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Public Pot Protests Set For National Road Tour


Public Pot Protests Set For National Road Tour

By Julian Slade

Cannabis activists, who protest prohibition by publicy smoking marijuana at Auckland's Albert Park, will tour 42 towns in 42 days for daily law reform rallies.

The aroma of marijuana lingers at the Victoria St East entrance to Albert Park as cannabis is openly smoked in 4:20pm protests on Wednesdays and Fridays. Placards with slogans such as "End the Drug War" are displayed, as is a New Zealand flag and Maryjane the cannabus - an old Bedford customised into a mobile smoking lounge and information centre - is emblazoned with drug law reform messages.


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Ken Morgan (pictured far right) with other activists in front of the Cannabus.


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'Ahhhh… ' The source of Albert Park's lingering aroma.


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Green MP Nandor Tanczos aboard the Cannabus at Waitangi.


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Daktavists having a session aboard the Cannabus.

"Go to the top of Victoria St East and follow your nose," beckons a descriptive post on the NORML (National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) internet forum. And the clouds of cannabis smoke draw passing smokers, tourists, and police to the 4.20 spot, underneath the Gateway sculpture by Chris Booth, a distinctive archway of basalt boulders.

The public pot consumption has attracted scant police attention. The 4:20 sessions have been going for just over two years but protesters have been searched and questioned only on rare occasions and only a few arrests have been made. However police officers swiftly appeared to confiscate a mature flowering marijuana plant the activists transplanted in a public ceremony.

For the most part, police tolerate the regular protests. Officers in patrol cars waiting at adjacent traffic lights watch activists openly toking, then drive off. The liberal law enforcement approach extends to cannabus sessions in Queen St on Friday and Saturday nights. Activists say visitors over the age of 18 are invited to consume cannabis in the mobile smoking lounge and passing police patrols don't seem too fussed.

"We're showing the workers and residents of the city that cannabis smoking is not something evil to be ashamed of," says self-proclaimed "daktavist" Ken Morgan (aka Dakta Green), who has previously been arrested for possession at the 4.20 site. "We're showing pubic support for law change by smoking in public."

He has complained to police minister Annette King, alleging harassment of political protesters after a police operation at the site on Friday February 8.

Mr Morgan has served prison sentences in New Zealand and the United States for cannabis cultivation. He told parole board members at his final hearing - prior to being released from prison after serving two years and eight months of a three year sentence for cultivation - that he would not grow cannabis again, but would continue smoking it and work fulltime to change cannabis laws.

He has since devoted a year of his life - starting last November and working towards this year's elections - to fighting prohibition. He and fellow daktavists plan to drive their cannabus south, leaving Auckland in mid March as they head to their ultimate destination of Dunedin in late April. Along the way they're stopping in 42 towns and cities to discuss law reform with local media, politicians and residents before staging daily 4.20 protests. In May, the cannabus will head to Wellington, with activists planning to petition Parliament.

"What this tour is all about is protesting in the strongest possible way that New Zealand citizens who are in Parliament lock up their friends and neighbours . Do New Zealanders want to keep locking up people who are part of the cannabis culture?"

Mr Morgan says it's time for New Zealanders to stand up to the United States over marijuana in the same way we did over nuclear ships: "It's time to say the same to the evil anti-cannabis policy they impose on the rest of the world. When countries choose to liberalise cannabis laws they threaten trade sanctions.

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell called for a national discussion on cannabis in November: "And we have risen to the challenge, we're going to have a conversation with the public about cannabis," Mr Morgan says.

Activists drove the cannabus north and held public smoking sessions at Waitangi during the recent Waitangi Day celebrations.

In an anarchic response to occasional police searches and arrests at the 4.20 site at Albert Park activists have posted video of raids - including one where an undercover officer "busts" Mr Morgan for what turns out to be a bag of nettle tea - on sites such as www.cannabis.com.

*******

Julian Slade is an Auckland Based Journalist specialising in urban issues and boxing.

ENDS

MORE INFO…

2008 NORML NATIONAL TOUR

4.20 to Dunsterdam

Cannatour change the law

On March 14, 2008 Maryjane the Cannabus embarks on a historic journey to end cannabis prohibition. After attending the Albert Park 4.20 protest, Maryjane will depart for Dunsterdam. She will visit 42 cities and towns during the following 42 days. A protest will take place at 4.20pm each day in each town.

Maryjane will arrive in Dunsterdam on Friday 25 April 2008.

Our 4.20 protests include public cannabis smoking.

We operate a "bring and share" policy.

We film these events for later broadcast.

We are looking for local volunteers to assist our daily stopover. Suggest a suitable high profile location to park Maryjane for our protest. Help with a bed for our crew and a park for Maryjane so we may overnight following the protest. Organize an evening event, a barbeque, a bunch of friends. We want to meet the locals and hold a public cannabis conversation each day.

We plan to arrive in each town around noon, allowing time for the bus crew to meet the public, answer questions and recruit NORML members before the day's protest and session at 4.20 pm.

The Cannabus is being fitted out as a mobile lounge and information centre with couches, sound system, video screen and other comforts of a home away from home.

This epic journey will start in Auckland and finish in Dunsterdam (formerly known as Dunedin) on May 3 - J Day. Dunedin has been renamed Dunsterdam (after Amsterdam) to acknowledge its progressive nature as New Zealand's most cannabis-friendly city. It proudly hosts the longest running 4.20 sessions in the country, and local police have said they have better things to do than arrest cannabis smokers.

Join us when we come to a town near you.

Check the itinerary:-

MARCH 14 Auckland, 15 Te Awamutu, 16 Taumarunui, 17 New Plymouth, 18 Stratford, 19 Hawera, 20 Wanganui, 21 Palmerston North, 22 Levin, 23 Dannevirke, 24 Hastings, 25 Napier, 26 Wairoa, 27 Gisborne, 28 Whakatane, 29 Tauranga, 30 Paeroa, 31 Coromandel,

APRIL 1 Thames, 2 Manukau City, 3 Hamilton, 4 Rotorua, 5 Taupo, 6 Turangi, 7 Waiouru, 8 Fielding, 9 Masterton, 10 Naenae (Hutt Valley), 11 Wellington City, 12 Picton, 13 Blenheim, 14 Nelson, 15 Motueka, 16 Westport, 17 Greymouth, 18 Arthur's Pass, 19 Christchurch, 20 Sumner Beach, 21 Ashburton, 22 Timaru, 23 Oamaru, 24 Balclutha, 25 Dunsterdam Organizer - Dakta Green - National Bus Tour Coordinator, www.Norml.org.nz for regular updates or further information email: cannabus@windowslive.com

ends

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