video streamed in as the conditions of his release require him to stay off of federal park property). Stay tuned to The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML‘s facebook pages for more info very soon.

46 thoughts

  1. “…Demonstrating against our country’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition.” PLEASE Erik, learn the difference between actual journalism and biased, one-sided stories.

    The only example we have of how marijuana legalization would work in our society is the rate of alcohol use amongst people of legal age to drink it (21). Keep in mind, alcohol is still illegal for people under the age of 21, so alcohol use amongst 13-20 year olds vs. people aged 21 and older is a great indicator of how well marijuana legalization would actually work.

    Here is one of the only facts we need to know on this subject, not from any one, potentially biased source, but from every single statistic ever taken on this subject:

    1) Marijuana use (illegal) is far LESS than alcohol use (legal) for people aged 21 and older.

    And because alcohol is LEGAL for people over the age of 21, people under the age of 21 are MORE likely to try than the ILLEGAL substance of marijuana.

    Say whatever you will about whether or not smoking marijuana is a good thing, the stats are on the side of prohibition.

    [Editor’s note: 1) NORML is not the media and staff are not journalists, 2) NORML is an advocacy organization with a clear bias in favor of reform and ending prohibition and 3) your supposition maybe correct, but, not likely since society does not actually know how much cannabis is used. Why? Because, unlike legal alcohol, which is taxed and regulated, cannabis is neither.

    Where do cannabis use numbers come from? They’re derived from two highly dubious and inaccurate measurements from anti-cannabis federal government bureaucracies (whose bias is worse than NORML’s pro-reform bias):

    -Asking children in school about their drug use
    -Asking adults in their homes about their drug use

    Rather then quibble around the edge of the public policy here with supposed use rates, instead, the obvious focus should be cast directly upon the federal government’s own stated goals to measure ‘success’ in it’s seventy-five-year-old cannabis prohibition. How has that worked? Not too well considering that all of the seven stated goals of the feds are NEVER met is probably one of the reasons the Office of Management of Budget gave the Drug Enforcement Agency and ‘F’ for it’s ability to achieve any of its stated goals.

    Prohibition of cannabis is a clear failure in America.

    Thankfully today an ever-growing majority of voters, elected policymakers, media outlets, health professionals, law enforcement, businesses and other major institutions are keen on ending the failed public policy of prohibition and replacing it with more constitutional-friendly and free market-oriented public policies that look more like alcohol and tobacco taxation and controls.]

  2. Those Philly police are a bunch of God Damn cowardly pigs! Last time I checked that is America! What the hell is wrong with the Governor, the Senators, and the Congressmen who represent Philadelphia? Frigging A-Holes!

    President Obama should take notice of the kind of country he is leading and realize how badly he is failing!

  3. Pot prohibition and arrests are tied to large federal grants. That is why law enforcement will not give this up. They get paid millions to arrest people by the feds. Forget medical, it needs to be fully legal. It is time we stop playing nice. We need to take the war away from them, they are addicted to the federal money they receive for these arrests and, like any addict are responding violently to anyone who gets in the way of them getting their fix of cash from the feds

  4. What need they excpect to happen. Dont smoke in puplic. Uknow there was some thing going to happen this year. Acoucen of mine just happen to be there. They left early caus they could feel it in the air. As for the cops that took part in this raid. Iam sure they all went home and jack off thinking about what they did. Next time dont smok in puplic

  5. If you guys honestly believe Obama thinks people should be locked up for weed… I have a bridge to sell you. There’s something more going on here. For the life of me I can’t figure out WHY he’s taken this position, but I KNOW he cannot believe it’s the correct moral stand. Someone has some leverage over him is my best guess…

  6. I find their conduct and judgment pretty shameful. I encourage people to do what I’m doing; contact Philadelphia’s mayor and the Chief of National Park Police.

  7. Chris,

    Obama is not going to add ‘marijuana legalization’to the legacy of ‘first black president’

    That’s my opinion of course.

  8. this is outrageous. what we need to do is start a huge rally protest. a nonviolent protest of course. have everyone smoking weed harmlessly. kind of like the sit-ins during the african civil rights movement. the police will look very bad trying to arrest thousands of people doing something that hurt noone.

  9. Not only is Obama not going to lead in any useful for America maneuvers*
    but he is not just answering to others-
    he is also profiting directly and indirectly by this nonsense.

    He is an uber hypocrit-
    bogartin’ Choom gangsta wannabe.

    *Obamacare was not created for the good reasons people roll into it
    “universal healthcare”
    good ideas, to be sure,
    but, dig deeper, you will see that he created an escape route for certain groups to gain a waiver so they did not have to have it-
    not only “not have to have it”
    but also not be “TAXED” for not having it.
    Because what these groups had to do to gain this status was not detailed, and is not on the books, it most likely falls under some favor aspect. Such that he gains whatever he bargained for in the process of them gaining this status. Healthcare was just a nice visible wrapper for all to see.

