By Denise Dick
It was touted as a Smoke Down, but no one lit up.
About 20 people showed up for the Blaze Up, also called a Smoke Down Prohibition, event Sunday at Wick Park in support of marijuana legalization. The event, conducted on April 20 across the country, initially was to include pot smoking by participants. A flier for the event encourages attendees to bring “one tightly rolled joint of blunt.”
But Jakub Kelly of Youngstown, who organized the event, said he sent word to people through social media cautioning them against smoking after warnings from city police that people would be arrested.
“I’m disappointed in the so-called marijuana fighters that didn’t show up,” Kelly said. “But love to the people who did show up.”
A couple of police cruisers drove around the park as the group gathered.
Kelly kept the rally mostly to the sidewalk around the park because he said police told him he couldn’t have it in the park since he lacked the permit required by city ordinance.
“This is my permit right here,” he said, displaying a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
The date of the event as well as the appointed time for the planned smoking — 420 — was the California police code for marijuana smoking in progress.
At 4:18 p.m. Sunday, Kelly began leading his group down the sidewalk to the park’s flagpole when five police officers from the vice squad pulled up and spoke to Kelly. He said they told him that if anyone smoked marijuana, they would be arrested.
An officer said they were there just to ensure no laws were broken.
A couple in the group yelled at the officers that they should be spending their time fighting real crime.
The group proceeded to the flagpole, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and walked back. Police left, and no one was arrested.
Maddy Halfacre, president of the Youngstown Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the group doesn’t engage in illegal activity. It’s against its bylaws.
Some people attending the event support marijuana for medicinal purposes.
North Jackson resident Amy Wollet’s 6-year-old daughter, Kaia, endures 300 seizures daily and she believes the drug would help her.
Kelly expects to organize another event in the coming months at a different location.