“Let Freedom Grow!”

Thousands congregate on Boston Common last Saturday, September 14 to prove the old adage safety in numbers. Fifty-two people were arrested out of over thirty thousand who were present.

Thousands congregate on Boston Common last Saturday, September 14 to prove the old adage “safety in numbers.” Fifty-two people were arrested out of over thirty thousand who were present.

Natalia Cooper

The thirteenth annual “Freedom Rally” sponsored by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MASSCANN), a chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), took place on Boston Common last Saturday. The Boston Globe reported that “about 35,000” people gathered for the event; fifty-two people were arrested on mostly drug-related charges.The event featured an array of speakers advocating for the decriminalization of marijuana, particularly medicinal marijuana.

The Libertarian Party was out in full force at the rally, with several information tables promoting their candidates in the upcoming state elections. Carla Howell, the Libertarian gubernatorial contender and Senate hopeful Michael Cloud both spoke at the rally. Both Howell and Cloud advocate the decriminalization as part of their respective platforms.

Cloud promises to “end drug prohibition and end the drug war,” which includes freeing those imprisoned for “peaceful” drug offenses and an end to Drug War-related military aid. Howell claimed that government involvement in drugs is not an authority granted them by our country’s constitution.

The less visible Green party, with only one info table, was represented by their gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. Stein described the connections between “big business” and the original Marijuana Prohibition Law, passed in 1937. According to Stein, such connections continue with companies like Anheiser-Busch involved in lobbies “to keep their drug of choice legal and your drug of choice illegal,” she told the crowd.

Stein also connected this issue to increased prison spending and production. She explained that the United States has the highest proportion of our population in prison: over 2 million people. Stein said that since the Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. administration in the 1980s, which initiated the so-called “War on Drugs,” higher education spending has only increased 16%, while prison spending has increased 273%. She believes the US spends “too much money on prisons and not enough money on our schools.”

Stein also urged the attendees of the rally to become involved in the political process. “We need them to hear your voice,” she said.

Many interesting historical references to marijuana were mentioned throughout the day. A few different speakers referred to the fact that Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Also, several references to the differences between medicinal, recreational, and industrial marijuana were made. Industrial marijuana, which contains less than 1% of the chemical THC, the chemical which causes people to get “high”, can be used to make fuel, paper, rope, and other useful items.

“This is not a big back to school party,” one MASSCANN representative admonished from the stage. He went on to inform those gathered that the rally was a political event. He also warned those choosing to smoke in public that they may be conducting acts of civil disobedience. The rally lasted from “high noon” until a little after 6 pm, when police officers in vans and on horseback requested that the crowd disperse.