In case anyone in central Ohio didn’t know, the movement for marijuana law reform is alive and well. Two major cannabis liberation events happen this spring in Columbus, the Global March for Cannabis liberation and the 16th annual Hempfest. Both events were organized by The Ohio State University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The May 4th march saw two hundred people turn out on a rainy afternoon to rally at 15th Ave and High and then proceed down High to Goodale Park for a bonafide smokeout. A month later, on June 7th, over ten thousand festivalgoers flooded the South Oval for a day of political speakers and regional musical acts.

The yearly march for Cannabis liberation is run out of the New-York based Cures-not-wars, but the two-year-old SSDP chapter does all local organizing for this annual event. The Ohio State University chapter is part of a national organization that has over 200 college and high school chapters and a national office in Washington, D.C. Through demonstrations, teach-ins, festivals, workshops, and letter-writing campaigns, SSDP seeks to promote open, honest, and rational discussion on alternatives to the problems of drug abuse in the Unites States. Last year’s march drew 800 peaceful protesters, but numbers were dramatically down this year, likely due to the weather. Regardless, the 200 faithful protested and partied on. The SSDP group considered the event a success in light of local news coverage that caught their very visible “End Cannabis Prohibition” message and plenty of positive feedback from participants.

In contrast to the March’s low turnout, this year’s Hempfest saw record numbers of festivalgoers, vendors, speakers, activists, and musicians congregate to end marijuana prohibition. “Hempfest is well received by the community because it is a free, fun, peaceful, family-oriented event. What’s not to like about that?” says organizer Sean Luse. Hempfest also presented an all-star line-up of marijuana-friendly political speakers including the founder of the U.S. Marijuana Party, Loretta Nall, president of Police Officers for Drug Policy Reform, Dan Solano, the last free man in America, Gatewood Galbraith, and numerous medical marijuana patients. SSDP member and Hempfest organizer Aaron Maggied was particularly affected by the representative for Police Officers for Drug Policy Reform. “Dan Solano hit it home hard; a cop who started an organization to get law enforcement officials to stop busting cannabis users is powerful. It gives me hope to see that there is rationality out there, and he embodies it even more when he told me that ‘we will win.’” Speaker Loretta Nall, also a news anchor for the Canadian based Pot-TV, gave the Columbus Hempfest numerous kudos on her internet coverage of the event. “The Students for Sensible Drug Policy are fine, outstanding representatives for today’s youth. I feel much safer knowing they are about to take control of power in the U.S. They have a grasp of what’s going on and things will change.”

Miraculously, the Columbus Police department and the Campus Police have been taking an non-confrontational approach to these events, even going so far as to encourage organizers to wait to smoke in the park so that the police escort which regulates traffic while the protesters are in the streets can officially leave. And the campus police were strangely absent from Hempfest even though they hassled organizer Sean Luse about open marijuana smoking days before the event. “Oh yeah, the police handled the events wonderfully. The PD has better things to do than harass a first amendment event, so they wisely let us have our say and do our acts of civil disobedience. It just goes to show that Columbus is a cannabis friendly town that is ready for legalization. Perhaps we can get a reference from the PD to open a Cannabis Cafe in the gateway project.”