If you recently saw a gigantic pot leaf walking around Philadelphia, rest assured that you weren't tripping out. That was just marijuana activist N.A. Poe playing the part of Delaware NORML's mascot, Hempy.
Poe donned the costume this week for a promotional video (embedded above) highlighting a "Pop-Up Weed Garden" he's hosting soon alongside activist (and Philly.com columnist) Chris Goldstein. And, yes, that's pretty much what it sounds like: A pop-up beer garden, but with bud instead of booze.
"There is alcohol everywhere in Philadelphia," Goldstein said of the pop-up-style event. "We have this really normalized beer and alcohol culture in Philly, and cannabis consumers shouldn't miss out on social use."
To that end, Goldstein and Poe are encouraging Philadelphia's cannabis consumers to join them Thursday for the pop-up, which will take place just outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art's famous steps from 4:20 to 6:30 p.m. (The Art Museum is not involved.) The event will mark the two-year anniversary of marijuana decriminalization in Philadelphia, which went into effect on Oct. 20, 2014.
Poe and Goldstein played a prominent role in helping to persuade then-City Councilman Jim Kenney to introduce a bill decriminalizing marijuana. Marijuana has been decriminalized in Delaware, meanwhile, since 2015, which explains Hempy 's stopping in Philly this week. Now, evidently, it's time for a little celebration.
"In the past, we had been protesting, but two years into decriminalization, it's a chance for the community to gather in celebration," Goldstein said. "It's about visibility and an attitude of celebration."
A flier for the event notes that attendees should "B.Y.O.W. (Less than 30 grams)," for Bring Your Own Weed, meaning that cannabis consumption is soundly encouraged — so long as no one brings an amount above the decriminalized weight of 30 grams. And, as Poe notes, the event is not meant to be confrontational.
"We're looking more to do a garden party more so than bum-rush the Art Museum," he says. "The beautiful landscape is more the idea rather than stoners taking over — sort of like Diner en Blanc."
In addition to the weed-theme pop-up, Goldstein and Poe also will host a 1 p.m. news conference at City Hall, as well as a 7:10 p.m. gathering at Thomas Paine Plaza, where the day's festivities will continue.
Since decriminalizing in 2014, Philadelphia has saved an estimated $9 million, with arrests for marijuana possession falling roughly 80 percent in that time, Goldstein says. Rather than arresting people for marijuana, Philadelphia police now may issue a $25 fine, and a $100 one for smoking in public.
As a result, Goldstein adds, about 7,000 fewer people entered Philadelphia's justice system for marijuana last year. Poe, however, now hopes to continue to "normalize the culture of cannabis use" in Philadelphia with events like the pop-up.
"We're changing the idea that a stoner is someone in a basement with a bong," he says. "In five to seven years, half of City Council could be stoned."