Pubdate: Sun, 07 May 2000
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2000 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Annie Nakao, The Examiner Staff


Urged on by the slogans "Hemp, hemp -- hooray!" "We toke and we vote," a 
mellow crowd of some 250 cannabis advocates turned out Saturday afternoon 
for San Francisco's Millennium Marijuana march.

The rally, held at United Nations Peace Plaza, featured 24 speakers 
advocating equal rights for pot smokers, and a mini-mall of informational 
tables offering books, "enhanced" brownies -- even the latest technology in 
pipe design. "Ain't nothing like this in Henderson, Ky.," noted Alan 
Buzzard, 30, of Oakland as he strolled with the throngs at the plaza.

A refugee from Kentucky, Buzzard is a staunch advocate of legalizing 
marijuana use. A welder by trade, he suffers from arthritis. His symptoms 
are greatly relieved, he said, by smoking pot. "It helps relieve the pain 
so I can still work," Buzzard said. "You know, we shouldn't have to do 
this, hold a rally. If I can go buy a fifth of whiskey, I should be able to 
smoke a joint."

He had plenty of agreement in the crowd, as evidenced by the wafts of 
cannabis smoke drifting overhead.

Taking a hit from his ceramic pipe, Dale Coverdell, a 23-year-old homeless 
man, said he smokes because he has migraines and lower back pain. "It helps 
me," Coverdell said. "I'm not going to stop. It's my life. It's my medicine."

Saturday's event was part of global demonstrations that took place in 100 
other cities, including New York, Los Angeles, London and Amsterdam. "It 
brings attention to the fact that marijuana is medicine. Don't believe the 
propaganda put out by the federal government," said David Ford of Sonoma, 
author of the recent book "Marijuana: Not Guilty As Charged."

Calling continued prosecution of pot users "uncool," Julia Carter of the 
Drug Peace Campaign said, "Now, as we enter the new millennium, which is 
bringing with it a new age of prosperity, spirituality and peace, it is 
increasingly clear that the drug war is blatantly pass."

The campaign, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 
or NORML, and other organizers of the event see San Francisco on the 
cutting edge of changing policies over medicinal marijuana.

Statewide, marijuana advocates are fighting AB2295, the so-called "Smoke A 
Joint, Lose your License" proposal that would require a six-month driver's 
license suspension for any drug offense.

Drug prosecutions have put 400,000 offenders in federal prisons, according 
to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which opposes mandatory sentences 
in drug cases. "We are your daughters and sons, your sisters and parents - 
we are not criminals," Mikki Norris, of Human Rights and the Drug  War, 
told the cheering crowd.

Entrepreneurs at the rally did a brisk business. Mark McCoy, of VripTech 
International, was besieged by potential customers fascinated by his 
state-of-the-art high performance water pipe that utilizes vaporization. He 
calls it "hot gas extraction aromatherapy."

If the audience was mellow, there was reason for it, said Ford, who was 
there hawking his book. "Pot is crowd control," he said. "Look at 
Woodstock. There was only one fist fight and that was because 99 percent of 
the crowd was smoking grass."

Two people were arrested at Saturday's event: One started a fight and 
another persisted in interrupting rally speakers, according to San 
Francisco police Officer Tony Flores. Otherwise, he said, "Things have been 

Despite the pungent odor of pot, officers seemed not to notice. Flores, who 
was also smoking -- he opted for a cigar -- said, "We're just out here 
making sure everybody's First Amendment rights are protected and that 
everyone has a good time."
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