Thanks to the Keene Sentinel’s Anika Clark for this article about yesterday’s cannabis celebration in Keene’s Central Square:
People again lit up for marijuana legalization in Keene’s Central Square Friday in a protest that’s given new meaning to the word “grassroots.”
Drivers honked. A sign proclaimed pot safer than prison. Even the soldier statue in Central Square got into the act with a sign that read “4:20 Everyday.”
During the ganja-happy gathering that’s recently become a daily event downtown, people congregate to smoke at 4:20 p.m., a number identified with the marijuana subculture.
“It started as two guys just smoking a joint every day. … I’m ecstatic about the way it’s turned out,” said Richard G. Paul, 40, of Keene, who said he was one of the event’s originators.
Surprised by how quickly these lone tokers multiplied this week, Paul said the rally’s purpose is “to point out to people that the war on drugs is a war on peaceful people.”
Matthew R. Cram, 18, of Keene offered a similar view of marijuana.
“Marijuana, to many people, it’s not about getting (messed) up,” he said. “It’s about bringing people together.”
Cram identified himself as a sales representative for Tokin Hats & Clothing, a Rhode Island-based company that sells marijuana-themed apparel.
Cram’s weed wares — which he was selling with the pitch “Get your heady hats here!” — included a hat emblazoned with the letters “SD” for the strain of cannabis known as “sour diesel.” Another hat was decorated with “THC,” which is jointly an acronym for the company’s name and for the marijuana chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol.
Those in Friday’s large, pro-cannabis crowd who didn’t have money for a souvenir could take a brownie from a masked man in Army fatigues free of charge.
When asked if they were pot brownies, the man — who declined to give his legal name — simply answered, “Let’s just say they’re freshly baked.”
Among the reasons Cram said marijuana should be legalized is that it would free up the judicial system.
Police have more important things to deal with, he said, adding, “Nobody gets high, goes home and beats their wife.”
So far, Keene police have kept an eye on the rallies, but haven’t taken any action.
The afternoon’s only handcuffing in Central Square came when Troy police arrested a man who was recently pictured with a cigarette in his hand in The N.H. Union Leader. He had an outstanding warrant, according to Officer David B. Ellis.
During Friday’s rally, two Keene police officers watched from across the street and left by about 4:45 p.m.
“The issue is that people have a right to freedom of speech and expression,” Keene police Sgt. James A. Cemorelis said.
“I think a lot of the times what (activists) do is they say they’re going to be doing illegal stuff … and they’re actually not,” he said. “What they’re really trying to do, when they do stuff like that, is to try to incite a response from us.”
Cemorelis said people found in possession of marijuana would be arrested.
But unless the brownies were seized, there’s no way to tell whether they actually contain marijuana, he said, and even if police smell marijuana smoke above Central Square, it would be difficult to tie it to individual smokers.
Regardless, Ian “Freeman” Bernard, an outspoken member of the Free State Project, said it’s a “win-win” for protesters.
If the smoke-out leads to mass arrests, Bernard said it will bring publicity to the issue and show the state to be a “violent monopoly.” If police ignore the rallies, it will show law enforcement to be inconsistent, he said, and the protesters will go free.
“Either way you slice it,” he said, “the activists come out ahead.”
From the corner of Main and Roxbury streets Friday afternoon, City Councilor Mitchell H. Greenwald spoke against the spectacle.
“I think it’s quite humiliating for the city, for the police officers trying to do their job,” he said.
Greenwald recently voted against a recommendation that the City Council draft two resolutions — one urging Concord legislators to legalize medicinal marijuana and the other to decriminalize the drug in small amounts — because he said its not within the city government’s charge.
The latter proposed resolution is still active before the council.
But, Greenwald said, protests like the one on Central Square won’t help the cause.
Meanwhile, across the square in the other direction, Pedraza’s Mexican Restaurant owner Dorrie O’Meara, had only one comment about the whole affair:
“I kind of hoped,” she said, smiling, “they would all get the munchies and come and eat.”
I’d like to remind Mitch Greenwald that what is embarassing for the city is how they harm innocent people by jailing them and extracting their wealth. It’s time they stopped hurting people. That’s the embarassment.