Sunday, May 21, 2006
High Times & the New York pot rally
"Even in New York City, home to Global Marijuana March maven Dana Beal and his group Cures Not Wars, the turnout was a disappointing 200 or so. While construction in Battery Park, where the rally has been held since it was pushed out of Washington Square Park, meant that the city refused to issue rally permits, some observers interpreted the small size of the crowd as more of a comment on the state of the march in its home city than on the hazards of permit acquisition. As High Times editor-at-large Steve Bloom commented in his blog, "from thousands of supporters in the '90s to a handful on Sunday, the rally appeared to be on life support."
Responding to my comment, Cures Not Wars' Dana Beal told DWC:
"High Times won't back the New York march. The media is just interested in marijuana, and High Times wanted me to drop ibogaine as an issue. The media doesn't see that this is about harm reduction, not just marijuana. We had a woman who talked about the Rockefeller drug laws."
I can't speak for High Times' involvement or lack thereof this year. However, in the past High Times had contributed thousands of dollars to fund the New York rally and march. In 2002, I personally acquired the Parks Department and sound permits, and High Times paid the $1,000 Parks Department bond (which was returned in full). For several years, High Times paid for the backline (sound equipment) that enabled bands to perform. In association with New York State NORML and Damn Sam Productions, High Times helped book bands and speakers for the event. Several years ago, Beal personally appealed for and received a stipend (as much as $2,000) from High Times to help pay for the event.
This year, both High Times and New York State NORML did not support the rally. The event obviously suffered from that lack of support. But the biggest problem, as I wrote, was the last-minute switch of rally locations, from Battery Park to City Hall. Few knew of this change. No wonder the attendance was sadly underwhelming.
As far as Beal's charge that "High Times wanted me to drop ibogaine as an issue," I can't offically speak to that. However, I do contend that people who come to a marijuana rally primarily want to focus on that issue. Beal has long pushed his ibogaine agenda (iboga as a cure for hard-drug addictions) at the event, and also has been known to speak at length about the wonders of melatonin. These are peripheral issues at best, and take away from the main reason why people attend such a rally. The Rockefeller Laws (responsible for long sentences for all drugs), on the other hand, should be a major part of the day's discussion.
Beal also told DWC: "You don't have to have thousands of people to have an impact. This is a worldwide event, and everywhere we were, the local media covered it and mentioned 200 other cities. And these are not just smoke-ins - these are political events."
Cures Not Wars has indeed been responsible for expanding what was once a local New York event into a worldwide phenomenon. But this has occurred at the cost of diminishing attention paid to the New York event, which was clearly the case this year.
Read Phil Smith's coverage in Drug War Chronicle and Sarah Ferguson's in The Village Voice