    And, along with this, his hypocrisy on cannabis is deafening.
    He KNOWS it is harmless.
    He KNOWS it is good.

    but he also values his, (and his handlers),
    power above America.

    Note how he stood up the NAACP-
    when even Romney made it-
    why? because he took the black vote for granted and hasn’t really helped them either-
    save some stupid phones.

    This is about HIS power,
    he is a celebrity, not an idealistic leader.

  10. Obama will not support marijuana because he is black. If a black president throws his support behind marijuana legalization, the backlash from racists whites will set us back years. Some states might never legalize in our lives over something so petty. Obama knows this and he is just waiting for white America to do finally the right thing because they don’t accept him as a leader and will reject and oppose everything he does or says.

  11. Hope and Change? hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahhaahahahahahha

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

  12. Obama obvioulsy was never informed that marijuana Prohibition is being enforced. Won’t he be surprised, and pissed, when he finds out?!

  13. Not defending the police or anything, but this was a dumb move. Peaceful protestors are being corralled into free speech zones and being watched like hawks by the fuzz for any excuse to bumrush the area and shut it down with extreme prejudice, and these guys thought “Hey, let’s toke up!”? I get the point of the protest and the action, but this was a very bad idea.

  14. These ‘so called’ police … obtuse pieces of sh_t!! They still can’t look the other way … so disappointing … BUT GOTTA KEEP ON … don’t give in, don’t give up … must continue on changing this cancerous state of prohibition peacefully.

  15. People don’t support Obama on anything but you want him to legalize marijuana……that’s the last thing on his agenda. We all know it’s not Obama. Marijuana has been legal and illegal for the longest time now. The drug war is failing! Greedy corporations and Big Pharma are the ones to go after.

  16. The protests might have been peaceful but I am sure they were law breaking – ie people were using cannabis. This may well be the pretext that the police used. Definitely NOT right but probably legal 8-(

  17. That one cop in the black looks like SS. Hitler coming to the U.S.? By the looks of it he is already here!

  18. To (D) Thank. Now lets talk about why they did this bust this year. We have turn the war. We are winning and they are loseing. So when this happen u are going to see moore of these type of action Takeing place. You could smell it in the air. It was real bad. The cops all had hate on there face.

  19. Just utterly shameful. Hopefully this injustice will serve to galvanize the people of Philly.

  20. Marijuana probation IS based on government scoundralism, government scandal, government conspiracy against its people, government corruption, and the list goes on. Government greed (sorry, but this one should be mentioned) Most of these government crooks are nothing but a large group of scumbags, dirtbags, sleuths, and asshole suckers who are out for your money.

  21. This is how PA works(backwards & moronic)..The gov. of PA screw him he THINKS he’s above the people. As for PHILLA cops pack of morons who it seems will be looking for new jobs with gov DICKHEAD of PA.He should pull himself out of the bottle and look around this isn’t the 19th&20th cents.anymore.Times change so get with it or get out of it.

  22. Cops should stop wasting time harassing, detaining and arresting protestors, and instead arrest the first Fmr President Bush of Yale for Bush senior’s crimes against women, men, children, indeed for Bush Senior’s crimes against the entire State of Israel.

    The federal pigs and local pigs accepted the proverbial ‘mark of the beast’ in the pigs’ lust for power over Jewish people; it happens to be that Adam Kokesh is a secular Jew from what I understand; the federal pigs are now suspected of anti-semitic hate crimes once again.

  23. I wonder how cops would feel if protesters showed up at a cop funeral with signs reading “Jesus hates fascist pigs”?

  24. AMERICA, HOME OF PRISONS FOR PROFIT THAT MUST BE FILLED. HARDLY ANYONE QUESTIONS WHAT OUR LEADERS ARE DOING TO US AS THEY TURN OUR COUNTRY INTO A PRISON COLONY. AMERICANS SHOULD NOT FIGHT WARS FOR FREEDOMS THEY DO NOT HAVE! OUR GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO WORK HARD TO KEEP THIS PHONY WAR GOING. KEEP GIVING UP YOUR RIGHTS SO THESE BUREAUCRATS CAN PROTECT YOU! PRETTY SOON YOU WILL NOT EVEN BE ABLE TO PROTEST.
    POLICE BEAT US IN THE SIXTIES, THINGS HAVE NOT CHANGED.

  25. It’s all Bush’s fault. Blame Bush!
    Welcome to the new America .
    Police State. Patriot Act. Hope Obama wins the White House in 2008 !
    Things will change when the democrats are in control. they will never let this
    happen . oh wait, what year is it? Obama won? Huh? What? Your kidding me. IRS scandel, Benghazi scandel, Fast n Furuois scandel, Drone strikes, etc etc etc
    wake up America
    No Victim, No Crime.
    Let the science decide not corrupt politicans
    We The People are tired of the Lies !

