Enforcement escalated against ‘Smoke Down’ pot activists

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Stephanie Joynes, right, and N.A. Poe stand near pro-pot rally at the Liberty Bell on Saturday. Poe wore a prison-like costume to protest federal authorities banning him from participating in pro-pot protests. — Linn Washington Photo


Stephanie Joynes, an official in Moms For Marijuana International South Jersey chapter, attended the protest against pot prohibition last Saturday near the Liberty Bell to support pro-pot activists, who Joynes said endure intense governmental persecution.

One well-known activist supported by Joynes is Ed Forchion, the N.J. Weedman – widely considered America’s foremost Black marijuana legalization proponent.

Forchion, presently imprisoned in New Jersey on a controversial probation violation arising from a pot possession conviction, pioneered pro-pot protests at the Liberty Bell over a dozen years ago.

Another legalization activist supported by Joynes is N. A. Poe who did attend Saturday’s monthly protest, formally called “Smoke Down Prohibition X.”

But Poe, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit with fake chains around his neck and hands, had to stay 100 feet away from the actual protest site under conditions imposed by federal authorities following his pot smoking arrest during a “Smoke Down” in May.

Local anti-pot-prohibition activists have held Smoke Downs at the Liberty Bell since last December, seeking an end to the federal law banning marijuana use.

During the first few Smoke Downs, some activists smoked marijuana without arrest. But beginning in May, federal and Philadelphia police arrested protestors smoking pot while targeting Smoke Down organizers like Poe and journalist Chris Goldstein.

During the past few monthly Smoke Downs, demonstrators have not smoked pot, instead mocking the dozens of federal and local police assembled to make arrests.

Federal prosecutors, in Poe’s case, defended increased enforcement against pro-pot activists as necessary to “protect the public.”

But opinion polls indicate strong public support for ending pot prohibition.

A Gallup poll released last week found 58 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization. A Franklin and Marshall poll released days before Poe’s May arrest found 82 percent support among Pennsylvanians for the legalization of medical marijuana.

Stephanie Joynes, a Cherry Hill resident, said she joined Moms for Marijuana in part because of opposition to the Drug War, which she says disproportionally targets Blacks. Philadelphia police arrested 3,052 Blacks in 2012 for pot possession, compared to 629 whites.

“Our young people get arrest records that make them felons,” Joynes said. “Then they can’t get jobs and access to college.”

Moms For Marijuana has chapters in 34 states and nine countries according to its website.

Activist Ed Forchion, outraged by continuous imprisonments, began pursuit of perhaps his most bodacious act to date, another attempt to formally change his name, this time seeking a name change to: Just a N——-.

“If the authorities want to treat me this way, then call me by the name that fits how you are treating me … a n——-,” Forchion said during an interview before returning to an N.J. prison two weeks ago.