TRAVERSE CITY - Nearly 50 marijuana law reform activists turned out for the
"Traverse City Million Marijuana March," with banners, signs and drums to
parade through downtown Traverse City for 45 minutes Saturday.

Shouting slogans and chants, the marchers drew numerous honks of support
from passing drivers, a few shouts of encouragement and the occasional
one-finger salute from those who opposed them.

Ben Pelch of Benzonia and his wife Rosalie were among the demonstrators. Ben
Pelch said he got involved in the legalization movement over the past two
years after he moved to the area. Rosalie, laughing, described herself as "a
suburban housewife in a patriotic (red, white and blue) outfit but with the
heart of a pagan."

They became friends with Steve Thompson, a Universal Life Church minister
and one of the leaders of the Benzie NORML chapter.

Thompson said Traverse City was one of more than 200 communities holding
marches over the weekend and that the "million" in the event name referred
to all who were expected to turn out nationwide.

Thompson said recreational use of marijuana should be a personal decision
and he has no objection to reasonable restrictions like those for consuming
alcohol. What's not right, he said, is to jail people for recreational use
and to ban any use of the hemp plant for medicinal or other legitimate

Shoppers and tourists had mixed reactions to the demonstration.

"I think everybody has a right to free speech and it's a good thing," said
Tracy Rucinski of New Baltimore, who was shopping along Front Street as the
marchers passed by.

She was quick to say she didn't use marijuana but added, "I think everyone
should be able to decide for themselves."

Mike Montgomery of East Lansing, strolling through downtown with his wife
Heidi as the demonstrators went by, said simply, "Legalize it, tax it and
take care of the deficit."

Connie Barkley of Traverse City had to take a moment to explain what was
going on to her young daughter as demonstrators waved sings with "Free the
Weed" and "No War on Pot" nearby.

"I think that it's OK for them to say what they want but I think it's a bad
thing for the community and for tourism here," she said. "I also think it's
a bad thing to advocate use, especially with children around. They have
their points and right to say what they want but I don't think marching
around is a good idea."

The march and a later rally at the Shimmers Lounge at Holiday Inn West Bay
was sponsored by the Benzie County chapter of the NORML, a national lobby
group seeking reform of marijuana laws, and the Michigan Cannabis Action

Pubdate: Sun, 04 May 2003
Source: Traverse City Record-Eagle (MI)
Copyright: 2003 The Traverse City Record-Eagle