The Federal and local governments of our country continue to ramp up their prosecution of non-violent, peaceful marijuana users and patients. And as they do so, The Panic Hour and their supporters plan to be there to point out the ridiculousness of it all.
Philadelphia, P.A. June 24, 2013
There is no longer any question. It is now accepted as fact that our nation’s drug war is disproportionately targeting minorities at rates as much as eight times higher than that of whites. Recently, the ACLU came out with a shocking study showing significant increases in the number of prosecutions of young black males for marijuana crimes, over those committed by white offenders.
Long standing organizations like the NAACP are now standing behind legislation to decriminalize marijuana for personal use. In Pennsylvania, State Senator Daylin Leach’s SB528, a groundbreaking marijuana reform bill, has gained the backing of the NAACP on top of an already growing list of supporters.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has recently added to the list as well, with a resolution urging President Obama to discontinue prosecution of those states with medical marijuana bills in place, and urging him to push for legalization as a way for our struggling cities to reduce their police budgets and free up resources than can otherwise be better spent elsewhere.
And this coming Sunday, a vocal group of marijuana law reform activists and community organizers will bring light to the injustices being perpetuated on people of all colors in the ongoing war on drugs. “Smoke Down Prohibition VI : Drug War Tour of Philadelphia” in an exercise in activism as well as civil disobedience. This is the sixth event of it’s type, and in expanding on previous month’s themes of a stationary rally, this month will be featured as a march around the “City of Brotherly Love”, while stopping at notable landmarks in the ongoing and costly “War On Drugs” along the way. The march ends up at Liberty Hall, where those who wish to can partake in a moment of cannabis reflection at 4:20 pm.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Edward Forchion ( aka. “NJ Weedman” ), one of the event’s co-organizers, says that “King encouraged resistance in his day. I find it my moral responsibility to do this. The tactic has evolved, in his day it was sit ins, today its our Smoke Downs”
Forchion goes on to explain “The unjust marijuana laws in America jail more African Americans today than were imprisoned during the era of slavery. Our drugs laws have resurrected the ghost of Jim Crow. We now imprison millions in our ‘New Age Concrete Plantation System’. I’ve been encouraging civil disobedience for years as an activist to resist the war on drugs much like Martin Luther King”
Organized by Philadelphia’s comedy group The Panic Hour, “Smoke Down Prohibition” events are a means of civil disobedience and peaceful protest against the unjust prosecution of marijuana users and patients. The event is by no means exclusive to just marijuana smokers. Non-smokers and anyone else who supports marijuana law reform is welcome to attend and show support. With each successive event, the rallies continue to turn into an entertaining and informative occasion with equal parts comedy and inspiring speakers.
The tour kicks of at Love Park (15th St. & JFK Blvd) at 3 pm, with stops at the offices of the Drug Enforcement Agency, The Philadelphia Federal Courthouse, as well as the Federal Detention Center. Giving speeches at each stop will be famed Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, and The Panic Hour’s own N.A. Poe, who in May along with Kokesh spent a week in Federal lockup for being the vocal leaders of the previous “Smoke Down” event.
The Panic Hour, made up of a rotating cast of talent and guests, hosts a regular pod/vidcast of the same name on topics related to marijuana law reform and civil liberties. So why exactly is a comedy troupe leading civil disobedience events? N.A. Poe, the primary voice of The Panic Hour, explains in an upcoming article by Elyse Hauser for “Urban Romance” magazine, “We try to handle everything comedically, because with as fucked-up as everything is, you have to tackle things with a sense of humor.” He goes on to explain, “We are drawing from a pool of all different kinds of people that see marijuana as beneficial, I feel like that’s what it takes—a rag-tag army of people with different issues, relating to the one issue, uniting together.”
Adding a bit of irony to the situation, N.A. Poe will not be speaking at the Liberty Mall, as he is banned from National Park Service property while out on bail for his arrest at the May 18th Smoke Down event. Previous Smoke Down events went off without a hitch and no arrests. But on May 18th, the National Park Service Police ridiculously decided to highlight the very thing being protested, by arresting Poe and Adam Kokesh. They were both charged with “resisting arrest” and “assault on an officer”, both charges that are easily debunked by video from events of that day.
However, the arrests have anything but the intended affect of silencing a movement. As Poe explains, “This had made us stronger. We are continuing to grow. Activists are coming out of the closet.” The arrests at the previous Smoke Down only helped but to further the point that our nation’s war on drugs is a failure, and continues to highlight the need for these events. Poe and friends currently are in the planning phase of organizing similar events around the country.
The Federal and local governments of our country continue to ramp up their prosecution of non-violent, peaceful marijuana users and patients. And as they do so, The Panic Hour and their supporters plan to be there to point out the ridiculousness of it all. Considering joining the cause, and marching on June 30th as well.