Marijuana legalization supporters attended the annual Cannabis Parade and & Rally at New York City last Saturday, May 1, 2021. The yearly parade and rally was held in Union Park with hundreds of people in attendance, including activists and enthusiasts.
According to Gothamist, the annual tradition of celebrating cannabis in New York has long been observed, with the event going on for decades since the 1970s. Apart from celebrating the plant itself, the event usually called for marijuana to be decriminalized not just on a state level, but also on a federal one.
With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finally signing a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in the state of New York on March 31, 2021, the yearly parade saw a different route and atmosphere this year. Under the bill, adults are now allowed to smoke marijuana in places where tobacco can also be used and smoked accordingly, notes the Rolling Stone.
The Cannabis Parade started from Koreatown to Union Square, allowing the hundred or so activists to march and consume cannabis as they walked the streets of Manhattan. Although smoking in parks is technically not allowed by law, the Rolling Stone said law enforcement agencies patrolling the area that day reportedly allowed activists and enthusiasts to consume cannabis even at Union Square.
Although the parade’s numbers were found to be quite lacking, the statements made by activist groups left and right made a strong call for the government to make strides in changing laws regarding cannabis.
Gothamist mentioned that such calls were made through floats, with a marijuana joint that read “Legalize, Liberate, Expunge” on one side, while the other side flaunted a message that read, “Biden, Come On Man!” According to the news site, the call for Biden’s administration to make strides in making marijuana legal on a federal level following numerous states following suit.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined the parade. Schumer promised the parade-goers that he will bring cannabis legalization from a federal standpoint through “the right way,” with Marijuana Moment reporting that he expects support from both parties to make marijuana legal on a federal level.
In a statement, Schumer said, “We’re going to put forward advanced, comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory and often bigoted policies.”
In talking about legalizing marijuana throughout the country, Schumer said, “We’ve got to do it the right way. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in communities of color and to provide opportunities for folks who have been hit hard by prohibition.”
Apart from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York State Attorney General Letitia James also took the time to attend the rally at Union Square. Gothamist said that James took the liberty to focus on the economic opportunities offered by legalizing marijuana, including the capacity to aid communities with tax revenues and small businesses lead by people of color.
James’ statement further echoed the sentiments of Schumer. “We all know that the War on Drugs has for far too long been a war on poor people and people of color, and simple legalization is not enough to right those wrongs. It is important that we focus on communities that have been devastated by this war,” said James.