The turnout for Legalize Louisiana Statewide 4/20 Rally held downtown at both the Lafayette Parish and federal courthouses didn’t reach as large a number of people that the previous rally, held March 2, did, but this didn’t stop those who did attend from conveying their message that it is time for Louisiana to take marijuana legalization seriously.
“The turnout was fair and we demonstrated our idea,” says Dave Lucito, who helped to organize the march. “It’s not all going to happen at a march anyway. People need to be in touch with their elected officials on a daily basis. We only march in the first place in order to demonstrate the idea to the public that it’s something that they should be interested in. I was a little bit disappointed that people didn’t come out in as strong numbers to support the idea this time, but we’ll go ahead and do it again. I won’t be discouraged.”
Lucito says one factor for the low turnout was the condition that no one attending the march, which began at Girard Park, could park their vehicles in the park’s parking lot. This was a response from park police who received complaints from regular park patrons that the numerous participants from the previous march were congesting the park by leaving their cars behind during the rally, making it nearly impossible for others to find parking spaces of their own.
One of the march’s participants, William Kennedy, a microbiology student at SLCC, was arrested and charged with obstruction of a public passage after being told to move from the curb in front of the federal courthouse where he was sitting.
Kennedy also made a brief speech just before the march arrived at the federal courthouse.
“Is our land really free anymore? We polluted it so much and we are not standing up for it. We must change,” he said. “We are denied a free and open society and we will no longer hide under the shroud of invisibility. Together we gather here for this holiday for that unveiling for which we’ve had to hide in fear for too many years. We demand the legalization of the use of Cannabis sativa to be used medically or for leisure.”
Another rally participant that was very vocal in his support of marijuana legalization in front of the federal courthouse was Rickey Stoot, a local professional comedian.
“I think that the biggest point that want to make about this is the amount of money that we are wasting, considering our financial and economic status, is outrageous for the amount that we could be benefiting by just making this either decriminalized or legalized,” says Stoot. “Hemp cultivation would bring in so many jobs to an already-needing economy. We would become self-sufficient like we should and not have to depend on foreign products in any way.”
Stoot was also nearly arrested by police in front of the federal courthouse for his use of profane language during his protest.
“I was instructed by an officer or I should say ‘I was given my final warning’ that he would not allow any profane language and I was told to leave the sidewalk,” he says. “I was threatened if you will with an arrest, possibly some misdemeanor charge, for your basic profane language.”
Several marchers in attendance were medical patients ready to give their testimonials on the medicinal properties of marijuana.
“It keeps young people like me who are in chronic pain out of pain management clinics,” adds Tarek David, a wheelchair-bound participant who suffers from osteoarthritis that affects nearly every bone in his body. “I weigh 115 pounds and I’ve gained 15 pounds in the last six months smoking every day and that is a great difference. I was in the hospital weighing 93 pounds. It really helps me to eat and sleep.”
David says he hasn’t had the need to return to a doctor since he started self-medicating nearly six months ago.
“I really don’t mess with doctors anymore because all they did was feed me trash,” he explains. “It was ridiculous. I was tired of putting 30 pills in my stomach three times a day to please doctors. I refuse to see them. I started self-medicating and it has been wonderful.”
Samantha Trinder, an asthmatic who swears marijuana helps alleviate her symptoms, describes how the plant helps her to manage without the need for an inhaler.
“Since I’ve moved down here, I’ve had maybe at least three or four asthma attacks and I started smoking marijuana and it really helped to open up my lungs more and helped me to stay calm and relax because I also have anxiety from claustrophobia,” she says. “It really helps to calm me down so I can breathe. It really helped to open up my lungs from being so contracted and tight.”
“Basically the injustices need to stop. People need to be aware of what’s going on and they need to stand up for their rights and that’s not happening in Louisiana,” says Kennedy. “I don’t see any rallies for the environment. I don’t see any rallies for gay rights. All I see is Mardi Gras, all I see is this junk. I see people pissing on the side of roads. I see underage drinking in downtown Lafayette in almost every single bar.”