Pubdate: Wed, 21 Apr 2010
Source: Concord Monitor (NH)
Copyright: 2010 Monitor Publishing Company
Author: AnnMarie Timmins


Police Steer Clear of Smoking Crowd

About 50 people - one carrying an 11-day-old baby - gathered outside
the State House yesterday, some smoking marijuana, to advocate the
drug's legalization. It was a typical "420" event, except no one left
in handcuffs.

And that meant no arrest footage for YouTube with headlines like one
out of a recent Nashua rally: "Police Attack Freedom

That was intentional.

On Monday, Concord police Chief Robert Barry said his department would
treat the rally as "business as usual." If the station received a
complaint about noise or drug use while the rally participants were on
city property, officers would respond, he said.

The state police, whose jurisdiction includes the State House lawn,
took the same approach. Troopers watched from across the street but
didn't come closer than that. The low-key approach seemed to
disappoint some activists.

"Maybe they are going to pick us off one by one as we leave," one man
said to another. Marijuana enthusiasts have long made their support
for legalizing the drug known by smoking marijuana publicly at 4:20
p.m., a tradition with an origin layered in legend.

The rally comes one day before the Senate is set to vote this on a
bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. Yesterday's rally was
a double celebration of sorts: It was held at 4:20 p.m. on April 20.

New Hampshire supporters have been holding marijuana protests
throughout the state, in Keene, Manchester and Nashua. Yesterday, it
was the State House lawn. Gov. John Lynch didn't respond to a request
made by bullhorn to come outside and have a smoke.

Michael Cogswell, 27, Dustin Anderson, 29, and Kelsey Rae Erickson, 21
- - students from NHTI - weren't smoking marijuana yesterday. But they
said they'd like to be able to do so legally.

"I really wasn't a supporter before because we all grew up on DARE,"
said Erickson, who went to school in Hopkinton. "They told us drugs
were bad. But I smoked (marijuana) for the first time when I was 17,
and it made my stomach problems feel better.

"I've never been arrested," she said. "But if I have to get arrested
for this, let it be."

Anderson said he opposes jailing people, especially young people, for
marijuana crimes. "I've seen young kids who are kind of hippies go to
jail and when they come out they are on like 10 different drugs," he

Katie Price, 20 and a respite care worker from Chichester, came to
Concord yesterday to show the public that people do support legalizing
marijuana. She was holding a sign instead of a joint yesterday.

"If you're not hurting anyone, what's the problem?"

A 19-year-old Manchester woman who would only give her first name,
Cassidy, brought along her 11-day-old son. She initially hesitated to
bring him but then decided the cause was too important to miss.

"The war on drugs is a war on us," she said. "This is a victimless
crime. I believe when there is no victim, there is no crime."

The country, she said, should be spending its money and energy on
something more important than policing marijuana use.

The young mother said she's given up marijuana since having her son.
"I've got more important things to worry about now," she said.

Travis Eden, a 25-year-old web designer from Manchester, was clearly
enjoying his marijuana yesterday. He said activists like him have no
choice but to hold public rallies because working with legislators to
change the law has failed.

"They gave the governor everything he wanted on that medical marijuana
bill, and he still vetoed it," Eden said.

Former Epping police officer Bradley Jardis, 29, of Hooksett,
apologized to the crowd for arresting people for marijuana possession
during his 11 years on the force. He's unemployed now and won't say if
he uses marijuana personally.

If he had his way, all drugs, not just marijuana, would be legal, he
said. The jails and prisons are full of people convicted of "harmless"
drug offenses, he said.

"We should offer (drug users) help, not a criminal conviction that
will ruin the rest of their life," Jardis said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake