Cannabis finally came to be legal in America when activism put on a tie and got serious on a political level. Gone from the forefront are the agitators of the hippy era, who may well have helped shock America into accepting the reality of cannabis use and prepped their minds for the renaissance of support we are currently experiencing.
NA Poe is one of these old-school protestors trapped out of time, calling attention to injustices in the most direct way possible. As the organizer of Philadelphia’s Smoke Down Prohibition protests at the Liberty Bell, Poe led hundreds of protestors in a good old-fashioned blaze out. After several successful demonstrations, Philly police and park rangers flooded the final Smoke Down last year, jailing Poe along with libertarian activist Adam Kokesh.
Even though his probation keeps him from his beloved trees, Poe remains in activism, collaborating with Philly NORML and espousing his shocking truths on "The Panic Hour," his conspiracy theorist podcast. This year, he ran for an open city council seat. Check out his platform below.
HIGH TIMES: Describe your involvement with cannabis in all aspects, personal, professional, etc.
Nikki Allen Poe: I have been a cannabis consumer since high school, back when we would spend our nights driving around in a 1986 Buick listening to Biggie Smalls’ "Ready to Die," drinking 40s of Mickey's and rolling blunts of middies. As I grew older and the weed got better, I found myself immersed in weed culture and eventually started working in the legalization movement. In late 2012, my comedy activist collective The Panic Hour, along with Philly NORML, spearheaded a civil disobedience rally called Smoke Down Prohibition at the Liberty Bell in Philly, which eventually led to my arrest. I spent five days locked up in federal prison and am currently serving a year of probation for smoking a joint in public and rallying people to change an unjust law. A lot of my comedy and activism work is weed-centric and marijuana has always played a crucial role in getting my creative juices flowing. If it wasn't for weed, I would probably be some douche bag working in a cubicle, bookending my days in traffic and listening to NPR in my Hyundai.
HT: How is state-level legalization affecting your cannabis-related activities?
NAP: It really doesn't affect me much. I can’t smoke because of probation. I most likely wouldn't qualify under the medical bill and full on legalization in PA is a fucking pipe dream.
Unless they include writers block as a condition for a medical card, I’m probably shit out of luck. I'm looking forward to moving out west in about a year or so and being able to buy buds legally and not feel like a criminal.
HT: What are some of the victories of state-level legalization in your area?
NAP: We proposed a bill here in Philly to decriminalize marijuana down to a $25 fine without custodial arrest and it is up for a vote very soon. I think it has a good chance of passing. [Note: It did.] I would like to think that the hard work that my colleagues and I have put in has actually had some impact. There were 4000 people locked up for weed here last year and if we can make sure that no one gets cuffed for pot, that's a huge win for us. We have been banging pots and pans in the street for a while now and it’s finally paying off. I recently ran for city council in Philadelphia on the issue of weed decriminalization and police accountability and surprisingly got over 4200 votes with no money to campaign. That's over 4000 people that are fed up enough with the system to vote for a stoner comic with a rap sheet. I think that Smoke Down Prohibition called some much-needed attention to the cause. The real battle is statewide, though. We need to get medical marijuana passed here for the kids, people with cancer, and for our veterans with PTSD. We are inching closer and closer to getting that bill through, but it’s a fucking grind.
HT: What are some of the failures of state-level legalization in your area?
NAP: The CBD only legislation has become a back door way of preventing the weed movement from getting comprehensive bills passed state to state. We had a little scare with that here in PA. I realize that Charlotte’s Web is helping kids and I’m not taking away from the impact that has had on those children’s lives or the American public's psyche about legalization, but we need whole plant cannabis legalized everywhere for myriad reasons. We can’t allow legalization to get handcuffed by politicians by passing CBD-only medical bills. It's becoming a dirty trick to prevent real progress. Most people that need marijuana as a medicine need the THC content. I also think its disgusting that politicians will exploit sick kids to try to prevent real legalization from happening.
HT: Do you believe the federal government is making progress towards decriminalization or legalization?
NAP: Yes and no. It's definitely on the radar big time now. I think the feds will eventually have to cave to the will the people at some point. Decriminalization at a federal level would be an amazing leap forward, followed by emptying the prisons of people locked up for pot. It's the fucking 21st century and we're putting people in cages for growing and possessing a plant. But let’s start by taking marijuana off the list of Schedule 1, which is obviously ludicrous. I still feel we are a long way off to legalizing nationally, but I'll remain cautiously optimistic. Hopefully on the way out the door, when he's done drone striking children and allowing the NSA to read our emails, Obama will do the right thing and sign an executive order to legalize nationally.
HT: How long, do you predict, before weed is completely legal in America?
NAP: If I had to guess, I would say that weed will be legal in America by 2025. , Unfortunately, by that point the skies will be filled with drone planes, we'll all have chips implanted in our arms to track our every movement, and we'll all be huddled in underground bunkers eating canned goods. That's when they'll finally throw us a bone, when America looks like a scene out of Demolition Man. Am I coming off as cynical? I hope not. I love America.
HT: How long, do you predict, before weed is completely legal in the world?
NAP: We wont see that in our lifetime. Hopefully my great great grandkids will smoke a huge joint and tell my hologram about how great it is to live in a free society.
HT: What is the biggest challenge facing legalization on a state level?
NAP: I feel like the biggest challenge is getting the politicians to enact the will of the people. In PA, 85 % of the population is in favor of medical marijuana and the committees, legislators, and the governor continue to ignore that fact. Americans have grown so complacent with politics that our elected officials no longer feel accountable to their constituents. Putting pressure on these career politicians to do what we want or get voted the fuck out should wake them up. Hopefully that starts happening and new progressive laws can be passed here.
HT: A national level?
NAP: Incompetent imbeciles like the head of the DEA, Michelle Leonhart, are huge hurdles to legalization on a national level. That woman should be working as a manager at Burger King. Pharmaceutical companies, the prison industrial complex, the police unions, and dinosaur politicians are all huge obstacles to legalization in my opinion. Also, the prohibitionists are in their death throes and will continue their pathetic last ditch attempt at reviving reefer madness. The feds also have to figure out a way to corporatize the cannabis industry and profit from it before they legalize. The government and their cronies will have to have their greedy hands firmly embedded in the weed game before that happens. It’s our job as activists to make sure that that doesn't happen. I’m not saying we shouldn’t tax and regulate. That’s important for our economy, but not if the price of that is Monsanto weed.
HT: The global level?
NAP: The Illuminati. Those sons of bitches will do anything to keep humans from expanding their consciousness and uniting as citizens of earth. Weed smoking will lead to that shit and they can't have people around the globe shutting off their TVs, questioning their government, and thinking for themselves.