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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
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Students for Sensible Drug Policy Moderate Marijuana Rally

Marijuana
Marijuana

It’s not very often that we willingly expose ourselves to new information. But on Friday, Oct. 7, close to 50 University of Massachusetts Boston students gathered at the campus steelworker statue to listen to the testimonies of various people whose lives have been directly affected by marijuana prohibition.
Moderating the event was Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s (SSDP) Joseph Gilmore, followed by several noteworthy speakers. Among those were representatives from the New England Veterans Alliance, Black Lives Matter (BLM) of Cambridge, Alex Mendez (a Quincy resident running for state senate), UMass Boston student Gabriela Cartagena, cancer survivor K.P. Owens, and brain cancer survivor An Holmqvist. Each speaker expressed their perspective on the legalization and regulation of marijuana, and shared stories of personal experience.
Multiple advocates shed light on the historical medicinal use of marijuana and questioned the original purpose for its prohibition, asserting that the system is counterproductive in that it creates more problems than it solves. Among these problems is the use of marijuana as a scapegoat to arrest people of color. BLM Cambridge representative Didi Delgado stressed that, despite its practical use, the possession of marijuana has caused many people of color to be arrested while just as many Caucasians are carrying the stuff.
Another inspirational speaker, 70-year-old K.P. Owens, enlightened us with her lighthearted and compassionate attitude. Owens survived breast cancer and chemo, and used medical marijuana to ease the pain. Now able to buy locally, Owens previously had to drive all the way to Vermont just to purchase her medication. She encouraged youth to drive sober and use Uber (the company she works for) as well as empower, embrace, and educate other youth. One great point she brought up was that medical marijuana is an extremely practical alternative to using heroin.
Regarding heroin, Owens said, “It takes 15 seconds to get addicted, and 15 years to recover, and some never even do.”
Also advocating for the medicinal use of marijuana was brain cancer survivor An Holmqvist, who has suffered from epilepsy ever since her brain tumor was removed. She used to have anywhere from 40 to 100 seizures a week, but now has next to none thanks to her use of medicinal marijuana. She posed that some people wear helmets to keep from falling and hitting their head, and she is barely able to acquire the medication necessary to keep her upright and stable. The chemicals in marijuana that are responsible for treating her epilepsy are called cannabinoids, and are non-psychoactive—meaning she doesn’t even get high. Previously, she was given sedatives to prevent her seizures, which didn’t work and left her with feelings of lethargy, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and an inability to actively participate in society. Because patients have to deal with their pain daily, it is crucial to get the treatment for chronic and terminal illnesses right.
Each speaker urged students to register to vote and use their voices. It is completely irrational for the Drug Enforcement Administration to refuse to admit that there are benefits to using marijuana. The rally and movement it supports help to reduce the stigmatization of “stoners,” and enforce the realization that marijuana is an infinitely better alternative to opioids and other highly addictive painkillers, and it alleviates numerous physical ailments immensely. In addition, taxing marijuana is estimated to generate $100 million in annual revenue.
All in all, the rally showed that it is the individual’s decision what they can and cannot put in their body, and no one else’s. The rally was a refreshing reminder that change is possible, and it is all in our hands as voters.
For more marijuana activism, check out UMass Boston’s Marijuana Mosaic event hosted by the Cannabis Cultural Association happening Monday, Oct. 17.