Boston Freedom Rally: Thousands Attend Marijuana Rally

Thousands swarmed Boston Common yesterday [September 18] afternoon, participating — to various degrees — in a rally advocating legalization of marijuana that featured live music and speakers, including Green-Rainbow gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein.

The 21st Annual Boston Freedom Rally, sponsored by MassCann, the state’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was the second since the loosening of Massachusetts marijuana laws in January 2009.

The new law makes possession of up to an ounce of the drug punishable only by confiscation and a $100 fine. Under the former law, violators faced up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500, and the listing of the offense on their criminal record.

MassCann and some attendees said yesterday that the relaxed penalties, approved by voters in 2008, are a step in the right direction, but that the state’s laws still demonize what they see as a benign and healing substance.

Park rangers and Boston police were on the scene, with much of the Charles Street side of the Common reserved for police parking.

Two people were arrested for possession with intent to distribute Class D marijuana and 34 civil citations were issued for possession of marijuana, said police spokesman Eddy Chrispin. Otherwise, there were no other reported crimes and the rally was orderly, Chrispin said.

Frank Capone of Medford, a member of MassCann’s board of directors, said the crowds at the rally were diverse.

“There are businesspeople here today, and there are moms and dads,’’ said Capone, 25, who was registering people to vote. “They’re all saying they don’t want to be called criminals anymore.’’

Cher Kore, who was roaming the Common collecting donations for MassCann, said legalizing and taxing marijuana can benefit smokers and nonsmokers alike.

“It’s about getting marijuana into the right hands to keep people safe,’’ Kore said. “We don’t have the money to afford universal health care right now, but if we taxed marijuana, we would.’’

In an interview behind the main stage after her speech, Stein said she agreed.

“We have a terrible problem with violence resulting from the black market of marijuana,’’ she said. “We are allowing millions to flow into the criminal economy. By bringing it into a legal framework, we can stop that money and use it in our communities.’’

Some posed for pictures with a 6-foot-long joint, held by Adam Fithian, who had made it from tomato cages and tape. Fithian is a singer for the band Prospect Hill, which was getting ready to perform at the rally for the third straight year.

Fithian supports legalization and said the movement needs to work hard to convince skeptics.

Nick Murray, a political science major at the University of New Hampshire, who drove to Boston to attend the rally, said civic engagement is crucial to the cause.

“Young people don’t vote enough,’’ Murray said. “That’s the way to change things.’’

Though the rally advocated ideas, many used it to further commerce. Dozens of vendors sold wares ranging from T-shirts to peanut butter sandwiches to hemp, pipes, and bongs.

Greg Berry and Ray Agrinzone of printer drove from Waterbury, Conn., to sell T-shirts reading: “Grassachusetts Welcomes You. Governor Deval Passit.’’ Berry and Agrinzone said they sold 400 shirts out of backpacks last year, but yesterday they paid MassCann $350 for a booth.

Some were on the Common mainly to soak up the scene and the late-summer sun.

“I don’t smoke,’’ said Stacy, an Emerson College sophomore who asked that her last name not be used. “I’m here for the jewelry and to take some good photos.’’

– Article from Boston Globe on September 19, 2010.