toronto freedom march

Toronto Freedom Festival – Global

Al Graham P.A.C.E. www.peopleadvocatingcannabiseducation.org

As spring jumps into action, so do the many volunteers that help with the Global Marijuana March and Freedom Festival in Toronto.

Just like most events, things usually get started for the next year right after the present year ends.

The organizers of this event are no different than any other organizers, but this spring there was a change; something was different. As it turned out, there was a different feeling, a feeling that something was going to change.

What they didn’t know was what it was.

As it turns out, a couple of months before the event was to start, the City of Toronto refused to grant the organizers a permit to hold their event. There was a lot of talking and let-ting the city know that no matter what, people were going to show up at Queens Park, whether they liked it or not. In the end, the city allowed the event to carry on for 2011 but said that they would have to make some changes, which would include fewer vendors and only one stage, not three like they have been using. The question still remains for some: What about next year?

Once things were approved, the word went out and some-where around 50,000 people showed up. The vendors were there as well. You could buy yourself some sugar cane or freshly cut open coconut in order to enjoy its milk, or you could get yourself a great piece of glass if you could make up your mind with all the choices that were available. Or maybe you wanted to enjoy some Pizza Pizza. Yes, corporate Canada is at the Global Marijuana March. Now to get them to support us for more than our money, as it’s obvious that they know where the sales are.

The reduction in vendors and the stages weren’t the only noticeable difference that we witnessed. The other big change was the way the parade was run. For me, this was the best way in the six years that I have been attending this event.

In the past, there was no notice of when the parade would start. This year, they asked everyone to meet at a cer-tain exit and then they took the people with large banners, such as our Treating Yourself banner, and held them back to get people to build up behind them. Then every four minutes they would let the group go. One by one, the groups made their way along the parade route throughout the downtown with a set of volunteers marshaling each group as it made its way along.

This all worked very well, as the marshals pre-vented the groups from blending together and allowed the parade to stay intact instead of spreading out. There was one thing that I noticed, though, that wasn’t within the parade route: cars traveling in the opposite direction. Usually, we are walking on the one side of the road and the traffic would travel along the opposite lanes, but not this year. This year, the roads where completely shut off. While this gave us four lanes to walk on, it did prevent the motorists from joining in with their horns and celebration as they went past us. The one noise that could be heard throughout was those loud chants echoing off of the tall buildings as the crowds passed by them.

At the Treating Yourself booth, we were very busy handing out paperwork and magazines. At one point, there was a crew of us, which included Mike, Jay, Fourtwentydeb, Sandra, myself, as well as a few people that were just planning on visiting but went to work helping out instead as we tried to keep up with the people coming to the booth. We also had thousands of Treating Yourself show guides avail-able for everyone that came by, as we wanted to make sure that this large crowd knew that the Expo was only a month away.

Marijuana March

The crowd was entertained by the musicians that took the stage throughout the day. There were many speakers that got up to say a few words to encourage the crowd to keep up the pressure on their elected officials. Matt Mernaugh and his lawyer Paul Lewin, joined by a live five-foot cannabis plant, talked to the crowd about their legal case that has put the government into a corner when it comes to legalization. Toronto lawyer Ron Marzel spoke to the crowd about the court challenges that are working their way within the courts and that we must keep the pressure on.

Marco Renda, Treating Yourself Founder

Treating Yourself publisher Marco Renda also took to the stage. Marco talked about needing unity in the movement and that we are all in this war together as one, not separately.

When the time came to announce that it had reached 420, Jodie Emery took to the stage. Jodie talked about the unfair war against law-abiding cannabis users as well as about her husband, Marc, and his situation of being locked up in a United States jail. From what I saw from behind the stage, Jodie and Marco shared some quiet time. Jodie agrees with Marco and his unity plea within the movement.

Jodie didn’t fly in from Vancouver by herself, as other activists such as Jacob Hunter were also spotted in the crowd and on the stage. As the day wound down and the people started to leave, the signs of a large gathering started to appear, as the litter on the ground was becoming very visible to those still in atten-dance. Until this year, I had never been around when things shut down, and I can say the mess I saw wasn’t a pretty sight.

Was it the fault of those in attendance? Was it the fault of the organizers or was it the city’s fault for not having enough garbage cans located throughout the park?

I’m not sure who’s responsible for it, but it sure didn’t look good on the news that night. Other than this ugly mess on display, the cannabis movement can say it’s a peaceful one, unlike those who drink alcohol and watch their hockey team lose the cup.

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