In September of 2009, liberty migrants and New Hampshire natives gathered in Keene’s Central Square to commit mass civil disobedience in violation of the state’s prohibition against cannabis. They did this heroic act despite the risk of misdemeanor charges that could have resulted at the time from the simple possession of cannabis.
The 420 rallies were historic and made local, state, national, and international headlines. They started small, with just a handful smoking cannabis in the iconic New Hampshire town common and quickly grew to upwards of 150 participants at their peak. The celebrations of cannabis freedom went on daily and lasted for weeks, despite desperate attempts by Keene police to crack down.
Once the events grew to a crowd, Keene police arrested a couple of the perceived leaders of the event in hopes of intimidating the peaceful tokers into calling it quits and going home, but the police aggression had the opposite effect. Instead of scaring away the protestors, dozens marched down to the Keene police headquarters and smoked cannabis behind the police station and later smoked up inside the lobby!
After that, the police never returned to the daily 420s and they eventually died off due to winter weather setting in. Though the rallies were revived the following Spring, we had clearly won the ground as a demilitarized zone for open cannabis use. It was a beautiful thing. Beginning in 2010, on April 20th the 420 rallies continued as a yearly event at the Concord state house steps and participants even came to include multiple state representatives.
Last weekend, the 420 rally returned to the place where it began – Keene’s Central Square. The founder of the rallies, then known as Rich Paul, now known as Nobody and running a campaign for mayor of Keene had the prior week announced a special rally to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the historic events. Held on Saturday September 28th at 4:20pm, the 10th anniversary rally was attended by locals, liberty migrants, and even included Robert Call and me, who are both candidates for city council in this year’s Keene municipal election.
Here’s a music video I made from footage of the original rallies in 2009, footage from the Concord rallies, and fresh footage and photos from last weekend’s 10th anniversary 420 rally:
In the past decade, we’ve seen some political progress in New Hampshire, including medical cannabis passing in 2012 and decriminalization of less than 3/4ths of an ounce of cannabis and 5 grams of concentrate passed in 2017. However, prohibition is not over and it continues to be a felony to grow or sell cannabis – an amazing plant that has helped countless people.
As long as prohibition exists, expect the 420 rallies and the civil disobedience to continue.
Kudos to Warehouse One for their awesome “Victimless Crime Spree” song, that was inspired by “Derrick J’s Victimless Crime Spree”, which itself was originally inspired partially by Keene’s 420 rallies.