Way before 420 was the unofficial holiday for weed and cannabis enthusiasts, New Yorkers of all stripes have gathered for decades on the first Saturday in May to celebrate cannabis and demand its decriminalization at the New York City Cannabis Parade & Rally (NYCCPR).
Revelers would stick a big middle finger to the law and smoke joints in public, assuming that there would be some sort of strength in numbers.
However, this year’s event looked a little different.
On March 31, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize cannabis which would begin the process of opening recreational cannabis dispensaries in the next year or two and legalize adult use and possession immediately.
The state, in a move which many consider to be unprecedented, now allows cannabis to be smoked anywhere tobacco products are allowed. Although that does not include parks like Union Square, where this year’s Cannabis Pride & Rally gathered on Saturday, May 1, law enforcement seemed to let it slide. As marchers took to the streets, it was perfectly legal for everyone 21 and over to light up as they walked.
This year, those at the rally were even joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who pledged to bring federal cannabis legalization “the right way.”
The NYCCPR is among the longest running cannabis legalization events in the world. What began as a “Smoke-In” in Washington Square Park organized by the Yippies in 1973 has evolved into a three-part event: a parade down Broadway, a rally in Union Square Park and a celebratory after party, all on the first Saturday in May.
NYCCPR is the founding chapter of the Global Marijuana March, and sister events take place in cities worldwide on the same day.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s NYCCPR was canceled. Although it has returned, this year’s event was scaled down according to CDC guidelines. A virtual event was live streamed on May 2 which featured a more traditional lineup of speakers and performers.