One in a Million

By Andrew Looney

Having written a number of essays regarding my opposition to marijuana prohibition, I decided I couldn't really call myself an activist without participating in what promised to be the largest cannabis legalization rally ever held. So this weekend, we loaded up the van and drove to New York for the Million Marijuana March.

The March was a worldwide event: the Million were located in 25 major cities around the globe, all marching at the same time, on the same day, for the same reason: to promote the idea that marijuana smokers should be treated like people, instead of criminals. Although Washington DC was on the list of cities, it was added at the last minute and we'd already decided to go to New York, particularly since we also wanted to visit Dawn (to check out her latest painting and to meet the new love of her life). So we drove up the night before, and crashed at her pad in Brooklyn.

The March began around noon, at Washington Square Park (which is right in the middle of Manhattan) and snaked along the mighty corridors of New York City to Battery Park (which is down at the tip of the island, where boats tours bound of the Statue of Liberty depart). It was a longer walk than I'd expected, but it was an absolutely gorgeous spring day and the crowd was happy and enthusiastic, so it was great fun.

The crowd was HUGE. Tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands. I have no idea how many people there were, really. I had hoped to be able to find out from the media coverage approximately how many people turned out, but to my dismay and disgust, there doesn't seem to have been any media coverage. [I really can't understand this. Isn't the news supposed to objectively report on that which is going on in the world? This is an issue that, in one way or another, affects millions of Americans, yet a huge and well-organized protest march on the subject isn't regard as newsworthy. Why not? I can understand the government's desire to squelch opposing viewpoints... but how has our media become so beholden to the status quo as to ignore a major event like this one? It makes no sense to me. The only thing I can assume is that the owners of newspapers, magazines and TV stations pander to the wishes of alcohol and cigarette advertisers, for whom the legal sale of cannabis would be unwelcome competition. But still... you'd think there'd be at least some journalistic integrity left in this country...]

Since this was a protest, the marchers found many ways of expressing their message. Many carried signs, with a wide range of slogans, like "20 Million Stoners Can't be Wrong," "The Government is Lying," and "Marijuana is Safer than Viagra." Pot leaf logos abounded, on signs, on shirts, on simulated leafy leis, and in nerf-like Statue of Liberty sunbrims that some entrepreneurs were selling at the beginning of the march. And of course, as protesters usually do, the crowd also chanted a variety of slogans. Of these, the most amusing was "We smoke pot and we like it a lot!"

The crowd had a wonderful ethnic diversity. This is a movement that welcomes and encompasses all types of people. It cuts across racial barriers and unites every age group. Every type of person you could imagine was there, only a portion of whom fit into the various stoner stereotypes.
As impressive as the number of marchers was the number of cops. They seemed almost to line the entire parade route. They were actually really cool about it... they recognized that we were exercising our right to free assembly, and not only allowed us to march, but even kind of coordinated the whole thing. They blocked off roads and lanes of traffic for us, and established a route that got a swarming mass of humanity through some of the most densely congested city blocks in the world. And they didn't harass us, they just marched along at our sides. (Of course, one couldn't forget later on that they're the enemy in this war, when they started sending undercover cops into the crowd at the rally and making arrests.)
But for us, the event was more than just a march for a cause we believe in... it was also a marketing opportunity. Our game Aquarius has artwork that was designed specifically to appeal to the tastes of hippies, and several of the features at our web site have similar appeal, so this was a golden chance to do some well targeted advertising. For a while now, we've been giving colorful Aquarius stickers away free at events like this; this time, we created a quarter page flyer to go with the stickers, with more information about our games, our site, and our contagious dreams. We gave away hundreds of these flyers during the march, along with at least as many Purple Submarine and Rocket stickers, which everyone really liked a lot.
Lastly of course, since we have kind of a thing for people with really long hair, we couldn't help but notice that many of the marchers sported long beautiful tresses. We made many new friends that day...

...hopefully some of the people reading this report are new friends we made at the Million Marijuana March.

Copyright © 1999 by Andrew Looney

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