Cannabis in America

The Fight for Total Legalization Continues at the NYC Cannabis Parade

By  | 

I’m a little late for the gathering of the parade, but can still smell it from at least two blocks away. The cloudy New York sky matches the fumes from the joints as the 17th annual NYC Cannabis Parade marches south on Broadway toward Union Square. An enormous hot air balloon in the shape of a lit joint is carried along to the chanting of classic rock songs, with the lyrics replaced by one word–‘marijuana’.

The group in the parade was as diverse as New York itself–people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, people wearing all green, people in one-pieces with weed patterns, and one group wearing t-shirts saying “Law enforcement for legalization.”

Image courtesy of Evershed Mattingly

Image courtesy of Evershed Mattingly

“I’m in the long-term care field, and I see way too many people in jail for just using,” said Jeanette McDonald, one of the t-shirt wearers. She’s not a user herself, but is all for the medical use of marijuana for pain management. “To arrest them doesn’t make any sense, go after the terrorists instead.”

The medical use of weed to ease pain seemed to be the most important aspect for many people at the event. Beata Kosmik, dressed in a green creation with a crown of tulle on her head, is in a band that performs to raise awareness about the medical benefits of marijuana. She’s an eco educator–campaigning for a natural, green way of life. Her granddaughter has Dravet syndrome, a kind of infant epilepsy that can be alleviated by a drug containing cannabis but is still in the research stage here in the U.S., so she lives in London.

Image courtesy of Evershed Mattingly

Image courtesy of Evershed Mattingly

Steven, who wore American Flag overalls and carried a Pride flag, told me he wants decriminalization of all drugs. “It’s corrupt–all these people that are incarcerated for using, it breaks up families, people go to jail for this. Weed doesn’t kill.” Steven also pointed out that so many Afro-American youths get locked up for something that now is considered cool by young white hipsters.

Marijuana was legalized for medical use in New York almost a year ago, and the law came into effect in January. But among the states that allow some kind of marijuana use, it’s one of the most restrictive, and it’s really hard for patients to gain access to legal pot. Classic smoking is actually still forbidden. But if the participants of the Cannabis Parade get their way, that will soon be changed.

To sum up the situation, Steven said: “America has bad fucking karma. The roller coaster is going downhill, and now it’s time to deal with it.”

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



Send this to friend