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Pop Up Weed Gardens: Growing Consumer Rights

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

America just saw the first “Pop Up Weed Garden” last Thursday, when hundreds of cannabis consumers in Philadelphia gathered to celebrate two years of decriminalization. A stunning success, it won’t be the last.

On display was our beautiful community, represented by “all shapes, sizes, colors and forms,” as marijuana impresario Nikki Allen Poe pointed out in a video at the event.

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

A grove of trees and cool grass on Eakins Oval at the foot of the iconic Art Museum hosted women and men from 18 to 80. It was pleasantly warm—an autumn afternoon full of golden sunshine and swirling leaves accented perfectly by the sweet smell of freedom.

Polling higher than any politician, more popular than any celebrity, cannabis, the plant itself, is always the star. Case and point: A single, scrawny male, with leaves just a few inches across, had every TV news camera in town trained upon it. More than slightly funny.

About 45 police officers were on site, stationed about 150 yards away. I walked over and spoke with the Civil Affairs Unit and asked, “So how do you want to do this? Cite everyone or some of us?”

Sgt. Kennedy, wearing a gray blazer with a large body camera, said, “We don’t have to cite anyone.”

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

As long as the fragrant participants did not attempt to gather on the rather steep marble steps of the Art Museum and stayed in our little garden, well then things were cool. There were no citations, arrests or conflicts with the police.

People from around the region were inspired to converge by an amazing promotional video by Poe and U.S. Marine Corps vet Mike Whiter. The viral tour of Philly’s landmarks with Poe wearing a giant, plush pot leaf designed by activists at Delaware NORML even included some stunning drone video.

Our buzz always carries an important message, and this time it was about the tangible impact of decriminalization since 2014. Arrests are down more than 80 percent. That is a big deal to the 7,000 people who were not put in handcuffs for marijuana compared to previous years. In turn, the shift has saved the city at least $9 million so far. We printed a giant check with that amount, signed by Mary Jane, and delivered it to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office.

Chart Courtesy of PhillyNORML

Chart Courtesy of PhillyNORML

Decrim was an effort won through passion, hard work and more than a little love. It was politics measured by years of tenacity instead of dollars spent.

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Philadelphia has a vibrant cannabis community, one centered on consumer rights. As the laws change, the same spirit of decrim goes into expunging millions of records, getting people out of prison and setting right decades of social injustice.

Our event was a spoof on the popular “pop up beer gardens” that are now ubiquitous. Alcohol consumers enjoy broad rights of social use, cannabis deserves the same. This is not just about tolerance or acceptance anymore, but real equality.

People, businesses, states and cities are cashing in on marijuana legalization. Every cent they seek comes directly from the pockets of medical and adult-use consumers. We are a powerful force.

Chart Courtesy of PhillyNORML

Chart Courtesy of PhillyNORML

Some folks may decry comedic tactics or even images of people blazing joints in public. Both are part of a common strategy and take some bravery because prohibition is not over yet.

Every day, I am deeply grateful to be part of a peaceful, diverse group brought together by cannabis.

No warehouse space, lights or soil is required to cultivate consumer rights.

The “Pop Up Weed Garden” is a pure expression of  community pride. We expect to see them sprout up quickly around the country.

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

Photo by Elkanah Grogan

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