John Askew, Iowa State Daily Pulse
A thick bass line pounds through the dim basement, giving off a vibrant, confusing pulse as smoke curls around the yellowed murals covering the walls. In the corner sits a lanky man armed with a smile and a joint.
That man, who goes by the alias Reverend Ray Green, part-time author, artist and activist for all things dope, could be the future of legalized medical marijuana in Iowa.
"In 2004 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and from then a lot changed in my life," Green said. "I tried all the painkillers my doctor prescribed me, but they didn't work. So that's when I turned to marijuana to relieve my symptoms, and it worked."
That is why Green has become instrumental in the fight to legalize marijuana.
Recently, he has been helping plan a rally promoting the free use of medicinal cannabis to coincide with the Global Marijuana March, a worldwide activism march.
The march, which started in 1999, began with an estimated 100,000 participants. Those coordinating the event hope for more than 1 million participants this year, including those in Des Moines.
In addition to the march, the festivities in Des Moines include a concert headlining local red-eyed soul band Johnny Reeferseed and The High Rollers.
The concert takes place at 9:30 p.m. May 6 at The House of Bricks, 525 East Grand Ave. in Des Moines.
Several local students also support the cause, forming the ISU chapter of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
"With NORML we try to be on campus and advocate for the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana," said chapter co-founder Mark Nieman, senior in political science.
At noon, supporters will gather at the state capitol to spread their message to lawmakers, as well as to the public.
In the past, attendance for the rally has hovered between 40 and 50 people.
"There has been great turnout and support in the past, but we are always looking for more, which is why there is also a concert planned to help spread the word," Green said.
Medicinal cannabis can also be used to ease pain because of glaucoma and asthma.
The use of marijuana for medical purposes has skyrocketed in recent years, because of laws passed in cities such as Denver and Ann Arbor, Mich.
"We want Ames to eventually be like Denver, where a person can carry up to an ounce of marijuana with them and not be prosecuted," Nieman said.
Until then, Green said he plans to stay in Iowa, lobbying so that he doesn't have to obtain the drug through illegal methods.