Marijuana marchers protest for legalization

A K-9 unit Campus Police car paused by a red light at the intersection of Sixth and Green streets Saturday morning. Through the crosswalk marched a brigade wearing tie-dyed T-shirts and bandanas, led by a boy playing a bongo and a girl with a foghorn.

“When I say ‘drug war,’ you say ‘no more!” shouted Laura Allured, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and sophomore in LAS, into her megaphone.

The march, which kicked off at the Alma Mater shortly after noon, was not only a protest of the war on drugs. Participants rallied specifically to support the legalization of cannabis.

Movements for marijuana on Saturday were not limited to the streets of Champaign or the student population. The event occurred in conjunction with the Global Marijuana March. Over 562 cities worldwide have participated since 1999.

In Illinois, advocates for legalization of pot gathered in Chicago, Peoria and Normal in addition to the Champaign march.

Ashley Barys, a graduate student who carried a sign reading ‘Release the Medicine,’ helped to organized the rally last year in Normal, when she was a student at Illinois State University and president of the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

“We mostly focus on medical cannabis,” Barys said. “We are focusing today on all aspects of the drug war but basically we just want to cure the people and release the medicine.”

The message has begun to resonate with the state senators, who are considering a bill that would allow people diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions to maintain up to seven marijuana plants and two ounces of cannabis. Thirteen states have already approved the use of medical marijuana.

Chronic pain relief was not the only cause that united marchers.

Freshman in LAS Michael Zoloty, a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said he “dreams” of a world in which ganja is decriminalized for the general population.

“I’m hoping California will move that way soon,” Zoloty said, citing a recent field poll in which a majority of Golden State voters expressed support for legalizing and taxing the drug. “I think it’s unfortunate marijuana is not legalized anyway because it doesn’t cause harm unless it is illegal and money from the drug is left in the hands of black markets and potentially harmful individuals.”

Zoloty perched on the bronze platform of the Alma Mater before the march and posed for pictures with a sign scribbled, “Fan of Bliss? Try Cannabis!”

“We haven’t really done anything this public before,” he said, “so this is an exciting day.”

Allured, who coordinated publicity for the event said she had been trying hard to raise awareness for the march around campus and to like-minded citizens of the community.

“We’ve been poster-ing and we’ve got a Web site, so we’ve been advertising on that too,” Allured said.

The campaign succeeded in drawing a few activists outside of the student population. One 26-year-old man who marched with the group said he heard about the event by word-of-mouth and decided it was worth coming out to show his support.

The march itself was intended to publicize a second event planned for 10 a.m. on Saturday in Urbana.

Visibility on the streets of Champaign last weekend was intended to draw a bigger crowd to the intersection of Green Street and Lincoln Avenue for the second round of rallying.

John Schall, a Parkland College student who marched for marijuana legalization, said he looked forward to taking the stroll through Urbana in what would be his fourth Marijuana March.

“The government solution just doesn’t seem to be working out,” Schall said. “So it just makes sense for us to actually try to do something about it.”