James "420 Jim" Stevens collected signatures on paper and on his motorhome during his trip to Washington through small town America.
It came to him in a dream, like Martin Luther King had a dream, inspiring him to crisscross small towns across the country on his way to Washington, James "420 Jim" Stevens said in front of his rolling petition for federal marijuana legalization.
Stevens parked his motorhome colorfully decorated in five-fingered cannabis leaves in front of the Boot Hill Museum and collected signatures and explained his one-man, one-dog trek through America.
"Let's say you live 75 years. The first 25 years you do a lot of learning. The next 25 you work your ass off. That's two-thirds of your life. For the other 25 I want to be left alone if I want to smoke some pot," Stevens said.
"One of the worst things they did to us was to give us back alcohol and take away marijuana," he said. He wore a white t-shirt with two Latin crosses covered in the phrases "alcohol kills" and "marijuana heals."
He talked up the medicinal powers of marijuana and the industrial applications of hemp, from clothing to biofuel, to a steady stream of Dodge Citians, mostly young people, many still in uniforms after leaving work.
Alcohol can make people violent, mean, the 55-year-old Stevens said. Marijuana makes people relaxed, happy.
"You don't see a lot of violence in Cheech and Chong movies."
Visitors asked if they could sign his motorhome like the more than 3,000 before them. Stevens handed them clipboards. "Sign the petition," he said, "but to sign the motorhome I ask for a donation, anything at all, even if it's a penny. It's the only way to be fair to all the others."
One man leaving the museum handed him a wooden nickel. Earlier in the day someone had traded a bottle of Boot Hill sarsaparilla. He said he uses any cash to keep the tour going.
"People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do," said one signatory, Jorge, after signing the side of the motorhome.
Since leaving Farmington, N.M., on March 1, Stevens and his companion Jack Apoo, a Jack Russell poodle mix, have stopped in 22 towns. He plans to end the tour on April 20, 2015, on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. The motorhome is mechanically sound, he said, the only way he's not going to make it is if they run him off the road.
"I don't see it as a drug; I don't believe it's a drug. God put it on this planet for us to use," he said.
On his Facebook page, Stevens told his followers that Garden City was a beautiful town, a place he'd like to come back to before setting off for Emporia. On his way out of Garden Stevens said he was stopped by a law enforcement officer who warned him of high winds along U.S. 50. Out-of-towners sometimes fail to appreciate the difficulty of driving a top-heavy vehicle on the two-lane road through wind.
Stevens had intended to make it to Emporia but when he stopped for lunch, people approached him asking if they could sign.
"I don't want any trouble. I warn towns ahead of time, I ask where I can park," Stevens said. Boot Hill Museum was not thrilled he was parked in front he said, but he said they've stayed out of each other's way. Additionally, he said two officers visited from the Dodge City Police Department and were friendly.
Governments that don't respect his rights will be unpleasantly immortalized alongside Flagstaff, Ariz., and Glendale, Ariz., in the windows of his motorhome.
"Those will be there until this motorhome rots, and it's fiberglass, so it's not going to rot any time soon."
Legalization is a hot-button issue, but he says it's not true that it's legal in Colorado. If the feds decided they wanted to enforce it, they could ruin your life in an instant, he said. The only way to make it actually legal is to convince the federal government.
The Obama administration maintains that marijuana is a dangerous, illegal drug, but in a more nuanced position, says that federal law enforcement officers have traditionally allowed state and local authorities to handle cases under state laws.
The feds will strictly enforce marijuana laws in situations when it is distributed to minors, used or sold in connection with other crimes or organized crime, or is trafficked into states where it remains illegal.
"I don't see it as a drug; I don't believe it's a drug. God put it on this planet for us to use," Stevens said. "If Mr. Obama legalized marijuana tomorrow I'd never take another drink of alcohol or smoke another nasty cigarette."
While he's not opposed to partaking in some of the marijuana others have offered him along his journey, it stays out of the motorhome, he said. "Not a seed passes this door. This petition is the most important thing I've ever done and I won't jeopardize it."
The turnout in Dodge City has been the best so far and he figured he added 400 more signatures to his motorhome.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana use. Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana to be used as prescribed by a doctor.
Growing marijuana is practically an American tradition, Stevens said. "Washington grew it on his farm, and I still think we'd be sitting in the dark if a stoner didn't fly a kite in a thunderstorm."