Just a NORML Day – Busted with Keith Stroup, Part 3

Part III:  “Rosa Parks”

(continued from Part II)

Keith and I were like a couple of giddy school boys who just got out of the principals office.  The whole thing was so surreal.

We cut back into the park and returned to the booth like conquering heroes.  Questions and answers and slaps on the back, and my wife was waiting with worry.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh, yeah.  No big thing.”

“What happened?”

“We just got caught smoking a joint.  That’s all.  Where’s Dylan?”

“She’s playing behind the booth”

“Does she know what’s going on?:”

“I’m not sure,” my wife said.

Backstage, Boston Freedom Rally 2007

I went to the back of the booth, not far from the spot where I was arrested, and my ten year old daughter was playing in the dirt. 

She was throwing a stuffed animal up in the air and catching it again when I approached.

“Daddy!” She dropped the plush and ran into my arms.  I spun her around and gently brought her in for a landing. 

“Let’s go for a walk.” I said. “Tell me, what do you know?”

“Uh — Something happened.”

“What happened?”

“I’m — I’m not sure,” she said tentatively. 

“What do you think happened?” If she knew, I wanted her to say it.

“You — got –arrested?”

The last word went up in a question.

“Yeah.  I got arrested.”

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.  Do you know what I was arrested for?” 

She shook her head.  She didn’t know.

I took a deep breath and said, “I got arrested for smoking marijuana.”

At this point I should point out that my ten-year old daughter knew what her father did for a living. 

She grew up knowing that her father worked for a magazine in New York and when she asked me a year earlier if “High Times was trying to legalize marijuana?” my jaw dropped.

“Where did you hear that?” 

“” she said. “A pop-up said ‘Should marijuana be legalized?’ And you could click on the box. ‘Yes’ ‘No’ or ‘Huh?’” 

No matter which box she clicked, it brought her to the “Partnership For A Drug Free America” website. 

I knew this conversation was coming but I thought it was years away.

She was nine years old when she asked me “Is High Times trying to legalize marijuana?” 

“Y–ee — es.” I had to pull the word out of me.

“What is it?”

“What’s what?”

I was was stalling.

What is marijuana?”

“Well, Dylan… uh, it’s a plant.  And it’s medicine.  But it’s not always a medicine. Sometimes people take it to feel good and, uh… It’s against the law but…”

“Why is it against the law?”

“Oh, Jesus” I muttered.

I was scrambling, totally unprepared for this, when I hit upon an inspiration.

“Wait a minute.” I said. ”You were just in a play in school about Rosa Parks?”

“Uh huh,” she said. “I played the white woman who didn’t get a seat.”

“Right.  Now, let me ask you a question.  What happened to Rosa Parks right after she refused to give up her seat?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happened right after she refused to give up her seat, five minutes after she refused?”

“Ummm… She got arrested?”

I nodded my head. 

“Sometimes good people make bad laws, and other good people work hard and try to change those laws.

“Dylan, listen to me.  I’m not saying that trying to change marijuana laws is even close to what Rosa Parks did.  What she did changed everything.  It changed history.  This is different.  What I do is just one little slice of the pie.  But it affects my friends and I care about it, and I’m proud of what I do.”

Now, before any of you out begin to get upset let me assure you that I spent the next ten minutes reinforcing the common wisdom of our tribe. 

“It’s not for kids,” I said. “It’s a grown-up thing.
— And don’t ever do real drugs because they can kill you.  
— And you shouldn’t drink because it almost killed me.
— And if you ever smoke cigarettes, I’ll kill you myself for being that stupid!”

I smiled.  She smiled.  We get each other.

So a year later when I walked through the muddy Boston Commons, trying to think of some way to explain why I was arrested, I started out stumbling again.

“Yes,” I admitted,” I got arrested.” 

Then… “You see, I… I mean…”

She stopped me.


“Yes, Dylan.”

“Rosa Parks.”

“Right,” I said as a cool breeze blew through the Commons. 

“Dyl, you seen all these people?”

I swept my arm expansively across the crowd.

The park was now filled to bursting with thousands of stoners.

“Everyone in this park agrees with me.”

“I know,” she said. “What’s going to happen to you?”

“Not much,” I said, “I’ll come back here in few weeks and pay a fine, that’s all.”

That’s not what happened, but she seemed satisfied with the answer. 

“Come on. Let’s go find your Mom.” 

“Good luck,” she teased.

“Yeah.  NOW, I’m intimidated.”

from Reefer Dadness by Rick Cusick

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