Police ignored a crowd of pot-smoking activists across the street from
the RCMP detachment Thursday, saying they didn't want to play into
B.C. Marijuana Party president Marc Emery's hands.

Looking like a businessman in a suit and tie, Emery lit a massive
joint at 4:20 p.m. -- the time representing the numeric symbol for
marijuana -- and led the crowd in a chorus of O Canada while the
pungent odour of pot wafted through the air. Several others in the
group of about 50 -- made up mostly of teenagers and young people --
also lit their own joints, and Emery passed his around for others to
share.

The smoke-in was part of Emery's cross-country tour to promote his
view that the drug is already legal in Canada, based on an Ontario
Superior Court decision in May, which also upheld earlier court
decisions in that province.

RCMP Const. Mike Caira said police were aware people were smoking
marijuana across the street, but said they didn't want to fuel Emery's
bid for media attention. "If we possibly would have shown up with one
or 10 police officers, Mr. Emery may have enticed the crowd into
causing a mini-riot and wanting to fight the police and we weren't
going to play that game," he said.

But Caira said people who smoke pot still risk criminal charges,
because possession of marijuana is still against the law. The federal
government, however, plans to decriminalize possession of marijuana,
issuing fines to people caught with small amounts of the drug instead
of charging them criminally. Caira said police don't believe that by
ignoring Emery's protest they're sending the message that people can
flout the law.

Emery has been charged in six of nine communities across the country,
most recently in Edmonton last Sunday, after smoking joints in front
of police stations, and said he prefers to be prosecuted so he can
argue his case in court.

He said he can't understand why marijuana should be illegal when
things like alcohol and cigarettes cause more harm. "No matter how
much alcohol you have in your house you're never going to jail. No
matter how many cigarettes you own you're never going to jail," he
told supporters.

Emery had said he chose Prince George as the only B.C. stop on his
tour because he feels it's a conservative community where a
pro-marijuana event would make a big impression. But as he looked
around the crowd on Thursday, he said it was probably the second
largest gathering on his tour after one in St. John's, Nfld.

People in the crowd agreed they should be allowed to smoke marijuana
without being made a criminal, but were reluctant to be identified.

"It's a very innocent offence. I don't believe it hurts anyone," said
a 19-year-old UNBC computer science student.

An 18-year-old girl who graduated from Prince George Secondary School
this year said smoking helped her stay on the honour roll throughout
Grade 12. "It expands my mind. It makes me smarter. It's also
relaxing," she said after smoking from Emery's giant joint.