Pubdate: Sun, 05 May 2002
Source: Rapid City Journal (SD)
Copyright: 2002 The Rapid City Journal
Author: Jan Kaus, Journal Staff Writer


RAPID CITY -- More than 300 marchers took to Sixth Street in Rapid City 
Saturday afternoon to show their support for efforts to reform marijuana 
laws and legalize its use.

Proponents said that people in more than 160 cities around the world would 
stage similar marches in parades collectively known as the Million 
Marijuana March.

Rapid City's event was organized and led by marijuana/hemp proponent Bob 
Newland of Hermosa, president of SoDakNORML, an affiliate of the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"Our position is that public policy concerning marijuana is a disaster," 
Newland said before the march. "If we stimulate people to voice their 
fears, angers or misgivings on public policy dealing with marijuana, we'll 
succeed. By that definition, we've already succeeded. And we won't stop 
until we get them to stop putting people in jail simply for trying to feel 

Marchers carried posters urging reform of marijuana laws. Messages 
included, "Educate and regulate, don't incarcerate." Newland led chants 
such as, "Here to keep cops off kids."

And despite earlier concerns by Rapid City School District officials over 
the starting point of the march -- at Sixth and Columbus streets in front 
of Dakota Middle School -- no protesters were seen.

This was the sixth year for the march but the first for Rapid City. Newland 
said it's the best-known single international event centered on the 
cannabis plant, and he called Saturday a day of protest against putting 
people in jail.

"Its timing served us well," he added, referring to legislative efforts the 
coalition is sponsoring and petition signatures being gathered Saturday.

"We have to turn in enough signatures Tuesday to get the issue of 
legalizing industrial hemp on the ballot for the November election."

Marchers were more than happy to share their views on why they want hemp 
legalized -- although most chose to share only their first names.

"Vince" was visiting Newland from Florida, so he joined the march. He said 
he feels most politicians choose to fight the marijuana issue simply to 
give an impression that they're doing something.

"They've chosen to fight something that goes against what most people say 
is not a battle to be fought," Vince said. He added, "A good percentage of 
people have smoked pot or do it now, so if those people are fighting this, 
then they are hypocrites. At least there's a few individuals that will 
still stand for something."

Another marcher, who identified himself as Garry, said he thinks marijuana 
has good points and bad points. "I believe it's useful to a certain extent 
if you don't abuse it. If you abuse it, it'll use you."

Marchers represented a cross-section of the population, some with children 
in tow. The march ended without incident at Memorial Park.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens