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Pot advocates light it up at legislature

London Free Press, Canada , 7th May 2006

Thousands of marijuana smokers defiantly sparked up joints yesterday in front of Ontario's legislature to create a cloud of support for the drug's legalization.

The day-long eighth annual Toronto Global Marijuana March lived up to the slogan of "stinking it to the man," attracting university students, Goths and hippies, as well as a uniformed police presence.

"We are here for event managing," Toronto police Sgt. Dave Hogan said. "We are observing and keeping the peace and hopefully it will be a pleasant event. We don't want a mass riot."

Nick Tigomenico, a 17-year-old student, came to the rally at Queen's Park to show his support for the cause.

"I'm here because of my love of marijuana," he said, confidently smoking a joint. "I'm not worried. They (police) can't arrest 10,000 people."

Booths sold cookies, assorted baked goods, pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs in case anyone got the munchies.

There was even a corn-on-the-cob vendor.

"The organizers of the event asked me to come," said Sam Raffoul from Ontario Corn Roasters. "I didn't know people who smoke pot liked corn, but sales are good."

Vendors also sold pot-smoking devices and T-shirts, while advocates for medical marijuana, such as the group Cannabis As Living Medicine, were on hand to gather support.

There are one million people in Canada with fatal, debilitating illnesses who don't have access to medical marijuana, CALM spokesperson Alyssa Wartzman said.

"This is important for those, such as HIV or MS patients, who can't use traditional medical treatments," Wartzman said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his government's pledge last month to impose longer jail time and heavier fines on marijuana grow-ops and drop plans by the previous Liberal government to decriminalize simple possession of pot.

"Ideally, I'd like it to become legal, but I doubt that will happen," Tigomenico said. "I'd be happy with decriminalization."

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