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Cannabis is, without a doubt, one of the most maligned herbs ever to grow on the planet's soil. Smear campaign after smear campaign made sure that people thought that marijuana was the "Devil's Weed," and today, those propaganda antics of the past are what keep medical marijuana from being accessible.
The unfair reputation of marijuana means that activists often have to throw pro-cannabis protests and rallies just so that politicians will hear us out. Due to the bias against marijuana, and the fact that drug arrests help fill police quotas, many officials use pro-cannabis protests as a way to make drug arrests.
A drug arrest, even for something like cannabis, can be a life-ruiner. Therefore, it's absolutely crucial to learn how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest while also making your position loud and clear to those in power.
Just like with any other protest, you do need permits to hold the protest safely.
If you are the one who's organizing the protest, then you of all people need to learn how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest...and how to organize one that will allow others to stay safe while it's going on, too!
One of the biggest mistakes a protest organizer can do, particularly with pro-drug protests, is to organize a protest without the right permits. The Constitution does allow the right to a peaceful protest, and that means that the government can't impede you when it comes to making your voice heard.
However, cities and states might have laws on what defines a peaceful protest. In order to stay safe, you need to get permits for the protest and alert the police about it. As uncomfortable as it may be to get permits for a pro-Mary Jane protest, it's something you have to do.
It's important to note that some cities also have laws against face masks in public. If you want to protest anonymously, you may need to take this into account.
Learn your rights.
If you are at a protest, you have the right not to be accosted due to race, religion, creed, or gender. However, if you're undocumented, you may need to learn your A-number before you go. Otherwise, it could get sticky.
Moreover, the courts have also shown that you have the right to photograph in public — and that police cannot confiscate your camera if you tape them during an arrest.
If the police do stop you, you have a right to remain silent and the right to obtain a lawyer. You also have the right to refuse consent to a search without a warrant, with an exception for probable cause. You also should be aware that using those rights is the best defense you can have.
Many lawyers say that you should also ask if you are being detained and if you are allowed to be let go. The less you say, the better. You also should be aware of your rights in terms of maximum detention without cause, and your right against cruel and unusual punishment.
Learning about your rights, especially pertaining to your own personal situation, is crucial when learning how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest.
Learn local marijuana laws — and remember that it's better to err on the side of caution at a pro-cannabis protest.
Federally, marijuana is illegal. In most states, it's still illegal. In fact, many placed that have legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized cannabis possession still make marijuana arrests due to loopholes in the law.
A very large part of learning how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest is learning to read up on cannabis laws and to learn how to use common sense when it comes to attracting attention.
You have to go into the protest under the idea that police will be trying to come up with reasons to arrest you if they see you at a pro-cannabis protest. Carrying marijuana on you is a good way to get arrested, as is being obvious about your stance.
Don't be like the guys who got arrested at a pro-cannabis protest for passing out joints to others. Use common sense and keep things somewhat low key.
Pack well, and dress well.
Nothing quite says, "I don't know how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest" like the person who goes marching in a bikini, heels, and brings a bunch of cannabis on their person. Don't be that person; treat the protest like a serious thing — because it can be.
If you are going to be protesting, dress like a protester. Wear comfortable clothing with comfortable sneakers. After all, you will be marching. Moreover, don't wear things that can be easily grabbed or taken; it's not a good look.
One of the things you will need to take into account when learning how to stay safe in a pro-cannabis protest is the fact that you have to plan for a worst-case scenario.
First, you'll need to think about what could happen if riot police start attacking you. At the very least, you need to avoid showing too much skin, since fire hoses and pepper spray can cause skin irritation. In the event of tear gas, eye protection will become your best friend, so make sure that you bring eyewear as well.
If you end up being detained in jail, you will need to also pack for that potential issue as well. Your best bet is to carry three days' worth of medication in case you're detained, $100 for necessities and emergency cash, a lawyer's business card, a camera, and a phone charger.
Obviously, there will be other things you'll need to pack as well which don't have anything to do with being arrested. Things like water, energy bars, a small medical kit (for scrapes), and a notebook are a good idea.
That being said, you should pack with the expectation that you can lose everything you will have on your person. If you can't afford to lose it, don't bring it.
When you go to the protest, have a meeting spot for you and your friends (in case you get dispersed)...and have someone to call.
Protests can get very chaotic, especially on topics like cannabis. And, that's why learning how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest means that you will need to learn how to organize yourself and your friends in the event of things getting crazy.
If you get spread apart, or if you end up having police rushing your crowd, you need to have an idea of how to meet up with the people you care about. This is why protesters are urged to know the area they're marching in before the protest, and why it's so important to have a designated "in case of chaos" meet up spot.
Should you end up in serious trouble, you should have someone you can call — and the number of a lawyer.
Awareness is 9/10 of the game.
All the proper packing, prepping, and dressing will only go so far. Being aware of your surroundings is often the biggest aspect of learning how to stay safe at a pro-cannabis protest — or anywhere that could be dangerous, really.
If you're going to a protest, always keep your eyes open. Take note of who is around you, who looks like they are watching people, whether people are taking photos of you, and if there are crowds of people running in a direction.
By cutting your chances of being taken off-guard, you're able to do more to protect yourself, and you will be able to get out of the way should things get ugly.