Originally published April 25, 2012 in The Commonwealth Times
Presenting the first “End the Drug War Concert & Rally” in Monroe Park on Friday, VCU students, activists, bands and speakers rallied to support drug legalization in Virginia and an end to the drug war across the states through music and activism.
“We’re here at the ‘End the Drug War Rally’ to show the public that cannibis consumers … are tired of being arrested, and we think our substance of choice should be legal,” said director of Virginia NORML, Ed McCann.
“We’re here to support the rest of the groups and the whole idea of ending the drug war,” he said. “I think it’s going to be effective in really rekindling the conversation about drugs in Virginia.”
Students for Sensible Drug Policy had planned the event since last November. The group decided to host the rally on 4/20 in Monroe Park to bring awareness to people who celebrate the use of marijuana on the day and to represent a shift in policy change, said co-president of SSDP Jurriaan van den Hurk.
“It needs to bring around awareness to this issue instead of bringing awareness to the fact that people choose to use drugs,” van den Hurk said.
“We feel that the issue is not discussed anywhere near as much as it should be,” he said. “The effects of the drug war stretch much farther than that, and we’re trying to … start this conversation.”
SSDP member Kyle Hughes was pleased with the turnout and optimistic about what effect the rally could have on the future. “Hopefully it should just bring awareness to how many people are actually in support of drug policy reform,” Hughes said.
Hughes joined the SSDP after he received a marijuana-possession charge last year.
“You don’t really get involved until it’s something that effects you,” he said. “Once you open yourself to it, it’s just hard not to become more passionate about it. … Hopefully this should convince some people that drug legalization is not really as much of a taboo opinion as some people think it is,” Hughes said.
Not everyone believed that the rally would be as successful as Hughes wished. Some students, like Julina Hinton, only came for the music.
“I don’t know if it’s going to effect anything,” Hinton said.“I think people are just enjoying themselves, and I don’t know if it’s going to change any policies really cause it’s mostly just kids here to listen to music.” Hinton came to the event after hearing one of the local bands she knew was playing.
Local bands People’s Blues of Richmond, Antero, Night Idea, Young Adult Fiction and Midair all played sets at the event.
Kevin Touhill, who also came to listen to the bands, agreed with the cause but did not believe it was going to have much of an effect.
“I don’t think that it’ll ever happen,” he said, referring to legalization of marijuana. “It’s going to take more than this to actually make a change.”