Miami's 15th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert Is Gonna "Change People's Minds"

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

It's only happened 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 leapt out of a window to her own death, and Ralph was committed to an insane asylum.

Of course, we're retelling the story of perhaps the most famous scene from the 1936 anti-pot propaganda film and stoner cult classic Reefer Madness.

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.

And while we've come a long way as a society on the marijuana issue, there are still people on this planet who firmly believe that pot is as evil as Reefer Madness says it is.

"Education can change people's mind," says local marijuana activist, comedian and former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke. "But I think people who've been brainwashed by Nancy Regan 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 and compelling arguments for not only medicinal marijuana, but the outright decriminalization of the sweet leaf.

Next month, Berke will join several other pro-pot politicians, speakers, musical performers, and activists at the 15th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert at Tobacco Road, where he plans on performing his viral hit, "Pot Shop."

"I think it's important that you treat the rest of the activists in the South Florida community as family," Berke says. "Flash and I have talked about [me performing "Pot Shop"] in passing. I don't see why I wouldn't. We all have a common goal and have the same principals."

"I've been an activist much more than I've been anything else in my life," says festival organizer "Flash," who was introduced to the concept of medical marijuana in the early 1990s as a University of Miami student.

"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. Flash, who only smokes "on occasion," says the annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert is the largest of its kind in the Florida, drawing in large crowds of supporters from all walks of life.

"There's a diverse selection of performers because we're reaching to different creative tastes and a broad demographic," he says. "We want to be able to educate people and build a critical mass of supporters. We want people to feel comfortable."

However not comfortable enough to hold a public smoke out like the one held in front of Seattle's Space Needle last year or the campus of the University of Colorado-Boulder each April. Marijuana, medical-grade or not, is illegal not just in Florida, but the entire United States.

"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."

Berke agrees.

"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 of thousand people getting together for a celebratory smoke. I think they'd be a lot more scared of a couple of thousand people getting absolutely shit-face wasted."

15th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert. With Steve Berke, Johnny Dread, Sweetbone, Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard, Florida State Representative Katie Edwards, South Miami City Commissioner Walter Harris, Ric Zweig, and others. Saturday, March 2. Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave, Miami. The event begins at 6 p.m. and tickets cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Call 305-374-1198 or visit ploppypalace.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

Follow Victor Gonzalez on Twitter @Victor314.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.