Organizers want the event to be inclusive, family friendly. A day in the park where anyone of any age can listen to music, enjoy nature and be among thousands of friends.
That means the April 22 event in Scranton, Pennsylvania, will be drug-, alcohol- and weapons-free.
More than 10,000 people are expected in Nay Aug Park between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. It’s the event’s fourth year. And it is quickly outgrowing the venue.
That’s not surprising: A Gallup poll from fall 2017 says most in America agree with their cause, and that the number is growing.
The bands at the 2018 Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival will be mellow, according to co-organizer Jeff Riedy.
That’s clear from their names: Mother Nature’s Sons, Cheezy & the Crackers, and Bong Hits for Jesus are among the acts performing.
There will be vendors: munchies, tie dye and incense will be readily available. (That’s just the start of the variety offered by a planned 280 vendors, including numerous advocacy groups).
But aside from a planned area for medical marijuana patients to legally medicate, there won’t be cannabis at “PennCannaFest.”
Jeff Riedy hopes one day there will be. The “long-time” marijuana user, activist and co-organizer said the plant helps keep him calm and off pharmaceuticals. He serves as the executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
But for now, the cannabis festival is simply a day for like-minded people to gather, to relax in nature and to make their voices heard on an issue they care deeply about: Legalizing marijuana.
What’s the point of a cannabis festival without cannabis?
According to Riedy: advocacy and community.
The official website for the event says it is a “public event to raise awareness for the legalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania.”
Riedy said that will play out in a variety of ways.
There will be advocacy groups there trying to educate the public about their cause.
Those groups want to change the law. In particular: Riedy said he’s sick of the stiff penalties for possession of marijuana. He believes your life can be ruined if you’re caught with even a small amount.
Although an admittedly vocal user of the drug, Riedy said he’s never had a run-in with the law.
The thought that cannabis — a substance he said has so many benefits that he could talk about it all day — could get him or anyone else in legal trouble: That just doesn’t seem right to him.
He suspects the laws aren’t changing because money is swaying the opinions of lawmakers.
One of the biggest opponents to people who share Riedy’s view? U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger,” Newsweek has quoted Sessions.
Riedy disagrees. And he said he hopes to use the event to affect real change. He is planning to direct the masses in attendance to call lawmakers about specific legislation at various times throughout the event.
“Hopefully 10,000 voices is stronger than $10,000 that would come out of the pockets of big pharma in Harrisburg or Washington,” he said.
But the day isn’t all work. It’s mostly about enjoying the company of others.
Riedy said the people who support marijuana legalization tend to be an “inclusive group of people”; they’re “level-headed” and they’re “mellow,” he said.
So when 10,000 of them get together to share a Sunday afternoon in the park, enjoying good food, interesting vendors and music they love … Riedy thinks it’s going to be a good time.