I Want to Get High (Out the front of Police Stations)
Last week Jesse Willesee smoked marijuana out the front of various Sydney-based police stations, took photos and posted them on Facebook. This week the story was covered by a number of newspapers and radio stations, most of whom called him a dope (good one guys). Yesterday morning I was flicking through the paper when I saw the article, 5 minutes later I had Jesse on Facebook and had organised to have a coffee with him. I wanted to find out exactly what he was trying to achieve with his smoky photos, if there was a point to it all, or if this was just a stoned idea gone way too far…
How has the response been? When did you start smoking spliffs out the front of cop shops?
Jesse: Today is Wednesday?
J. The photos were taken last week. On Monday I went out and started sending the photos out and it started blowing up on Tuesday.
What was it like sparking up out front of police stations?
J. It was pretty scary, the first three (photos) I was freaking out. However after that I realised it didn’t seem to be drawing too much attention and it turned out ok. Now I’m getting joints dedicated to me on Instagram, I had a model send me her phone number and yeah, it’s been crazy. Just heaps of support in general, it’s really cool.
Why do you think smoking weed out the front of a police station is a legitimate form of protest?
J. I feel like the marijuana topic falls on deaf ears. Whenever it gets to a political level no one wants to know about it. I didn’t want to do any old protest that just gets ignored. I wanted something that is modern and would get people talking about the debate as to whether it is a criminal thing to do. Because whilst a lot of people don’t agree with smoking, I think they would agree that it probably isn’t something police should be wasting their time and resources on. It’s a moral question, not a criminal act.
Did you have an excuse prepared in case you got caught?
J. Yeah I had a bunch of excuses prepared. The main one being that I was protesting to legalise marijuana. But if I actually got caught, I would have been way too nervous to say any of the clever stuff I prepared.
Do you think all drugs should be legal?
J. It’s hard with all of this because I’m not an expert on drugs, I only have my personal experience. But I do think that the prohibition of drugs isn’t working and the whole thing needs to be overhauled. Criminals are getting insanely rich and people like me are getting arrested at train stations. By the way I’ve never been arrested for anything, that was just an example.
Don’t hold your breath… So why do you think weed should be legal?
J. I think once you’re a grown adult that it should be your own decision to make if you want to smoke marijuana.
Do you think it’s responsible to promote the use of drugs such as marijuana when it is linked to mental health issues like schizophrenia?
J. I think marijuana should be decriminalized. When I saw they rejected medical marijuana for terminally ill patients, it blew my mind. We’ve got to start talking about it as a medicinal drug, however like any drug we have to be aware of the adverse reactions and side effects. Each drug works differently for each person and we have to understand that.
Is this not just a publicity stunt?
J. No. It’s my latest artwork and it is a protest. Even though it is sort of tongue in cheek, the issue is serious and I believe strongly in it. I’m made to feel like a criminal for using something that improves my quality of life, and have been for quite a while. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket, I’m not some crazy guy out there committing crimes. There are these stigmas attached to marijuana and I want people to think about it, to talk about it. I feel like people have very strong opinions with very little knowledge on the subject and that is a form of ignorance.
How’s your family feel about this?
J. For them this has been an issue…
Were you high when you came up with idea?
J. (Pause) Yes, yes I was…
By Nathan Harmond