Ten minutes past 4:20, Against Prohibition co-founder Brandon Lavy walked onto the stage in Dunn Meadow. The area had been bustling for about an hour, with students and other Bloomington residents floating from booth to booth. Baby boomers and generation-Z kids meandered about.
Protester signs in the crowd featured slogans such as “Weed the People.” Everyone was there for the same general cause — to show their support of legalizing marijuana.
Against Prohibition, an IU group dedicated to ending prohibition in all its forms, was the host of the Monroe County Legalization Rally on Saturday in Dunn Meadow.
“We want to say to our state legislatures that enough is enough,” Against Prohibition member Brandon Perry said. “We want medical, we want recreational marijuana.”
Against Prohibition had been focusing on this rally as its main event for this semester. It invited Higher Fellowship, a group in Indiana dedicated to supporting the community, to speak and share why it supports using the plant.
Co-founder David Phipps talked about the medicinal use and explained how cannabis is a safer option for patients than using drugs with side effects.
“Cannabis needs to be legalized medicinally, of course. It needs to be legalized totally,” Phipps said. “There are far too many Hoosiers suffering needlessly because of this law.”
Phipps also explained it can be a safer option for students wanting to party as opposed to drinking. People can’t overdose on marijuana, he said.
People are coming to understand the benefits. A recent poll in Indiana showed that 73 percent of people support at least the medicinal use of marijuana, Lavy said.
However, co-founder Bobbie Jo Young talked about the little spoken support for legalizing marijuana, despite its widespread use.
“What I’m going to ask you guys is when Brandon makes a post on Facebook and he says ‘I need help,’ help him,” Young said. “Don’t stay in your dorm room smoking weed, ’cause every street I’ve walked on, every part I can smell it.”
In Indiana, Phipps said approximately $150 million is spent on just enforcing marijuana laws — that doesn’t include housing offenders in jail.
The third co-founder, Tommy Heiser, did not speak at the event, but he also takes the legalization campaign seriously. As a former college professor, Heiser lost his job due a lack of funding.
When he learned about how much the state spends on maintaining these laws, Heiser became involved in the issue. He said the state could use these funds instead to maintain roads and improve education.
Students also spoke their beliefs on legalization. Some said they believed it impeded American rights.
“Ultimately it just frustrates me that people are inhibited from putting something harmless in their body, especially in a country that values liberty as much as ours does and touts that as their identity,” English major Kris Lindquist said.
Ever since May, the Higher Fellowship has been traveling to different counties throughout the state to gain support for the legalization of all marijuana usage. This rally was the final stop on its 2016 Cannabis Legalization rally tour.
“We’re all fighting for the same thing,” Phipps said. “Our mission is to try to draw as much public awareness to this issue as we can.”
Phipps has lost count of how many counties they have visited, but they have visited a different area nearly every Saturday. Next year the group plans to start tours as early as March and stop by more counties.
In the summer, Higher Fellowship plans to have what they call Greenstock in Marion, Indiana. Phipps likened the event to Woodstock, with live music and a lax crowd. He said it’s a time for activists to meet up and relax for a few days while having fun together.
“I’m just really happy to see our legislators and our government finally coming around to the reality of situation,” Phipps said. “They’re finally becoming more comfortable, coming out of that cannabis closet.”
At the end of the rally, the supporters met on stage for a group photo. They held up their protesting signs high, smiled and counted down for the picture — one, two, three, weed.