On May 2nd. I had the great fortune to attend The 3rd. Annual Toronto Freedom Festival & 11th. Global Marijuana March. It is a day I shall never forget.
I exited off of the Subway and grabbed a Timmie's. It was shortly after noon and I followed the 50 or so people I could see ahead of me. I arrived at Queens Park North just as it was starting to really come alive.
The sun was trying to come out and tents were popped up throughout the grounds. People were lounging on blankets and chilling in lawn chairs. As I made my way towards the stage the sweet smell of Maryjane pleasantly drifted through the air. I followed the casual pace of the growing crowd, taking note of the numerous business vendor booths and food stands. Funnel Cakes! Wow, I thought, the people selling munchies here today are going to make a bundle. Genius.
Admittedly, it felt a little weird being there by myself, but it afforded me no distractions - I wanted to take it all in. After wandering around a bit more I headed back towards the main stage. They were asking that people start lining up for the Marijuana March. Buzz from High Times Magazine started to speak and the crowd listened.
It was then I cursed myself for not having had my Camcorder fixed, and berated myself for not getting a tape recorder. Costly rookie mistakes I thought, and put my faith that all of this was going to pop up on YouTube anyways. (and it did, Thanks Internets!)
Then, Marc and Jodie Emery appeared. Now I've read much about the "Prince of Pot" and of course have watched him on TV and the web, but being there, hearing him speak right in front of me was a pretty cool thing.
At one point during Mr. Emery's speech I even started to tear up. I was sad that millions of us across our country are STILL having to fight to utilize nature. I mean, how absurd is that? A plant - we have to fight to use a plant! We are criminals for choosing nature over synthetic drugs. We are called criminals because our Canadian Government has decided that we shall not have autonomy over our own personal bodies, demanding of us that our only legal alternative is to keep popping those doctor prescribed pills, effectively making politicians the gatekeepers of our health. You don't send a lawyer in to an operating room to perform open heart surgery, so why should anyone other than Physicians and Scientists write and influence our laws concerning our health?
I could have listened to Marc all afternoon, and from his enthusiasm I'm sure he would have gone on. But it was time for The Global Marijuana March and literally right before my eyes a sea of people peacefully gathered and lined up for the trek throughout Downtown Toronto.
It was hard not to notice that throughout this mass of people were members of all races, creeds, nationalities and religions. Young and old, Hippies, Yuppies, Rastafarians, Jews, Christians and Muslims. Able-bodied pushed people in wheelchairs, straight and gay couples stood side by side, Goths and Jocks, Punks and Preppies, you name it, they were there. Yes, this mass was a true representation of the wonderful diversity of Canada. All had come together as one in a show of peace and solidarity with a common goal - True freedom in the face of Government oppression.
Now I'm not sure about you, but for me, being a part of such an event is literally life transforming. Witnessing people come together in peace and love regardless of where they came from, well, the only way I can possibly describe it is emotionally overwhelming. Pride fills you up because in the moment, you cannot help but feel more a part of the Human Race than you even thought possible.
As I marched I snapped photos along the route. Motorists honked in approval and pedestrians and shopkeepers stood back in awe of over 20 000 people unified in a cause we deeply believe in. For those of you who may scoff & think this was just about people wanting to get high in public, you could not be further from the truth. While admittedly there is some novelty in the act of partaking in the use of Cannabis openly while police respectfully stood looking on, our message is so much more complex.
We marched in hopes of being recognized by our Government, and to bring awareness to those who may not know that our rallying cries "go deeper than Pot". We marched to bring forth that we as Canadians, as Humans, deserve the freedom of making choices for ourselves. We marched in hope that every one of us as individuals could one day soon let go of the fear of incarceration for utilizing Nature. We marched for the sick who are deemed Criminals for choosing Cannabis over prescription narcotics. We marched because our Government convicts us as criminals because we wish to use Cannabis as our method of medicine and recreation. We marched because this War on Drugs is, and always will be, a War on People.
Prohibition of Cannabis instantly proves that we as Canadians are not living in a free society. If we were truly free we wouldn't be hunted down by police for using a plant that is less harmful than alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs, poor eating habits and caffeine.
Laws are necessary, we understand this. They are put in place to encourage people from inflicting harm and pain on others. But why must our Government become "Big Brother" when it comes to our very own selves? What right does Government have to demand that we abstain from one substance, and not others? Especially when they hold their hand out, collecting billions of dollars in tax revenue from alcohol and cigarettes? How dare they give full support to big pharmaceutical drug companies while crushing those of use who grow and consume Cannabis as our choice of medicine? Persecution for Cannabis is more harmful than the plant itself.
While yes, it is true that Medical Marijuana is legal in Canada, actually getting a prescription from a brave Doctor, getting through the pages of paperwork that may take over a year for Health Canada to process, and being able to afford the 1500% marked up Government Marijuana is a very real obstacle for most.
When faced with such highly demanding obstacles, is it any wonder why most of us choose to obtain our medicine through the black market? Can you blame us for cutting through ridiculous government red tape and just taking care of ourselves?
Stephen Harper et al have no right to tell me what I can, or cannot put into my body. Just as Government has no right to tell a woman whether or not she can have an abortion, Government has no right to tell me what I things I can ingest. I would go to jail for this belief. I would give up my life as I know it for this belief. I would die for this belief. Extreme? Not for me. I have been a victim of Big Pharma, I have been a victim of synthetic drugs wreaking pure havoc in my body, and I refuse to be a victim any more. I refuse to have any politician tell me they know my own body better than me. The mere notion of that is ridiculous.
When Government enacts Prohibition, it conveys "We do not trust Canadian adults to make decisions for yourselves. We're politicians, not Doctors, but we know what is best for your health."
So I marched along with the thousands of others on that day because I want to be a part of the movement to change Canadian law. I marched to show my disapproval of the Conservative Governments' introduction of Bill C-15 and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. I marched on behalf of those who are currently incarcerated, torn away from their families and communities in the face of draconian drug laws that were born of racism and corporate greed and later fueled by Big Pharma and the Prison Industrial Complex.
At the Main Stage the countdown began and right at 4:20 the crowd cheered and I lit up with the rest of the festival goers around me. Rebel Emergency started to play and even though we were soggy and wet it didn't matter. We danced, we sang, we watched the lead singer ride the crowd on a Surf Board!
The organizers of the festival did a truly remarkable job, and deserve much thanks from all of us who enjoyed the days events. While I had a few cringe-worthy moments throughout the day (all my notes getting soaked, missing the "Brownie Booth", my Camera - Nooooo!) it was a truly awesome life experience. The peace and love shared by upwards of 25 000 was electric! It gave me hope that one day in the near future Canadians will once again regain our right to use Cannabis. Prohibition must end - our world will be a much better, safer, happier place because of it.
Needless to say, I can't wait for next year!
Video I made with my pics from the day.
~You would think the cover of the next days' Toronto Sun would have shown the sea of almost 30 000 marchers filling up the streets of Toronto - but no. Featured was a picture of retired figure skater Elvis Stojko - casually talking to someone about Karate.