Although Massachusetts lawmakers just signed legislation for recreational cannabis into law (albeit a compromise), the marijuana movement has been budding in the New England region for quite some time. For nearly three decades, the marijuana “Freedom Rally” in Boston Common has been a beacon for the ever-increasing cannabis support across the state.
However, local lawmakers haven’t always seen eye to eye with local advocates, and have tried to prevent the Freedom Rally from taking place in the past. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh nearly cancelled last year’s rally by revoking an already granted permit, claiming that organizers were planning to use outside vendors that weren't properly licensed.
This pushed the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (better known as MassCann), the pro-cannabis advocacy group responsible for the rally, to sue the local government for reneging on the issued permit over politically motivated censorship. The Superior Court judge ended up siding with the pro-pot organization, issuing an emergency order allowing the event to go on.
This year, the planning process for the 28th annual Freedom Rally seems to be going much more smoothly, suggesting an improved relationship between the mayor’s office and pro-cannabis advocates. According to a spokeswoman of Walsh, the two sides “have better communicated expectations and conditions” for the upcoming event, and added that MassCann agreed to alter the location of vendors and improve post-rally cleanup.
As an argument in favor of the marijuana rally, event organizers have pointed to the extremist-backed “free speech” event that the city permitted on Boston Common earlier this month. The tense and divisive gathering attracted swarms of counter protestors and led to 33 arrests, some of which were for assaulting police officers. At the pro-pot Freedom Rally, law enforcement has only ever apprehended people for marijuana possession and other non-violent offenses.
The newfound understanding between Walsh and MassCann is an encouraging sign that the rally will face less political interference this time around, although the past actions of city officials have left some advocates weary. Freedom Rally participants may also have to beware of being fined for public consumption, something that will likely be happening in droves come September 15. Regardless of how city officials choose to handle the rally, the recent passage of recreational legalization has certainly fired up Beantown's pot smoking community, meaning that this year's cannabis rally will likely be bigger than ever before.