You might think the 18th-annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert would be a hippie-ridden, dreadlocked-Rasta smoke-out, but the organizer, who goes by the name Flash, would tell you to sit your blunt down. For him, it's education over sedation.
"We want people to learn at the event and then teach others who didn't go," Flash says. "It elevates the voices of the individuals involved, it creates a sense of solidarity for the people who are working it, and for those people who are just trying to understand what's going on, there's education, and there are ways to continue learning. It isn't just a stagnant issue."
For nearly two decades, Flash and friends have organized the half-music festival, half-informative conference to be 100 percent for and by the people. It has grown throughout the years, alongside the greater political issue, but Flash says that as long as it takes to see change at the polls, the Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert will continue to fight for awareness.
"Production elements have shifted around over the years, even some attitudes have changed, but the core element is that people should be allowed to use medical marijuana," he says. "It's healthier, doctors should have the right to prescribe it, and other states are showing that it's working."
The event kicks off at 4:20 p.m. and features three stages jam-packed with a diverse lineup of artists representing hip-hop, rock, funk, jazz, reggae, and other genres. Headliners include local favorites Otto von Schirach, Telekinetic Walrus, Johnny Dread, SunGhosts, Nag Champayons, and 20-plus other acts. Flash purposefully varied the styles and sounds to appeal to every shade of marijuana supporter, because the issue is important to more than one demographic.
"It reaches different people," he says. "It gets different attention, and it goes out into the community and brings the voices of the community into the forefront. There is overwhelming support for medical marijuana, and we're working to get those voices heard."
Not everyone is into the Miami music scene, and to entice those who may not be familiar with the bands, the benefit will feature spoken word, dance performance, live art, community speakers, doctors, info booths, and testimonials from those whose lives have been made better with the help of medical marijuana.
"We also want people to register to vote," Flash says. "If more people got involved in the electoral process, we probably would have gotten that extra 2 percent we needed in the last election. [We're also] reaching out to the younger voters to feel empowered and feel like politics isn't beyond them. Their voice does matter."
For those keeping score at home, Flash does endorse one candidate for leading the cause.
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"Bernie Sanders needs our support," he says. "He is campaigning with marijuana reform as part of his priority, and he supports medical marijuana. He supports changing the laws, and I would like to see him go further in the election campaign. I'm personally going to change my party affiliation to vote for him, and I would encourage others to learn about Bernie Sanders and the issues he's working on."
Voter registration booths will be available onsite, but Flash wants guests to have fun while becoming more informed. It's a fresh mix of entertainment and education, a potpourri of politics and positivity. You see where he's going with this, don't you?
"It's unique in the sense that the people are really coming together on a creative level for a political issue to show community solidarity," Flash says. "People have a sense of compassion overall, and that's important to recognize. This is about compassion. The reality is that these are people's lives, and it needs to be recognized as a real source of medicine."
18th-Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert with Otto von Schirach, Telekinetic Walrus, live art, dance performance, public speakers, and more. 4:20 p.m. Saturday, February 6, to 3 a.m. Sunday, February 7, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Wynwood; 305-699-2669; gramps.com. Tickets cost $15 plus fees via eventbrite.com.