The ‘Free Cannabis’ picnic held in Sydney’s Victoria Park over the weekend exceeded all expectations, with the largest ever turnout for the event, made even better by the fact that there were no arrests this time.
About 200 people turned up for the Free Cannabis NSW picnic throughout the afternoon of Saturday, April 9 – almost doubling the numbers from the inaugural event held in January which had seen NSW Police arrest two men for having less than half a gram of cannabis.
This time however NSW Police kept their distance from the picnic-goers for most of the day and only moved in as a show of strength or intimidation close to the traditional ‘stoner time’ of 4.20pm.
Police had earlier in the day stationed sniffer dogs at entrances to the park as well as at nearby train stations, while for some reason the Riot Squad had also been called in to look over the event. A sniffer dog team patrolled the park when it neared 4.20pm. No one at the picnic was arrested or charged however and many at the event questioned the waste of taxpayers’ and public money on the operation.
Joint rolling competitions and stand-up comedy were interspersed with political speeches from the likes of Greens MP David Shoebridge, former Campbelltown mayor Clinton Mead and representatives from the long-running Australian HEMP Party.
“This was a gathering to call for a pretty sensible law reform in NSW,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“As a Greens MP, we think it’s time to legalise cannabis, but then also regulate it and tax it. In US states like Colorado, the state government actually earns more revenue from the tax on cannabis now than it does from more traditional tax sources such as the racing industry.”
Controversial medical doctor, Dr Andrew Katelaris – widely known as ‘Dr Pot’ – also spoke at the picnic after lighting up a big joint as he took to the microphone.
“There’s one thing I need to do before the police leave,” Dr Katelaris said before sparking up a big one.
While anarchist comedian, Darren Hunter, provoked giggles and laughter amongst the crowd with his unique brand of political and stoner humour, with even those who hadn’t had a smoke finding it hard to stop laughing.
The attendees at the picnic spanned all ages and genders, from families with young children, university students, pensioners and even some who had travelled from as far as the North Coast of NSW as well as a couple who had come from Amsterdam.
Both recreational users of cannabis and those who had medical needs were well represented among the crowd.
“I came here today because I suffer from chronic illness and marijuana has allowed me to get off all of the drugs I was taking,” one woman at the picnic said.
University student Sam Hansen said it was extremely encouraging to see so many people willing to stand up in public despite the heavy police presence.
“The people who came out today are warriors,” Mr Hansen said. “They are entrepreneurs. They are people who have the vision to see we will be changing the future.”
“We’re going to end the lockout laws here in Australia and in its place we’re going to put in weed cafes and Sydney is going to be the new Amsterdam of south-east Asia.”
The picnic received widespread positive coverage across major media outlets with the Sunday Telegraph, News.com.au, Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, Yahoo7, Pedestrian.tv and the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website all publicising the event.
Free Cannabis NSW organiser, Chris Hindi, said the movement to “destigmatise” cannabis use was only going to keep growing with the cannabis picnics set to be a regular event held every couple of months.
“Everyone who came loved the atmosphere and had a great time with many saying not only will they be back but they will be bringing more friends along,” he said.
“We had reports of dozens of people intimidated to enter the park on the day despite intending to come.
“But we are not going away until we have serious reforms on cannabis, including legalisation, and an end to the criminalisation of users.”
The next Free Cannabis NSW picnic will be held at Victoria Park on Sunday, June 5.
DETAILS OF NEXT FREE CANNABIS NSW PICNIC:
Victoria Park, Camperdown (Sydney)
Sunday June 5, From Midday to 4.20pm
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1601462183512874/