On the morning of June 17, the day of Florida's third annual Jacksonville Hemp
Festival, festival organizers weren't sure if city officials would allow the event
"The City of Jacksonville, and especially its consolidated police force,
which is the sheriff's department, has made it clear that they don't like pot
politics," explained Scott Bledsoe, one of the event's sponsers. "The
sheriff's office has interfered with our legal political activities, such as pamphleteering
and signature gatheringg. We've sued sheriff Nat Glover two times, and won. But
they never give up."
Bledsoe and his allies in Florida's Cannabis Action Network - Jodi Games and Kevin
Aplin - fought with Jacksonville officials about whether their festival could
include live music.
"The told us that if we have music, then we are putting a commercial festival,
not a free speech event. Then we'd have to pay thousands of dollars for insurance,
police and emergency crews," Bledsoe said "I told them that the music
has been in political events since the beginning of this country. Music is free
speech. If we advertise that we are having a pot event with just speakers, we
can't expect to have people come out all day. By having bands donate their time
to the cause, we drew people who wouldn't otherwise attend."
CAN took the city to court, requesting an emergency injunction agasint the ordinance.
US disctrict judge Harvey Schlesinger issued a vague last-minute ruling that left
activists and the city bickering about its meaning.
"We believe that all of this is unconstitutional," Bledsoe said. "I've
already lost my job because I'm an activist. I don't see any reason to compromise.
I think it's time for all of us to stand and challenge these people directly.
We're here holding this festival, we never got the permit, and we're having a
Before going onstage to make a speech Kevin Aplin presented me with a stack of
pamplets and a booklet entitled Express Yourself How to Use Your First Ammendment
"Please thank Mark Emery for me," he said. "Marc gave us a contribution,
and this is what we did with it."
Aplin told the crowd how to hold pot rallies, how to stand up to government harassment,
and how to make sure that officials who violate constitutional rights pay for
Aplin also explained what to do in potential arrest situations, cautioning pot
people not to give up their rights, consent to searches, or otherwise assist in
their own demise.
About 500 people, most of them teenagers, attended the pleasent and well-organized
festival. Four police officers were also there, but they did nothing to stop the
fun or harass audience members. In fact, one of them read an issue of Cannabis
Culture and told me his father had taken Marinol!