March, rally aim to educate people on herb's benefits
By Kirsten Buys
Lansing State Journal
Renee Emry Wolfe stood on the Capitol steps Saturday and spoke to about 100 people rallying for the legalization of marijuana.
Wolfe, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 23 years ago, said smoking marijuana is the only reason she can stand at all.
"I can only get out of this wheelchair because I smoke the herb," said Wolfe, an Ann Arbor resident. "It's my medicine."
Lansing was one of five cities in Michigan and 190 around the world that participated in the Million Marijuana March, held each year on the first Saturday in May.
Supporters from across the state, from toddlers to grandparents, marched from Oldsmobile Park to the Capitol holding signs that read "Cannabis reform" and "Legalize freedom" while chanting "Free the weed" and "Prohibition has got to go."
The main focus of the march and rally was to educate people on the good marijuana can do and myths against it, said Kathy Kennedy, a member of march organizer Cures Not Wars.
Pro-marijuana lobbyists say the herb can stop the progress of glaucoma and improve quality of life for people with various diseases, including AIDS, cancer and epilepsy. They say it can even help alcohol, cigarette and narcotics users get over their addictions.
Kennedy said as soon as the mainstream public realizes those positives, legalization will be within reach.
"I really do feel like it will happen in the next 10 years," said Kennedy, an Onondaga resident. "I never thought it would happen. But now people are entering the job stream who grew up with marijuana and they know the laws aren't working."
George Sherfield, state coordinator for Michigan Marijuana Movement, said hemp products and the medical use of marijuana has been legalized in Canada, and that possession laws in England also have been relaxed.
He's hoping American lawmakers will follow their lead.
"We love this country more than anybody," Sherfield said. "We're not criminal - we're just pot smokers."
Sherfield's organization has drafted an amendment it hopes to get on the Michigan ballot in 2004.
Two previous attempts to get the proposal on the ballot have failed.
The proposal includes medical use of marijuana under a doctor's care; the right to establish farms to produce nonintoxicating hemp used for paint, clothing and food; and to legalize marijuana use for people 21 and older, in their own homes and away from kids.
Donna Paridee of New Baltimore attended the rally with her husband and two young sons.
She said marijuana being illegal is no different than the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s.
"I support freedom in America,'' she said. "I just like to smoke pot."
Contact Kirsten Buys at 377-1194.
On the Web
For more information about organizations represented at the rally, visit their Web sites:
Cures Not Wars: http://www.cures-not-wars.org
Michigan Marijuana Movement: http://www.mmm420.org
National Organization for the Reform for Marijuana Laws (NORML), Michigan Chapter: http://www.mi4norml.org
Rainbow Farm: http://www.rainbowfarmcamp.com