Cannabis Demonstrators Call for Democrats to End Federal Prohibition at DNC Day 1

Long before Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage on night one of the Democratic National Convention, hundreds of cannabis activists gathered in front of City Hall to rock a pro-pot political protest for several miles to Wells Fargo Center carrying a couple of 51-foot long inflatable joints branded with the messages “Legalize. Berned by the DNC” and “Legalize Cannabis Now.”

Marijuana advocates gathered in Philadelphia yesterday afternoon to show Democratic delegates just how much support there really is for the legalization of cannabis. While the majority of the noise was intent on selling the usual spiel of the herb’s medicinal benefits, the primary goal of the mission was to communicate to the Democrats the necessity to remove cannabis from the confines of the Controlled Substances Act – an action that would allow cannabis to be used for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

“We’re here to let the DNC know that we want them to legalize cannabis federally, and we want it descheduled, not rescheduled,” one activist told CBS News.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Party voted, for the first time in history, to make marijuana reform an official part of its 2016 campaign platform. Although the original language of the proposal simply suggested the tendering of support for the elimination of criminal penalties associated with pot possession, the updated stance comes with a desire to create “a reasoned pathway to future legalization.” Meanwhile, the Republicans failed to come to terms on even an ultra-conservative position in regards to non-psychoactive medical marijuana.

The Democratic Party’s newfound position on marijuana can be largely attributed to the work of Senator Sanders, who not only called for the repeal of pot prohibition in the United States throughout his campaign, but he introduced a piece of legislation last year in the U.S. Senate aimed at making this broad reform a reality.

It was this kind of controversial position on a substance that the federal government still considers one of the most dangerous drugs in the world — up there with rock star killer, heroin — that apparently made Sanders a secret pariah in the eyes of the DNC. It was recently revealed through a series of leaked emails that Party leaders, including chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have been scheming for sometime to prevent Sanders from becoming the Democratic nominee. The scandal has since prompted Wasserman Shultz to tender her resignation as party chairman and the DNC to issue Sanders a formal apology.

But despite everyone in the streets of downtown Philadelphia understanding that the democratic process has become an enormous scam, the activism, at least in regards to those there in support of legalizing marijuana, was mostly peaceful. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III told Philly Scene that there wasn’t any tension, “just a lot of energy.”

Chris Goldstein of PhillyNORML, the organization responsible for flying one of the inflatable joints, told reporters that he hopes that people do not view the demonstration as a protest. “Instead,” he said, “we are cheering (politicians who support legalization of marijuana) on. (Legalization) is getting closer and closer. We have a real chance of it.”

However, the Tribune News Service indicates that many people did, in fact, show up to express their disdain for the Democratic Party’s cavalier attitude toward sabotaging the Sanders campaign. Although there were no arrests made, police reportedly issued more than 50 citations to rowdy DNC protestors who appeared hell bent and determined to get into the convention to tear something apart.

During his stand down speech, last night, Sanders attempted to persuade supporters of the “political revolution” that – while his loss is disappointing– Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton “must become the next president of the United States.” He said the two have recently discovered common ground on many of the issues where they previously differed.

But what does this mean for the grand scheme of marijuana reform if Hillary Clinton does end up winning the election this November? Probably nothing too different from what is happening right now under President Obama, according to Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer.

The Congress, which is one of the leading pro-pot proponents in Washington D.C, says that after having a couple of conversations with Hillary over the issue of nationwide pot reform he is “convinced that the Clinton administration could be as good or better than the Obama administration,” adding that “the Obama administration was the best in history on this.”

Longtime cannabis advocates hope this is true. Dana Beal, who has been demonstrating at Democratic conventions since 1964, told CBS that, “we want to see people go from mostly alcohol and tobacco world to mostly marijuana world.”


photo: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

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