420 in Toronto was a happy, high gathering of thousands, but the true meaning behind the protest didn’t fade away with the smoke. Despite the haze, it was a clear picture why we need to reform drug policy in Canada and around the Globe! CSSDP Toronto shared a booth with membership-based cannabis dispensary Canndo, handing out harm reduction literature and encouraging students to get involved with drug policy. As thousands of Torontonians from every walk of life indulged in the many forms of cannabis, the real reason for gathering was not forgotten. There was a bigger conversation to be had than just “puff, puff, pass”!
Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam (above photo by Sean Brady) became the first politician to speak publicly at a Toronto 420 rally. It was inspiring to witness her laying down the facts while everyone lit up, making sure that all the gaps in the cannabis legalization conversation were filled with knowledge. True to the history of cannabis culture, she talked about why 420 is more than just a festival, but is set on the principles of democracy.
Kristyn Wong Tam touched on an important issue: cannabis legalization is about quality of life. Patients who have chronic pain, people living with HIV, and many other medical conditions benefit from cannabis, and despite the MMPR, many still cannot access quality medicine safely. Even more so, cannabis is a social justice issue. For people of colour, potentially racially profiled, now with unnecessary nonviolent criminal records. For young people, who without access to factual information can make riskier decisions when using drugs. For families, many that are torn apart by unsubstantiated beliefs fueled by propaganda. Changing our current drug policies would allow for better quality of life, access to support, and would morph laws based on fear into a culture of understanding. CSSDP touched on these issues in our speech to the crowd with Trip! Project shortly before 420 ceremonies commenced:
Just before 420 a total of 4,000 pre-rolled joints were handed out to the crowd, and Dundas Square was covered in a lovely, skunky cloud for the entire day. The rain cleared away some of the smoke, but as always, the sun came back out just in time for 4:20pm. Throughout the course of the day I only saw two police officers in full uniform at the Toronto 420 rally. They were caring for a young girl, who was getting sick in the corner, while writing her a ticket for public intoxication. Unlike Vancouver 420, Toronto 420 had zero hospitalizations and harm reduction resources were distributed to all booths present. Media outlets reported on the 64 individuals that went to the Vancouver hospital emergency room on April 20th. It could also be argued that the Canadian media does not focus on the dangers of cannabis substitutes, known as Spice or K2, which has seen a flood of related poisonings throughout the US. The most important point is that with legalization comes easy access to information, and with regulation, potential harm could be reduced from every angle.
Although cannabis legalization tends to be a light hearted social issue embedded into the Canadian identity, the annual 420 protest isn’t just wisps of smoke trailing off into the air. It’s about drug policy, and what’s best for individuals and for society as a whole. How can we help change our laws, and minds, to positive results? Well, as Krystin Tam Wong said, it’s safer to stand up for our rights together.And just to make a point, we’ll keep smoking together too. We are doing just that this Saturday May 2nd at the Global Marijuana March at Queens Park! CSSDP will be representing with a mobile outreach team giving away free copies of Transform Drug Policy Foundations “How to Regulate Cannabis, a Practical Guide“, CSSDP fliers and selling t-shirts and snacks to fundraise for our Toronto chapter and Trip! Project.
Pass it on 😉