Marijuana marchers say momentum is with them

This year’s  Toronto Freedom Festival may actually be a step closer to freedom.

The Freedom Festival takes place on the first Saturday of May every year. This year’s edition takes place on May 2 at Queen’s Park.

Among the key activities of the festival is the Global Marijuana March , a platform to promote cannabis reform. However, this year, the march will have some weight behind it. On April 2 Liberal MP Keith Martin introduced Bill C-359 in the House of Commons that proposes the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Neev Tapiro, the founder of the Toronto Global Marijuana March, in a press release dated April 20, expressed his excitement over the prospects of such a bill.

“Our main focus over the years has been to legalize cannabis in Canada for medical and non-medical use,” Tapiro said. “This year we have an opportunity to contribute politically to Bill C-359.”

Tapiro also hopes that strength in numbers, a large turnout for this year’s festival, will send an additional message to Ottawa.

The city of Toronto has its own approach to such activity as cannabis use. The Toronto Drug Strategy ( (TDS) is a panel of municipal and community representatives formed to improve the quality of life for families and neighbourhoods. TDS spokesperson, Susan Sperling, says her group wants to see harm reduction, treatment and enforcement with all psychoactive drugs.

“We don’t have a position on one drug or another,” she said. “We just focus on reducing the harm and (the need to offer) treatment.”

However, back in 2005, TDS did take a stand on marijuana. At the time, the federal government had proposed the legalization of possession of marijuana. Coincidentally, in a report, the TDS and the City of Toronto supported the legislation.

“This support is contingent upon a commitment from the federal government to ensure appropriate levels of funding for prevention, harm reduction and treatment to minimize the prevalence of cannabis use and its associated harms, especially for youth,” the TDS report said.

Toronto Police Service intends to keep an eye on the Global Marijuana March  Const. Wendy Drummond explained. “It is an annual event that is always peaceful,” Drummond said. “(But) “we enforce the laws that are set in place.”

Filed by Michelle Nash