Founded in 1970, the Smoke-In is now the longest-running annual demonstration in support of drug policy reform in the United States. John Pylka has been the event coordinator for the Smoke-In since 1983, when he booked the band The Dead Kennedys for the July 3–4 "Rock for Watt?" demonstration. In 1985 John was arrested at the White House Smoke-In for attempting to pass out joints.
He was sentenced to one year of probation and continued to organize the Smoke-In through his nonprofit oversight committee, "The Fourth of July Hemp Coalition," which he founded in 1992.
During the past 12 years he has been focusing on medical cannabis issues, particularly the struggle to legalize the medical use of marijuana in the District of Columbia. In 1998 the citizens of the District passed a provision (Initiative 59) to legalize such use by a margin of 69%.
The United States. Congress blocked action on the issue through amendments to the District of Columbia Appropriations Acting that initially prevented release of the referendum results, and then successfully prohibited the city from drafting legislation in response to the vote. The FY 2011 District of Columbia appropriations bill signed into law in December 2009 dropped language prohibiting action on I-59, paving the way for District of Columbia City Council hearings to consider legalization of medical marijuana.
John presented testimony relating to regulations for the statute at a Council hearing held February 23, 2010.