About 100 demonstrators showed up at Santa Barbara’s landmark dolphin fountain at the end of Stearns Wharf today to show solidarity in the face of the federal government’s recent threats to shut down the numerous medical marijuana dispensaries in town. Although the march began an hour behind schedule at 1 p.m., those involved gradually picked up intensity and fervor as they moved up State Street. Proudly sporting T-shirts reading “I Am Not a Criminal,” and “No Access Is Not a Solution,” the protesters chanted “Protect our rights! All of our rights!” as they made their way from the waterfront to the heart of downtown.
From the beginning, protest organizers stressed sticking together and obeying traffic laws to avoid injury. No police officers were present, but members of the group were peaceably assembled on both sides of State Street. Participants in the protest ranged from medicinal cannabis users to patients rights advocates to one or two people who claimed merely to like “smoking bud” and were generally supportive of the cannabis club concept.
“It’s not right that the federal government is trying to control peoples’ lives,” said a man named Seamus. Along with national medical marijuana activist Elvy Musikka - who is one of the few people in the country provided cannabis by the federal government for medical reasons - Seamus carried a sign at the head of the march that read: “CANNABIS. The Most Efficient. The Most Reliable. The Safest Part of My Treatment.”
The march was the latest public battle in the ongoing weed war between the federal government and California, where voters approved using cannabis for medical purposes in 1996. The City of Santa Barbara recently approved an ordinance to standardize the cannabis dispensaries, which had grown rapidly for such a small city over the past two years.
Wednesday’s action was specifically to protest a move by the federal government earlier this month, when representatives from the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration met with the owners of buildings that house cannabis dispensaries. The agents threatened to use federal racketeering laws to confiscate the properties if the cannabis dealers were not evicted. Since then, most if not all of the dispensaries in Santa Barbara have received eviction letters and some are already clearing out.