Pot Activists Planning Christmas Day Drug War Protest at King County Jail

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Tired of spending time with the fam and celebrating baby Jesus' birthday? Fed up with America's futile war on drugs? Then grab a candle and a picket sign and head on down to the King County Jail on Sunday -- 'tis the season for a "Christmas Day Vigil for Prisoners of the Drug War."

Since 2000, several local activist groups have combined forces for a Christmas Day "vigil" in front of the jail in downtown Seattle. Participating groups have included the Washington state NORML chapters, the Cannabis Defense Coalition, and the November Coalition, a prisoners' rights group that is vehemently anti-drug war. The solemn festivities are the brainchild of the same folks who organize Hempfest.

Hempfest executive director Vivian McPeak says the date of the demonstration lends gravitas. "The original reason we did it on Christmas day is we were working with so many people who had family members incarcerated," McPeak says. "It seemed like a good day to mark drug war orphans and widows who have family members in prison with sentences disproportionate to their crime. And it just seems a little more symbolic to take time out of a day that's very important to many Americans to show we're serious about it."

For McPeak, American drug sentencing laws are the ultimate Grinch. He points out that the United States is the world's largest jailer, with more than 2 million citizens locked up, many for non-violent drug offenses. He says about 40 people showed up for last year's vigil.

"It's pretty lonely and cold down there on Christmas Day," McPeak says. "We don't get a whole lot of bang for buck on PR side 'cause there's nobody down there. For us it's mostly symbolic. It's important to note that there are too many Americans incarcerated. these are failed policies that are bankrupting our nation. It's bullshit."

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