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Is Pot Rally Losing Its Spark?


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Saturday's 420 pro-marijuana rally at the Oakes Garden Theatre only attracted about 50 people, but organizer Matt Mernagh said it's a byproduct of a grow-op of a legal sort.

"We usually bus people in from Toronto, but Toronto had its own this year," said Mernagh, a 33-year-old marijuana activist from St. Catharines who writes for Cannabis Culture magazine. "What's nice about Niagara Falls is we got it started here four years ago. Now, Hamilton, Guelph, Toronto and Ottawa all have their own rallies. People have taken the seeds to spread them around."

Seeds are at the heart of the rallies, held in places across Canada in support of the so-called "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, who has been jailed for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet.

Emery made a call in to the rally, but his cellphone message - filtered through a megaphone - couldn't be heard by most in the crowd.

Nevertheless, they cheered as Mernagh said Emery offered support for the small, somewhat mellow rally.

Almost as many people lined up for wedding photos as sat down to spark up in the park at 4:20 p.m. Saturday, the time adopted by marijuana activists as the time to relax with a joint.

That didn't bother the group, who were low-key before the countdown to 4:20 p.m. began.

"I think they were all out last night and saw 4:20 a.m.," Mernagh quipped.

The low-key crowd made it easy for Niagara Regional Police and Niagara Parks Police to do their jobs.

"It was uneventful - very peaceful, with no incidents," said Parks Police spokesman Insp. Paul Forcier.

Mary, who asked her last name not be published, attended the rally in a wheelchair with her daughter.

Diagnosed with MS in 2005, Mary described herself as an occasional user in the past, and now uses Cativax - a cannabis spray - to help keep her symptoms under control.

At a cost of $650 for a vial - which isn't covered by drug plans - Mary said it's out of reach of many people who rely on the drug for relief from not only spasms, but also the nausea that goes along with treatments such as chemotherapy.

"Marijuana helps instead of narcotic drugs," she said. "That's why I'm a member of the Compassionate Society. For a lot of people with chronic pain and debilitating diseases, this is their only source of relief."

But not everyone has the same reason to want to see marijuana legalized.

Mike Lavoie, a 17-year-old musician from Niagara Falls said he has been getting high on pot since he was in Grade 6.

He attended the rally - his second - with his face painted green and a black bandana with pot plants on it to "show my love and support for what I believe in."

Lavoie said he thinks the government is afraid to legalize marijuana because it will unleash a wave of creativity across the country.

"It frees your mind and introduces you to new mind states. That's why the government fears it," said Lavoie.

Mernagh has another take on the issue.

He doesn't believe people like Lavoie should have access to marijuana, any more than they should be able to buy beer, wine or cigarettes underage.

Rather, he advocates for the regulation of marijuana to bring more money into the government coffers.

"If it was legalized and sold in through a Cannabis Control Board of Ontario at a 1,500 per cent markup," Mernagh said, referring to a report released earlier in the week indicating that is how much the government is marking up the cost of medical marijuana, "I'd say it's easily a $1 billion industry in Ontario alone."

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Niagara Falls Review (Canada)
Contact: jpellegrini@nfreview.com
Copyright: 2007 Osprey Media
Website: Osprey Media. - Niagara Falls Review
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