Philadelphia 4/20 Protest Features No Marijuana Smoking After Show of Police Force

About a dozen cops hovered at the edge of a 50-person protest at Philly's Independence Hall, waiting to arrest anyone smoking marijuana. They didn't get the chance.

Photo | Dan McQuade

4/20 is now enough of an actual holiday that NBC’s hockey coverage made a pot joke yesterday. But while people in Colorado lit up legally on 4/20 for the first time, Philadelphia’s pro-marijuana legalization rally yesterday featured no smoking whatsoever.

The “Smoke Down Prohibition” protests at Independence Hall have been around since 2012. While the first several protests went by without incident, National Park Service and other federal police eventually started to make arrests. Several protesters were arrested in May 2013. The federal government eventually warned of “serious penalties” for anyone smoking pot at Independence Hall. After an arrest on June 30th of last year, local pot activist Chris Goldstein is now banned from pot protests at Independence Hall. He also received a $3,000 fine and two years supervised probation. “My probation officer noted it was the harshest sentence for misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance on federal land he’s ever seen,” Goldstein said in a statement.

Photo | Dan McQuade

Perhaps the show of police strength worked: The crowd for this year’s 4/20 rally was smaller than last year’s protest. According to the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 50 people attended. There were at least a dozen federal police officers hovering during the rally.

Philly NORML’s Derek Rosenzweig pointed out the processing area where smokers had been detained after previous arrests.

Photo | Dan McQuade

The Park Service had shut down a large portion of Independence Hall in order to process arrests. They didn’t get to make any, though: Instead of smoking up at 4:20 p.m. like last year, rally organizers this year observed a moment of silence — after explaining to the onlookers the consequences of an arrest. While no specific threat from the police was given to Philly NORML, “you could just tell” they were planning on arresting anyone lighting up, Rosenzweig said.

There was a similar marijuana protest yesterday in New Jersey that included Jawara McIntosh, youngest son of Peter Tosh. Among local politicians, Daylin Leach, Mark B. Cohen, and Mike Stack have all expressed support or introduced bills supporting the liberalization of marijuana laws.

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