Cannabis activists are "Tokin’ Back the Wall" Friday in an effort to normalize relations between Philadelphia police and marijuana consumers in Rittenhouse Square.
The action, scheduled to start at 4 p.m., initially protested the now-defunct sitting ban, which went up in smoke after Major Jim Kenney tweeted over the weekend encouraging community members to continue using the park respectfully.
"Along with my liberal view of park use, please don't litter, or graffiti the walls or smoke weed so obviously that you scare olds my age," Kenney tweeted.
Friday’s so-called smoke-in event will double as a tutorial on how to "responsibly receive code violations" without unnecessarily being arrested or creating a scene, said Chris Goldstein, communications director for Philly NORML, the local branch of a national marijuana activist group. This includes a three-step guide on how to react if issued a citation by police.
"Step 1: don’t freak out - it’s just a ticket. It won’t go on your record," Goldstein said. "Step 2: Hand over your ID and weed."
And finally, there is Step 3.
"Walk away smiling," he said.
If caught with pot, people are subject to a $25 fine for possessing fewer than 30 grams and $100 for smoking in public. The tickets can be paid online and do not go on your permanent record.
Activists met with Philadelphia police Thursday to go over plans for Friday’s event.
"Don't use the A-word, it's not an arrest," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan said, reported Philly.com. "It's a citation."
Police will have a processing station near Rittenhouse Square to issue citations to anyone smoking pot openly, according to Pennsylvania Veterans for Medical Marijuana. The event is expected to be peaceful.
"I am grateful for the open line of communication between marijuana community and police," Goldstein said.
But Goldstein also added that "the issue is misunderstood" in Philadelphia, which decriminalized marijuana in 2014.
"From the get go, marijuana consumers have been blamed for a lot of other problems and somehow the deterioration of stone masonry in [Rittenhouse Square]," Goldstein said. "Our community should not bear the blame for all the problems in the park."
Philadelphia Police issued a brief statement to NBC10 saying the department is commited to working "with all activists."
The sitting ban "is not our controversy," police said in an email. "We believe the mayor has spoken about the Rittenhouse situation."