An estimated 30,000 people were crowded onto the Boston Common at the peak moment of the 20th annual Boston Freedom Rally on September 19th 2009.
That moment was 4:20PM ET.
The thousands celebrated freely under a landmark victory for cannabis prohibition reform. In 2008 Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana possession of less than 1/4 ounce by adults with a Ballot Initiative, Proposition 2. That means you can only get a NON-criminal ticket with a $100 fine for a pot violation. The decrim effort was won because of the hard work of the very same folks who organize the rally: MASSCANN/NORML.
A Parks Services officer (who strangely had a thick eastern European accent) agreed that 30,000 seemed a likely estimate of the peak attendance.
A police officer, who did not wish to be named, said the department does not officially release crowd estimates for any event. But Boston Police confirmed that there were 3 arrests for distribution and over 100 citations issued for marijuana possession.
Keith Saunders, MASSCANN’s president, told me that over 50,000 people had probably walked through the grounds over the course of the day and encountered the message of marijuana legalization.
Overall, the police were civil although I saw numerous random searches and heard stories of many more. At past events there have been more than 150 arrests for pot possession… but not on Saturday. Without fear of arrest the crowd was polite and almost everyone I saw was openly enjoying marijuana.
An impressive line-up of bands and speakers appeared on two stages. Styles P, a big time reform supporter showed up and did a surprise set thanks to High Times Magazine. Because of some juggling to accommodate the last minute act, the countdown to 4:20 got squeezed. A sea of people were gathering before the main stage and filling in the large hill.
Steve Bloom of CelebStoner corralled the final 60 seconds, holding a clock up opn stage and pointing as the hands came together. Looking out from that stage you could see huge clouds of smoke rise up from the crowd. There were dozens of spontaneous circles formed in a surreal organic collage of people. They cheered from across the rolling hills of the Common as giant 6-foot long joints were passed around.
Everyone smoked. There really was a quite visible haze over the entire crowd at 4:20. The sweet and fragrant odors of a wide variety of plant strains and hash drifted by offering this interesting quilt of cannabis.
The crowd was extremely well behaved. There cannot be a finer exhibition of the positive effects of human cannabis smoking than large crowds of people doing it together. Without alcohol available at the event there were no fights, pushing or shoving. But with free cannabis consumption there was dancing, conversation and a genuinely happy atmosphere.
Personally, this was the most wonderful day for prohibition reform I have witnessed. The event itself; all of the people I met for the first time and friends to spend time with made this trip heartening, empowering and just plain fun! The locals really did treat me very well too.
Our country deserves this freedom that Massachusetts already enjoys.
I have seen Victory for Cannabis in Boston. It is sweet and green. It needs to be nationwide.
– Article from Open Salon on Sept 20, 2009.