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Activism Without the Attitude: Support the Cause, Don't Be the Problem

By Rebecca Kelley — 10/1/2013

In the days leading up to Seattle Hempfest, when the Seattle Police Department mentioned they would be handing out bags of Doritos adorned with stickers explaining Washington's I-502 recreational cannabis laws, a lot of skeptical people posted sarcastic or paranoid comments online about how this was just a ploy to gather cannabis consumers in a concentrated spot so the police could arrest everyone. A few days ago, a Colorado marijuana attorney named Robert Corry made quite the fuss when he was arrested for consuming cannabis in public during the Colorado Rockies game. Corry was obstinate, cursed at officers (calling one "a stupid cop"), and claimed he was "a big trophy" arrest for the department. These two different instances have something in common: they feature cannabis activists with a chip on their shoulders so large, it's becoming a detriment to the industry as a whole. 

With the Hempfest example, there's the eye-rolling skepticism that the Seattle police department would be so laid-back about the city's largest cannabis protestival. People were throwing the "sheeple" remark around and warning attendees that they were going to be duped by the cops and arrested for public consumption, despite official claims from SPD that they were not going to crack down on public usage during the event and would only make sure attendees were being safe and respectful of one another. In Corry's case, although recreational cannabis has been legalized in Colorado, it's still illegal to consume in public. Corry disobeyed that law, but rather than put out his joint, he opted to argue with police officers and ended up getting arrested (his third arrest after a previous sexual assault charge and a charge of destruction of private property) on suspicion of public consumption of marijuana and disobediance to a lawful order when he would otherwise have likely been let go with a warning. 

As a cannabis supporter, I'm happy to live in a state where recreational cannabis has been legalized. However, what I don't like is walking around Seattle and passing a thick cloud of cannabis smoke whenever I pass a bus station. Public consumption is illegal here, too, and it's set in place as a courtesy to others who either don't consume cannabis or who are fine with it but don't want to be bombarded by it every four feet. Getting all bent out of shape because you can legally possess and enjoy cannabis in your state but are asked not to flaunt it in public is exasperating. It's also unreasonable and a little greedy. By complaining about every little thing, you're undermining other activists' genuine efforts to at least get decriminalization or medical cannabis on the ballot in their states. Washington and Colorado complainers are acting like someone who got handed the keys to a decked-out Maserati and is angry that a bottle of Evian wasn't included in the cup holder.

A huge recurring theme at both the Seattle Hempfest and the Cannabis Cup was that we all need to work together despite our differences to get the world to rethink cannabis. Prominent speakers and well-known activists all reiterated that though we may have different approaches and viewpoints, we need to understand that our actions carry a lot of weight. The world is looking at the United States, Washington and Colorado in particular, with much curiosity to see how we're steering the conversation towards a mature, thoughtful discourse about legalizing cannabis. In Washington and Colorado, that means working with local law enforcement and local politicians to comply with each state's recreational cannabis laws and, if you don't agree with them, offering your input in a calm, measured manner. 

I'm not saying you should holster your passion. I've seen many activists give emotional speeches about their loved ones who have been incarcerated and whose friends' lives have been ruined because of illogical laws and the inefficient War on Drugs. Passion is what fuels people to get off their couches and support a cause. There's a difference between being passionate about cannabis legalization, however, and being a jerk about it. These things take time and persistence, and your message will travel a lot further if you're calm and thoughtful than if you attach negativity and spite to it. 

photo credit: debaird™ via photopin cc