Pubdate: Mon, 20 Apr 2009
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Osprey Media
Page: 1
Author: John Law


420: Pot Smokers Unite In Falls For Annual Event

They came, they saw, they toked.

Pot smokers arrived by the bus load for Saturday's  annual Highway 
420 pro-marijuana rally and for once  they didn't have to think twice 
about lighting up in  public.

Despite an abundance of doobies, hash pipes and bongs,  the police 
opted to look the other way.

"At the end of the day, it's not our job to rush in and  create 
chaos," said one Niagara Regional Police officer  observing the rally 
in his cruiser.

It's likely the only day of the year pot smokers can  spark up in 
public without fear of arrests, as hundreds  gathered near the 
intersection of Highway 420 and  Victoria Avenue before marching down 
Clifton Hill to  chill out at Queen Victoria Park.

At exactly 4:20 p. m., much of the crowd lit up their  stash at once 
while chanting "Free the Weed!" and  lashing out against a proposed 
new Conservative bill.

The bill would impose mandatory jail sentences to  anyone caught 
growing marijuana plants for the purpose  of trafficking.

Under Bill C-15, it would be six months in jail for 200  plants or 
fewer. Between 201 and 500 plants would  warrant a year behind bars.

The bill is being pushed by Niagara Falls MP and  Canadian Justice 
Minister Rob Nicholson, who wasn't Mr.  Popularity Saturday.

"He's probably a good guy, but he has bad policies,"  said Toronto's 
Marko Ivancicevic, one of several  speakers at the rally. 
"Eventually, (pot) is going to  be legal and people will realize they 
wasted a hundred  years and billions of dollars fighting it."

It wasn't just reefer madness for Marge Groenendyk, who  attended pot 
rallies in Edmonton before moving to  Brighton earlier this year. 
She's prescribed medical  marijuana for her degenerative arthritis, 
but she feels  it benefits her mind as well.

"It's stress relief, not just medical relief."

She started as a recreational user as way to deal with  years of 
abuse from an alcoholic husband. Since then,  she has grown angry at 
laws she feels target a harmless  lifestyle.

"We're here to educate," she says. "It needs to be out  there ... the 
lies and all the things the government is  saying."

Proud toker Rob Neron, of Hearst, is down to half a  lung thanks to 
Hodgkin's Disease. He admits it's "not  easy" making the trip to 
Niagara Falls every April, but  the cause is worth the discomfort.

"It's very dear to me," he says. "It's to educate  people and it's 

The march down Victoria Avenue drew plenty of stares,  including one 
from a bemused priest.

Along Clifton Hill, tourists stopped and asked what the  fuss was about.

"Best party of my life!" yelped one toker to a  bystander.

Kingston's Terry Sauve didn't mind the blunt brigade as  they passed 
by his kids. It's all part of their  education, he says.

"They learn about it in school ... at some point,  they'll make their 
own choice."

Son Cale wasn't a fan, however: "They smelled."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart