Veterans Park Smoke Out Recap

Posted on: June 19, 2012

DFW NORML has been gathering at the park for spring and summer cook outs picnics for years. This weekend our Veteran’s Park Smoker broke all previous records for attendance and donations gathered.

At any given time the crowd under and around the pavilion swelled from 100 to 150 friendly DFW NORML supporters. At least 300 people showed up throughout the course of the day. There was plenty of food and water. People set up tents around the picnic tables and sat on blankets under the trees. Families brought children and dogs, and there was even a pinata for the kids.

There was plenty of food to go around. Our NORML family really answered the call to bring all the necessary supplies for a successful picnic. Nobody had to go hungry with all of the grilled meat, homemade sides and and refreshing desserts and drinks everyone brought.

The pavilion at Veteran’s Park is a perfect place to host a big gathering like this. There is lots of shade and room to spread out. There are dozens of trails that go off into the park for some exploring. Veteran’s Park also has a disc golf course, and there is a hole right by the pavilion.

The friendly, celebratory atmosphere of revelers and picnic-goers was not even broken by the arrival of the Arlington Police Department. Here is DFW NORML Executive Director Shaun McAlister’s take on what happened:

Right after we spoke at 4:20, folks noticed the police cruiser parked on the other side of Spanish Trail. They sat there for 5-10 minutes, then two other cruisers arrived and they filed into the parking lot together. Luckily, the pavilion is at the top of a hill, requiring them to park first and walk up to meet us. We had some time.

I, along with a few others, watched this happen, then immediately began grabbing folks to form a welcoming party. Elisabeth Rodriguez, Kelsey Beene and a few others joined the group. We passed the word as we left the pavilion to stay calm and consent to nothing, and down we walked to meet them. I was nervous, but stayed cool and knew the entire picnic was watching.

As we saw them approaching from around a bend in the path, it looked like there were 5-10 officers. As they came into view, we were relieved to see only 4. I greeted them with a simple “howdy, officers” and extended my hand for a handshake.

The officer in charge was a woman, and she immediately threw her hands back and warned me that they don’t shake hands. We introduced ourselves, and they admitted someone had called the police, complaining of the smell of burning marijuana. At a disc golf park? Surely not, officers – and by the way, here’s our city permit.

She explained that they’d need to conduct a visual inspection of the area, so I happily led the way. Once we were within ear shot of the pavilion, I announced “Please welcome the Arlington Police Department.” Everyone clapped and cheered. Someone offered them some food, but they declined. I stayed with the leader as she walked around. Of course, they found nothing.

She warned me that while they respect what we’re doing to try to change the laws, smoking marijuana is still illegal – and this was our warning. I thanked them for their respectful visit, and once again called for applause for the officers as I turned and walked back into the crowd. No tickets. No arrests.

The entire interaction lasted less than 5 minutes, then they were gone for the day. Whew.

When you run the kind of grassroots activist organization where the main goal is legalization of a substance that is currently illegal, you have to expect some attention from the police every now and then. DFW NORML is certainly no exception to this rule. But in all of my years with the group, I have personally never seen a police interaction take place with anything less than mutual politeness and respect, just like it did this weekend.

Dallas’ finest was on hand at our Cinco de Mota festival last month, and there was not a single arrest. Nobody got in trouble with the police that day, at least not for possession of an illegal substance (one man did start to disrobe in front of the crowd before an officer guided him away and encouraged him to put his clothes back on).

It is obvious that the local law enforcement in the Dallas/Fort Worth area recognizes DFW NORML for what we are—a friendly, responsible, non-profit educational group dedicated to changing laws in Texas. We are respectful of law enforcement and those around us. We are dedicated to changing laws, not breaking them. The fact that our inevitable encounters with law enforcement are always peaceful and mutually respectful underscore the fact that not only are we are a legitimate organization, but we are putting forth a message that resonates with a wide cross-section of society. The police know who we are, they know what we’re fighting for, and they are not up in arms trying to shut us down. Maybe, it’s because many of them know we’re right.

After a brief visit by the police, the crowd stayed and the picnic continued. DFW NORML’s newest sponsor, Jacob Wulff from Chillwick, was there with his 100% hemp wicks. Chillwick is a safe and natural alternative to butane lighters and torches, and Jacob is currently offering DFW NORML members a 25% discount and also plans to donate 10% of his sales to us.

DFW Disc Golf Center Quickstop also became a supporter this weekend, and will be sponsoring our NORML Ace Race coming up on August 18. They have one of the largest selections for disc golf in the metroplex, so stop by and say high!

Thank you to everyone who came out and made this picnic such an amazing event. We need each and every one of you to help legalize cannabis in Texas! Be sure to join us on Saturday, June 30 for our monthly meeting in Arlington. Instead of holding the meeting at the Arlington Unitarian Universalist church, which was quickly becoming too cramped for our growing group, we are branching out to Eddie Deen CrossRoads on North Collins. The meeting is free and open to the public like always, and for $10 you can sample the delicious barbecue buffet. So don’t forget to come by and say howdy, and find out how you can help end cannabis prohibition in Texas.