By Sarah Toy
BU News Service
With November’s vote on marijuana legalization swiftly approaching, supporters of all things cannabis took to the Boston Common this weekend for the 27th annual Boston Freedom Rally.
Speakers and artists gave rousing performances to groups sitting on towels and picnic blankets on the grass, unabashedly enjoying the substance they were there to celebrate. Crowds milled around the many vendors selling food, art and cannabis paraphernalia. More than 10,000 people showed up on Saturday, according to Austin Davis of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, also known as MassCann, which organizes the rally each year. The Common was crowded on Sunday as well, despite the threat of rain.
“The main function here is a fundraiser,” said Bill Downing, member liaison of MassCann’s board of directors.
In previous years, funds raised went to public education efforts about marijuana, but this year is different. Massachusetts will soon vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and Downing wants to use the money from the Freedom Rally to support campaign efforts promoting the ballot initiative.
“I’m asking that we basically empty our coffers and donate it all to the campaign,” he said. He estimates this year’s rally will bring in $15,000 to $20,000 after expenses.
On both days, representatives from Yes on 4, a campaign supporting the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, were at the rally’s “Education Village,” answering questions and helping people register as voters. Davis said 381 people had registered by Saturday night.
If November’s ballot initiative does get passed, what will be next for MassCann and the Freedom Rally?
“We will probably morph into a consumer protection organization,” Downing said. He noted that there will always be the need for legislative work. And as for himself?
“I’m going to start growing marijuana right away,” he said.