Cheers and a cloud of marijuana smoke floated up from the steps of the Minnesota Capitol Monday as hundreds of activists rallied for legalization.
For the past four decades, activists have gathered on April 20th to light up in a show of civil disobedience they hope will draw attention and support. This year’s “Yes We Cannabis” rally, sponsored by Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, drew everyone from patients who use the drug medically to recreational users who want to be able to partake without fear of a drug bust.
“Can we legalize it?” Minnesota NORML executive director Marcus Harcus called out as the crowd huddled together against the cold, passing joints among themselves.
“Yes we cannabis!” the crowd called back.
The rally comes just three months before medical marijuana is legalized in this state. But 4/20 rally participants say they’ll keep pushing until lawmakers legalize recreational use as well. Almost half the states have legalized medical cannabis, but recreational marijuana is legal in only four -- Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Before the outdoor demonstration, supporters crowded into Christ Lutheran Church at the Capitol to share stories about their experience with the drug -- and with drug laws.
Teresa Morrill of Apple Valley talked about losing her car to the state’s forfeiture laws after her her college-aged son was busted while driving it with a knapsack of marijuana in the trunk. Leroy Duncan talked about opening his front door to find guns pointed at him and his young neice, held by officers looking for his brother.
“I laid there, while they searched my house, because my brother sold a few dime bags,” Duncan said. “This is not how any human being deserves to be treated.”
Angela Brown, the Minnesota mom who narrowly avoided going to trial this week for giving her sick son cannabis oil, told the audience the drug “was a miracle for our son.” Trey Brown, now 15, sat in the crowd.
T.J. Nelson of Brainerd, who smokes marijuana to treat his Crohn’s disease, came to the rally with his fiance and young children.
“I’m here today to tell everyone we have to break the silence,” he said. “There’s tens of thousands of Minnesotans who use cannabis every day, but they won’t talk about it. They’re scared for their jobs, they’re scared of losing their kids, they’re scared of repercussions in their community. In Greater Minnesota, these are real repercussions.”
Capitol Police kept an eye on the show of civil disobedience via security cameras, but made no move to interfere. Minnesota decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana in 1976 — it's a petty misdemeanor if you're caught with less than an ounce and a half of the drug.
“They have every right to be here,” a Capitol Police spokesman said. “It seemed like everyone behaved themselves.”