The first Global Marijuana March was started by Dana Beal in New York, USA in 1998. It raised awareness both of the harms of prohibition throughout the world and how it should end. It has now grown to over 900 worldwide participating cities — as a festival in some places — and is celebrated by millions.
But not everyone lives in large cities. Sometimes your town doesn’t have a GMM. Sometimes you live in a place that isn’t pro-pot. What do you do then? Start your own community GMMs. I did … twice!
I ran my first of my community GMMs in Lethbridge, AB in 2008, sponsored by Southern Alberta Cannabis Club and Calgary 420. The city is religiously ran and very conservative so I was very nervous. I thought for sure there would be police and a possibility of no one coming out.
But my husband and I stood on that cool, windy day on the front steps of City Hall hoping people would come. And then the first people started to arrive — about 50 in total that first year. I met many great people and made relationships that last till today. The Lethbridge GMM grew in the following years, and when I left, others picked it up and continued.
After moving to the Coronation/Hanna, AB-area I was out of the loop for a few years. Growing and baking and raising our young “hemp seed” became my passion. Then we moved again to Cranbrook, BC.
Three years later, 2017, we were approaching the first Saturday in May — GMM weekend. I had no intention of doing anything after being shot down about a 4/20 event in any of the parks in town. But that Tuesday, May 2nd, I attended a meeting with our mayor, Lee Pratt, about the need for a dispensary in our city. The nearest are two running in Kimberley, BC — 35 km north — and eight located in Nelson, which is two hours west.
Community GMMs - For Access
He did not see our concerns, putting it off to marijuana still not being legal. And the city was more interested in the jobs that the Licensed Producer currently under application could bring to the community.
We advocates argued that having an LP will still leave people in Cranbrook with little or no access, never mind that the LP jobs would also be filled from outside areas due to the needed credentials. And DyCar Pharmaceuticals introduced themselves to the community in 2014 but has only now received their security clearance licence. This leaves Cranbrook still approximately three years out from actually having that producer, anyway.
We told him that a dispensary would ultimately bring jobs in and fuel the local economy while also helping residents in need of medical marijuana.
He was hearing none of it, stating that he will leave it to the province and the federal government.
This, to say the least, pissed me off and spurred me to do the first Cranbrook GMM and protest. Yes it was short notice — we only had three days to plan it — but we rounded up the troops, sent out press releases, organized, created signs, and we were ready to go!
Community GMMs - For Support
It was a cool rainy day, and a few of us gathered at my house to smoke before we went. Because the city was having a downtown event we decided not to march, or to smoke in public, due to children. And because I eventually would like to have a business of some type in that downtown area. We didn’t want to alienate anyone.
So we stood out in front of City Hall with our signs and messages: “Patients Matter”,“Dispensaries R Indispensable“, “Do you buy your tomatoes by mail order?”
Many drivers honked and people waved.
We were joined by two of the candidates running in our provincial election: Keith Komar of the Libertarian Party, and Yvonne Prest of the Green Party. The other candidates politely declined. But it was epic with those two, as well as twenty other people, as we stood in the cold listening to the buskers play. The local paper even came out to cover the event. Overall, for the first one in a city of less than 20,000 people, I was very pleased!
We stood out for just under two hours, and we all left feeling that we had made our message clear. We were on an almost-high from the event as we headed back to my house for celebratory doobies and dabs, planning ahead for the next one.
Again I made new friends and contacts, and feel really good about forging ahead.
Why Community GMMs
Getting your activist-feet wet in a conservative little town isn’t always comfortable, but comfort has never been involved in this gig. It’s boots on the ground, grassroots activism that we need in order to continue. This fight isn’t over. Dispensaries still are not included in the coming regime of legalization, craft-growing, and edibles. And vapour lounges are another missing gem that can be used for safe consumption.
So cannafriends, keep your boots on and laced up: the government has yet to announce plans here in British Columbia. And what the policies for cannabis will be under the Cannabis Act aren’t put out there or are very vague….
The fight is not over, not by a long shot!