  26. The police should be more careful. The rapture is coming. On that day 2 Live Crew will rise from the dead, descend, from heaven riding in a zit – mobile and vanquish you all to burn forever in the pit of you know where.

  27. We are becoming a police state….this is just the beginning. I do not get why our government cannot let us practice the right to use marijuana. Other drugs fine I can understand but marijuana

  28. When did “Protect and Serve the Public” turn into blatant kidnapping? How did grabbing people in broad daylight become acceptable? Life hasn’t changed much out of the slave days. Lincoln inadvertently made even the white man now a slave to the system. In our Imperialistic Capitalistic country the top needs a stranglehold on its “minions” or the general population to get their pockets and family prestige to uncontrollable levels that shatter the very being of our Constitution and Human Rights.
    An off duty officer from Toledo came into my small when he was off duty. Someone decided to park in the fire-lane to help there wife load the grocery’s and kid into the car. The then off duty officer who at that point is just another citizen decided to show some might for his Firehouse buddies.. Well long short of it he punched out the family’s window, kicked the car, drew his firearm out on the family husband and chased them around until the local officials got on the scene who said that the off duty cop smelled like alcohol.. He is supposedly on paid leave.. That is straight perversion, the type of power these fools get to just swing DICK around the public.. Honestly?

  29. Cris in Wi….you are right..why is our federal government dragging this whole thing out and why did obama clam up so ? seems to me that the president can say what he wishes until he is elected..after that, i believe he (or she) is briefed on what can be done and, what cannot. by who you ask? im thinking a group of big buisness who really run this country with their money and influence stand to lose money if cannabis is legalized. i can see them threatening to pull up their american market and hauling it overseas if it happens. america is in trouble with mis appropreation of funds and if we were to lose big buisness too…..its all about money and greed . someone tell me i am wrong!…..

  30. Having grown up watching the police regularly beat up peaceful protesters in colleges all across the country during the Vietnam war and civil rights movement, I have to say I’m not surprised at this. The good news is if enough sacrificial lambs are beaten and arrested, eventually opinion will change and the government will have no choice but also change. In the meantime, fight the good fight and keep your head up folks. It won’t be forever

  31. I Hate Being Opressed !

    Why do people act as if just because marijuana is illegal their kids won’t use marijuana ?

    All prohibition does is make it so that if and when they do want some marijuana it’s more likely for that person they get it from to be either a gang member or somebody who also sells hard drugs or both.

    Why must marijuana have to have medical benefits to be legal but the poison alcohol can just be legal ?

    Why do people try to blame marijuana as the gateway drug but not alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, energy drinks, caffeine, etc. and why don’t they look at the types of situations people are in, the people that they hang out with, or their personality traits for the cause.

    How come people don’t seem to care about the many side effects of prescription drugs but are scared of the natural plant cannabis ?

    Why don’t people understand that legalizing marijuana will reduce the drug cartels’ profits ?

    Why does society accept tobacco products but not the safer cannabis ?

    Why do people who hardly ever or never use cannabis act like they know so much about it ?

    Why do some people think that just because they don’t like or use something that nobody else should ?

    Why is it so bad for people to recreationally use marijuana because it makes them happy, relaxed, more aware and enlightened ?

    Marijuana should be legal before alcohol and tobacco because marijuana is far safer and better.

    Why don’t people give a F about freedom anymore ?

    If people don’t defend people’s simple civil liberties like cannabis freedom then it sets the precedent for more of their own freedoms to be taken away.

    Why is it acceptable to buy and advertise the poison alcohol everywhere but you have to get a prescription from a doctor and pay for a medical card every year to get cannabis or not be able to get it at all in some states ?

    They try to boast like America is the “Land of the Free” but you can’t even grow a plant !

    The only state you are allowed to grow cannabis is Colorado but you can only grow 6 plants !

    They don’t care that alcohol destroys their brain, muscles and liver but a natural herb scares the daylights out of them.

  32. I am sick of law and order as we know it. I don’t think it is right to deny any one over 18 alcohol or anything ales. I believe we all have the right to do what we want to do with our bodies. And when we are denied that right all we have left is defiance against the few that create these polices to make us outlaws.
    It’s time for a revaluation. There poisoning our us, our kids, our lands and waters. They defy there own laws while every one else is held accountable. Outlaws unit!

  33. Has any one realized that the crane operator who had the accident in philadelphia was arrested for operating the crane and having used marijuana. They ARE blaming the deaths of the people in the collapsed building on pot use in the press. This crane accident took place after the rally. Maybe the police have a memo and are trying to make a point. The two incidents can be related. a new police mind set in Philly. Connect the dots… “OH PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM” (OR LACK OF IT}

  34. After watching this it really makes me realize we dont live in a free country. Wow, soon we will be like Russia and China. Mr. Obama stop arresting people for marijuana its got to stop.

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