It's happened only once, and it wasn't even real — a recreational pot-smoking session gone terribly wrong.
Blanche was simply playing the piano cartoonishly fast to soothe Ralph's mind. But when Jack showed up unexpectedly, Ralph lost his shit and killed the man. The police arrived shortly thereafter and arrested him, Blanche, and their pot dealer, Mae. Before she could testify, however, Blanche went mad and jumped out a window to her death. Then Ralph was committed to an insane asylum.
It's the story of perhaps the most famous scene from the 1936 anti-pot propaganda film and stoner cult classic, Reefer Madness.
15th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert
15th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert" With Steve Berke, Johnny Dread, Sweetbone, Florida Sen. Dwight Bullard, Florida Rep. Katie Edwards, South Miami Commissioner Walter Harris, Ric Zweig, and others. 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-374-1198; tobacco-road.com. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Visit ploppypalace.com.
For anyone who's ever smoked weed, the infamous "piano scene" is a vile (albeit hilarious) misrepresentation of the side effects generally associated with marijuana use. And although the American public has come a long way on the Mary Jane, there are still people on this planet who still firmly believe pot is as evil as Reefer Madness claimed it was 77 years ago.
"Education can change people's minds," says local marijuana activist, comedian, and former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke. "But I think people who've been brainwashed by Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs are going to demonize marijuana no matter what we do."
And what Berke does, exactly, is spread the good word about the benefits of marijuana via catchy parody songs, making compelling arguments for not only medicinal marijuana but also the outright decriminalization of the sweet leaf.
This weekend, he will join several pro-pot politicians, speakers, musical performers, and activists for the 15th annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert at Tobacco Road, where he plans on performing his viral rap hit, "Pot Shop," a weed-centric riff on Macklemore's "Thrift Shop."
For Berke, this kind of activist assembly is almost a civic duty. "I think it's important that you treat the rest of the activists in the South Florida community as family. We all have a common goal and have the same principles."
Festival organizer Flash is no less dedicated to the marijuana cause. "I've been an activist much more than I've been anything else in my life," he says. "I really got into the issues and started understanding it. I just felt that it was something that should be discussed."
And discuss he has. Soon after being introduced to the concept of medical marijuana in the early 1990s as a University of Miami student, Flash, who smokes only "on occasion," launched the Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert. And over the past decade and a half, he says, it's become the largest of its kind in Florida, drawing crowds of supporters from all walks of life.
"There's always a diverse selection of performers because we're reaching to different creative tastes and a broad demographic," he explains. "We want to be able to educate people and build a critical mass of supporters. We want people to feel comfortable."
However, they shouldn't feel comfortable enough to hold a public smoke-out like the ones staged in front of Seattle's Space Needle last year and on the campus of the University of Colorado-Boulder each April. Marijuana, medical-grade or not, is illegal not only in Florida but also the entire United States.
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"I think there is a need for public victory celebrations," Flash says. "But I think there's also a time for sensible discussion. People should be responsible when they smoke."
"I think you're going to have enemies no matter what you do," he says. "But if anything, having public smoke-outs with police monitoring the entire situation is a good way to get police on board.
"I don't think the police are afraid of a couple thousand people getting together for a celebratory smoke. I think they'd be a lot more scared of a couple thousand people getting absolutely shit-face wasted."