A sea of bloodshot eyes and the unmistakable smell of burning cannabis provided the backdrop for a rally by marijuana enthusiasts who gathered at the Capitol to advocate for the decriminalization of pot on the perennial (and unofficial) holiday, 4/20.
Many came armed with joints while others puffed away on vape pens. One man indulged his munchies with Chester’s Flaming Hot Fries as hip-hop music blared from speakers. The electronic music duo known as Ganja White Knight provided entertainment.
Belying the casual and jovial atmosphere was a message that federal and state marijuana laws disproportionately affect minority communities.
“There’s so many people whose families have been torn apart,” said St. Paul resident and dancer Joceleen Howard, 22. Marijuana should be decriminalized, she said: “Especially for recreational purposes, so people don’t get locked up for it.”
Her mother, Melanie Forbes, 42, agreed.
“It’s not as bad as people think,” said Forbes, a bartender who said her late mother smoked marijuana to feel better as she battled cancer.
Among speakers at the rally was Nekima Levy-Pounds, a community activist running for mayor of Minneapolis. She said existing drug laws end up targeting black and Latino men in particular.
“So many of our laws and policies are being used to oppress people, especially the poor. Especially people of color,” Levy-Pounds said.
State Rep. Jon Applebaum, DFL-Minnetonka, sponsored a measure in the House to create a framework for legal marijuana in Minnesota including its cultivation, sale, use and possession.
He pledged his support for the cause, though it has no chance at the Capitol this year.
“While we know viewpoints on this issue are changing, there are still those with outdated attitudes based on myths and dangers that we all know don’t exist,” Applebaum said in a statement.
“That’s why it was great to see so many people show up today and reach out to their elected officials and engage them in this important conversation.”