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I’ll take your empty Evian: Patches, Bottle Bill supporter. Photo by John Whipple.

Budding Protestors

Pot is still illegal in all forms in New York—and just about everywhere else in the world, except Amsterdam—but tomorrow (Friday, May 2), hundreds will gather in Albany looking to change that.

Albany’s rally, organized in coordination with the Global March for Cannabis Liberation, will feature a variety of speakers, bands and information tables discussing a number of marijuana-related issues, including the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, decriminalization and the war on drugs. The perennial push for cannabis liberation, now 31 years old, is being carried out this year in more than 200 cities across the globe—from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Zürich, Switzerland.

The New York state drug-policy reform group ReconsiDer organized the local rally.

“The war on drugs is America’s most costly and longest-running public policy failure,” said ReconsiDer member Michael Roona. “We need to promote discussions of policy alternatives, and this rally is a forum to do just that. We’re not endorsing any particular position on medical marijuana or sentencing reform or any other issue, but we’ve created a forum for everyone who has a perspective, so they can speak to the issues as they see them.”

The rally will begin at the Capitol at noon and will go until 6 PM, with open-mike segments between the scheduled speakers and bands. Participants will be allowed to sign up to perform or make personal statements on marijuana-related topics and the drug war.

One of the day’s scheduled speakers is Warren Redlich, an Albany lawyer and a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives 21st Congressional District in 2004. Redlich’s message is for marijuana users to end the finger-pointing and engage in more constructive forms of social change to meet their ends.

“My message to the people who agree that the drug war is wrong is that we have to stop placing blame on people like our president and the police,” said Redlich. “The ultimate responsibility comes down to the people and voters who keep voting for them and allowing them to be doing what they are doing.

“It’s great to hold a rally and talk to a bunch people that agree with us, but we need to talk to people that don’t agree with us,” Redlich said. “We have to talk to our fellow churchgoers and our neighbors to try to change minds.”

—Travis Durfee

For the Good of the Earth

Though Earth Day came and went while state legislators were on their two-week spring recess, hundreds of environmentalists took to the Capitol on Monday (April 28) to bring attention to a number of statewide environmental issues.

A number of speakers called for the immediate closure of Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, 35 miles north of New York City. Critics—including one of the plant’s former security guards—have long claimed that security at Indian Point is inadequate and fear that it could be a target for future terrorist attacks.

“People really care about closing Indian Point,” said Jeff Jones of Environmental Advocates New York, which helped organize the lobby day. “We had a bunch of people up from Westchester County who are very active in the campaign, and in fact both reactors are shut down right now for two different reasons. So the idea that the world will come to an end if Indian point is shut down doesn’t really hold up.”

One of the more visible issues being lobbied for was the “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill,” an expansion of the state’s returnable containers law to include a nickel deposit on noncarbonated beverages like bottled water and iced tea. The money collected from unreturned containers—currently harvested by the bottling industry—would be taken by the state and used to fund municipal solid-waste programs.

Representatives from the New York Public Interest Research Group presented Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Sen. Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R-Brunswick) with 5,000 signatures from more than 250 citizen and environmental groups urging the legislators to adopt an expanded bottle bill to ease the strain of New York’s current fiscal crisis—the state budget is approximately $11.5 billion in the red this year and nearly a month late.

“Both the Senate and the Assembly are passing their budgets, and as far as I know they do not include the $172 million annually that the expanded bottle bill would generate,” said Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “They still haven’t seen the light. It is public money that the Legislature has chosen not to take advantage of.”

Rally attendees also urged the state’s elected officials not to weaken standards for the state’s Superfund, and to restore its funding levels—the program, which funds environmental clean-ups, has been bankrupt for the past two years. The lobbyists were also looking to modify state laws regulating power plants, calling for stricter pollution controls and more public participation in the siting process.

—Travis Durfee

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