Pot Protestivals and the Role They Play in the Legalization Movement

As we approach the late summer/early fall festival season, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the annual pro-pot festivals, sometimes called “protestivals.”

In the early years of the marijuana legalization movement, pro-pot events in the same vein of the Civil Rights Movement’s lunch counter “sit-ins” occurred. These cannabis community events were called “smoke-ins,” a reference to the crowd of individuals willing to risk arrest and jail by protesting marijuana prohibition. The smoke-ins were intended as an exercise of one’s First Amendment right to publicly protest unjust policies.

While public smoking was never a regular NORML tactic, I did occasionally attend an event organized by others, including the 1977 July 4th Coalition in Washington, D.C., where I spoke in Lafayette Park across from the White House on more than one occasion. Surprisingly, even in D.C. in the 70s, most of us discovered we were safe smoking in the middle of a big crowd without being hassled by the police. Law enforcement lingered on the fringes of the event, observing the smoke-in and making sure nothing got out of hand; but there were few arrests, and those mostly involved attendees who had the bad fortune of smoking too close to the edge of the crowd, where they could be singled-out. I suppose we should have been paranoid about lighting up in public, but our idealism overruled our good sense. And all of us felt empowered by this act of civil-disobedience.


9 thoughts

  1. When is the march in Washington DC? Lets call it “Vaporize Prohibition” and sell discount vaporizers at educational booths up and down the National Mall. Nothing against smoking a bowl; We should make offerings of cannabis to the Jefferson Memorial, Mt. Vernon and light the Washington Monument green. Let the Green Age begin!

  2. Just legalized it . Because war on drugs is nothing abut failure. People who in jail for somke It should be set free. The murder And rapist, pedophiles Should be one locked up longer. But I don’t agree with age limit to it because it not going to work I but I understand why. But it time to legalized weed

  3. I think you should do a reddit AMA, it would raise some awareness, encourage others that grassroots action is working, and be highly successful.

  4. I say it’s time to look at the university’s and their failure to speak up! This is where we are educated and also drug’s(pills) are developed so I say boycott ALL higher learning sports programs and never give a dollar to a person/company/university til they stop supporting this war on drug’s!!!

  5. I would love to know more details about what kinds of things were planned at these protestivals. Bands… speakers … and any other tips that would make this kind of gathering successful.

  6. I believe the best positive action would always be to go Kindly,Peacefully. Pot is about healing,peace,art,community,joy,sharing, caring,faith,experience,love,music,food as medicin,education,peoples,plants and cultures, So,go and be without other things that counter this journey.m

  7. the tide grows stronger in our favor every time an old republican dies or gets voted out. Soon smoke ins will not be as fun anymore because it will be legal legal legal legal legal legal

  8. The smoke-ins definitely played a role in normalizing cannabis use, making it safer over all, because there was always middle class kids and university students at the smoke-ins and the police didn’t want to piss off the wrong families.
    Smoke ins are what made people brave enough to step out of the closet, which is what normalized Cannabis.
    It was a long, tricky process to organize mass acts of mass civil disobedience involving hundreds of people in towns like Regina where I am, people coming out and risking arrest with the knowledge that the more people who took the risk the less the risk existed, which had such a powerful effect it changed our society’s outlook not only on cannabis, but on the nature of our government, and we now have majority support for legalization for 10 years, at least in Canada, through low-budget working class grassroots organizing in the face of institutional censorship, interference by law enforcement and a multi-million dollar counter-campaign from tax funded opponents who are able to operate at will in our schools and state institutions.

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