While Frankfurt Germany was not necessarily the world’s (or even Germany’s) largest march on this, May 6, a day of Global Action on Marijuana Reform, there was a definite presence.
About 150 people showed up on a gloriously sunny, spring Saturday in the heart of the city. The open plaza in front of Alte Oper, also the location of a ridiculously beautiful (reconstructed) globally renowned opera house that yes, once hosted all the German composers in person, was the treffpunkt (meeting point).
If that is because it was the center of Frankfurt, or the sound of reform is music to Germans’ ears, it really doesn’t matter. The point was there was an organized presence, sponsored by major companies and reform groups.
Organizers showed up on time, rolled out (gear, speakers, banners, spray paint artists) in absolutely resolute and highly German punctual precision. The march did start a little late, but it appeared that this might have been as a result of police direction as much as organizer ineptitude. The music truck with the PA system and the end tag car were lined up and ready to go on time.
Once moving, the march was, of course, directed by the police who led the stop and go according to their own agenda and traffic patterns. It did not matter. Everyone had time. People danced, and chanted, and soaked up the sun. And did a lot of posing for picture-snapping tourists.
Reform is going to be engineered here. And here at the much-dissed grassroots, they know that too. American activists have much to learn, or perhaps unlearn from what is about to roll out in Germany.
Right now, there is an activist “buzz” around this issue that is hard to contain, and has not been seen, frankly, in the United States, before the Age of Trump. The non-commercialism of the general atmosphere (although sponsorship bucks were clearly present), is a place American and Canadian reformers will remember well because it is a time not that long ago.
However the point is that right now, companies and activists are starting to work together for the first time. Legalization, however “limited” it might seem, has come to Germany and everyone knows it.
Patients Are Still In Focus
Unlike in the United States and other places where there were “global marches” today, this is a fertile time in Germany. The originally licensed patients, particularly on the grow side, are facing a government that is trying to get them, one way or another, to participate in the insurance program. This is going to take some delicate steps, trial and error, and back and forth.
Many of those patients, including those who have taken legal action all the way to Germany’s legal equivalent of the Supreme Court (in Cologne), are on the front line right now. Many of them have grown to love growing for the ease and convenience it gives them. Most of them are people who are easily recognizable as “sick.” Or living with significant disabilities.
In fact, the visible nature of the many disabilities, and people’s frankness about the same is one of the things that is still very present and visible at all levels of the organization if not business conferences per se. For many Germans, what the government has just done is, in fact, a fairy tale come true, of the most romantic and magical Brothers Grimm kind. The details are yet to be worked out, but the rules and “der weg” (the way) is coming into focus.
The story itself could not possibly be more German.
Once upon a time, there was a magic plant that could be grown in Germany, a country that still feels ancient if you turn the right corner (and there are many of those). Frankfurt itself is an ancient city founded before the Romans got to this part of the world and well before the birth of Christ. It flanks the river Main right before it flows through some of the most romantic and scenic places in Deutschland. “Mainhatten” as the locals often call it, is a modern, international city opening up in its suburbs to quaint villages which dot steep mountain slopes dotted with vineyards and topped with a castle at almost every peak. It is easy, therefore, in a place like this, to believe such things. Not to mention recognize when they are coming true.
Despite the German negativity, therefore, which is a national sport (like complaining about the weather), there was little to seriously protest about this day.
Who Showed Up
Yes, reform is slow in coming here, as in everywhere. The patients who spoke passionately about their fight for reform and led the march were frustrated but mostly positive. They know they are driving change. And there were quite a few of them, including those who obviously made a huge effort physically just to show up.
There was also a large, obvious, contingent of the Younger Millennial Crowd – and of course (white German) Rastas, flower power rehashes, punk, and a little goth.
There were also plenty of police. This was organized as a political rally. Therefore, German rules apply. About 8 police vans, a healthy contingent of motorcycle cops and officers who moved with the crowd, showed up at the beginning of the march. Mostly, they kept to themselves as the march gathered. They did occasionally walk through the crowd to make sure there was no giant smoke in. Technically smoking in public is “illegal” even for patients.
These days, however, there is not going to be a German cop who’s going to bust a person who could well be a patient at a legalization rally for what might turn out to be “just” tobacco. This rally might not have made national German news, but it made the local Frankfurt papers and radio. People knew about by the end of the day from radio or TV. Cops, in this kind of environment, particularly here and over this issue, are going to need a great deal of provocation to intervene.
Most of them, truth be told, looked like they thoroughly enjoyed themselves, particularly when deployed along the route (through central, reconstructed but seriously gorgeous “old time” Frankfurt). The music was fun. Participants were well behaved and organizers worked, hand in glove with the traffic police. The onlookers (Germans and foreign tourists) either took pictures or swayed in time with the trance music.
Greater access for patients, as everyone knows here, is the first step forward on full legalization reform.
What Was On Marcher’s Lips?
Apart from some catchy German lyrics that seemed to fit if not rhyme in some way with the master word (Legalisierung), there were a few main topics of concern that drew marchers.
While they could not possibly complain about the weather, attendees found plenty to grouse about in terms of moving even medical implementation forward faster. Many patients worry about getting the right supply and properly compensated for what they have to buy under “health insurance.” The logistics on that have not been quite worked out, although they are clearly now in process.
However, everyone is aware that legislation has touched ground here in a very profound way. And that is far more a cause for celebration than a protest.
Nobody handed the police a joint. But it was very clear that guarding the happy, playful and respectful crowd was not hazard duty. No Pepsi required, thanks to all the same.