Close to a hundred people rallied on Sunday afternoon in support of medical marijuana at the third Smoky Mountain medical marijuana rally.
Medical marijuana supporters marched from the downtown area along west State of Franklin Road before rallying at the University Parkway intersection. The group rallied for hours with colorful signs and advocacy chants as cars honked with support as they passed by.
“The rally was explanatory of the cannabis culture,” said Bailey Reed, an ETSU senior studying political science and women’s studies. “With passion, groups of families, veterans, children, students, activists, elderly and much more showed support for the legalization of marijuana.”
That sense of community banded many different people with a wide variety of medical conditions together to advocate their right to choose to medicate with marijuana.
“This is because cannabis and marijuana helps the community,” Reed said. “The rally was important to me because it showed me how much the community supports the growing knowledge of how this plant might help out humanity.”
Many people rallied to advocate not only because of personal medical conditions that benefit from marijuana, but many came to advocate for their children, parents, other family members and friends.
“This affects me because, not only do I see the potential of this drug, but my mother has epilepsy and could use cannabis oil to dull the effect of her seizures,” said Ben Schaller, leader of ETSU environmental student group ECO. “It’s crazy that we live in a world that can make medicine illegal under false ideas.”
The rally gave marijuana supporters a chance to talk about the potential benefits of the cannabis plant that range from medicinal, economical and environmental.
“This climate is very suitable for growing cannabis … a lot of money could be made here in East Tennessee,” Schaller said. “I’m very interested to see an organic market grow from these grass roots. To quote one of the lead organizers there, ‘this is going to happen, the only question is when.’”
Representatives from various marijuana advocacy organizations came prepared to spread knowledge and gather more support for the cause.
One of the organizations there was the relatively new East Tennessee branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
An alumni of ETSU and marijuana advocate, Yvonne Neubert started the East Tennessee branch of NORML after taking a class for disabled people in Nashville called partners in policymaking. This class lead to her contacting the Tennessee NORML president and starting the new East Tennessee branch in November 2013.
“When I was a teenager, I went to a school for the blind,” Neubert said. “I was just visually impaired; I could see out of one eye. This guy I had a crush on knew that I might have glaucoma, but they couldn’t give me medicine because they couldn’t get a reading on me.”
After a friend suggested she smoke marijuana for medicinal reasons, Neubert tried it and was amazed by what happened.
“It worked! My vision even cleared up some, the pain went away,” Neubert said. “I was also suffering from PTSD from being abused at the state school I was put in. I was abused from the time I was 5 years old until 10th grade, and marijuana helped me overcome many issues I had.”
While Neubert eventually ended up losing her sight (she attributes much of this to her inability to freely use medical marijuana) she still refuses to stop advocating for this cause.
“Of course I’m going to put my ass on the line for this, I will fight for it, and I’m glad I’m here to fight for it,” she said. “All I lost is my sight … that’s all I lost … Compared to some of these lives that have been lost, that’s nothing.”