By Gregory F. Biron
On any given weekend, the Boston Common is a melting pot of all sorts of characters from around the historic city. However, on the weekend of Sept. 16, its inhabitants were melting a rather different kind of pot and even making a little history themselves as Boston played host to a yearly event on the common known as The Freedom Rally or “Hempfest” that promotes the legalization of marijuana through public education and interaction. This year every person in attendance had only one question on their mind.
This, of course, is the upcoming 2016 ballot question for The Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative. If passed, Question Four will legalize marijuana recreationally in the State of Massachusetts but keep it regulated similar to alcohol. More specifically: individuals over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess up to one oz. in public and 10 oz. within their homes and grow a maximum of six plants within their homes. In addition to these laws, the “Cannabis Control Commission” will be created to oversee marijuana legalization and issue licenses to firms attempting to sell marijuana products. Furthermore, a state sales tax will be placed on marijuana retail, on top of a 3.75 percent excise tax.
Approaching the doorway out onto the common, the smell reaches me before my eyes can register what is ahead of me. As far as the eye can see there are food trucks and street vendors pedaling all the latest smoking necessities: bongs, joint papers and grinders of all shapes and sizes. Amidst the crowds of people actively exercising this annual-right to smoke are a group of individuals who look surprisingly comfortable – the Boston police seemed unbothered at the event, with a presence seemingly smaller than in recent years.
I overheard a middle-aged couple chatting as they passed a joint back and forth: “Sure are a lot less cops here this year,” the woman remarked as her husband took another pull, exhaling as he spoke. “What did they expect? It’s just a bunch of laidback hippies.”
A little further on we find activists who are veterans, teachers, former NFL players, as well as two notable members of the Marijuana community — rappers Method Man and Redman. People from all walks of life have come together to promote marijuana legalization. As we wove our way through the crowd, emerging through blooming clouds of smoke, we came across a cluster of people gathered around a television.
There was a clip of famed UFC fighter Nate Diaz playing. In the clip, Diaz was smoking a vape pen as he explained that the pen’s contents are CBD oil or cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that has medical benefits without the psychoactive qualities of THC. He stated the medicinal benefits for him before and after fights in dealing with concussions as well as bruises and similar bodily injuries. Even with documented benefits, it’s surprising that CBD is absent from most medicine cabinets.
A veteran to my side who was watching the clip and smoking a joint spoke passionately about how the benefits of marijuana helped manage his PTSD. As our conversation progressed he spoke of a story he came across on CNN about a young girl in Colorado. She was experiencing an upwards of 300 seizures a week and the family was running out of options. All hope seemed lost until the parents came into contact with a group of brothers growing a strain of marijuana which was low in THC and high in CBD. With just a small dose of cannabis oil extracted from the brothers’ strain, the young girl’s seizures have diminished by 99 percent.
On Nov. 8, voters will decide whether they want recreational marijuana in Massachusetts or not. If the vote is “yes,” then Dec. 15, 2016 will see individuals in Massachusetts permitted to indulge in the use of marijuana within their homes. If not, then the substance will remain in its current state, buried underground and ever-present at the yearly rallies waiting to resurface and become a cultural norm.