Miami's 16th-Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit: "It's Not Just About Smoking a Joint"

"Why are we underground right now, sir? Why can't we be out in the open?" asks Private Miller while sitting in a smoky interrogation room during the opening scene of the 2008 movie Pineapple Express.

"Why aren't we in a square right now? Why aren't we talkin' to people, lettin' them know that Item 9 exists? Get it out! Shout it out from the rooftops! This is great! This is the bee's knees, Item 9!"

Now, that bit was set in a marijuana-ignorant America. And today, we are all well aware that Item 9 does exist. But there are still many people, like General Bratt in the stoner flick, who sternly affirm that cannabis should remain illegal.

Of course, we here at Crossfade aren't in favor of a weed ban. And neither are the fine folks of Miami's Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert.

See also: Steve Berke and Ophthalmologist Dr. Linda Kaplan on Benefits of Medical Marijuana

"Prohibition isn't a good thing, and it has to change," says Flash of Ploppy Palace, the organization behind the annual pot party.

The use of Mary Jane is a crime in Florida. But across the country, acceptance of the herb has come a long way. Twenty states and Washington, D.C., have laws allowing users to smoke pot as a form of medicine, and Colorado just became the first state to allow the legal sale marijuana for recreational use.

Support has also grown in the 305. The City of South Miami became the first municipality to pass a resolution to support medical marijuana in 2010. And just a few months ago, Miami Beach voters overwhelming approved of decriminalizing weed.

"It's a bigger issue, not just about someone smoking a joint," Flash insists. "We're putting medical marijuana patients in jail, especially if they're using it for AIDS, cancer, and glaucoma. We're persecuting people."

Certainly, medical marijuana may be the driving force behind the push for legalization. But the truth is, many users smoke for fun.

"Recreation is not a bad thing," Flash says. "It makes you feel good, and if you're happy and not hurting anybody, you should be left alone.

"Being able to enjoy yourself in the pursuit of happiness is a foundational American principle," he adds. "Alcohol prohibition didn't work. And marijuana prohibition isn't working."

Politics aside, Flash believes that a lack of education is the reason for such strong opposition against pot. "Marijuana prohibition has been going on for over 70 years. And indoctrination is generational. Some people are still stuck in Reefer Madness."

With a lineup of speakers, from city commissioners to circuit court judges, the ACLU, and medical marijuana users, Flash hopes to change misperceptions and misconceptions.

"Education has to do with long-term engagement. You don't have to smoke it; just be aware and be open-minded to it, and there's your shift."

And what's the most effective way of getting others to listen? Through music, Flash says. "We have a variety of styles that'll be present at the concert, and they represent the diversity of supporters, from traditional Peruvian to experiential music, jazz, folk, rock, and reggae."

Ploppy Palace has even put together a CD for the cause, Legalize It! Vol. 1: It's Natural! And yes, Snoop Dogg's on the album. "We're using that as a way to spread the message and as a funding force."

As for the future of pot in Florida, Flash says: "Yes, plain and simple. We are pushing to get medial marijuana on the ballot for 2014, and the tide is in our favor."

The 16th-Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert. Presented by Ploppy Palace and NORML of Florida. With Johnny Dread, Sweetbone, the Nag Champayons, the Baboons, Teri Catlin, Nature's Fury, Ydiz, UOM, Kuyayky, the Tribe, Rhythm Flow, the Int'l Language, Sound Healing Orchestra, the Weeds, Mr. Grim Reapa, Orion, Ann Hoffman, Orrin Bolton, Steve Minotti, Deep Water Willy, and others. Saturday, January 11. Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 5 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via ploppypalace.com, or $12 at the door. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-374-1198 or visit tobacco-road.com.

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