Boston Freedom Rally
It was just past midnight, and the oversized Boeing 737 was packed nearly to capacity as we shuffled on board, bound for Boston and the 28th annual Freedom Rally, a pro-cannabis festival second only in size to Seattle’s Hempfest. It was my first trip to Boston, and my nerves were kicking in as we took our seats. I was scheduled to speak on the main stage later that day and still had no clue what it was I wanted to say. The historical significance of Boston wasn’t lost on me. Birthplace to Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and many more, the men and women that had walked these streets helped to forge a nation; these were people of purpose and integrity who fought for what they believed in—and won.
The plane was on the runway now, picking up speed. Sleep seemed like a dim prospect and my thoughts returned to Boston’s bloodied history as the overloaded jetliner struggled into flight. It was here, in Boston, where the American people would find their voice. While every school-aged kid knows the story of the Boston Tea Party, it was a tiny stamp that sparked an American Revolution. The Stamp Act of 1765, enacted by the parliament of Great Britain, was the first attempt at taxing the newly-developed 13 colonies, requiring sold goods to carry a royal tax stamp.
Marijuana Tax Act of 1937
These tactics would appear again 172 years later. In 1937, when Harry J. Anslinger would enact the Marijuana Tax Act, requiring all cannabis to carry a government-issued stamp. The stamps were never issued, effectively marking the beginning of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. Rewind to Boston, 1765 and some 3,000 people have taken to the streets in protest of the new Stamp Act, looting the home of a prominent British emissary and hanging his effigy in the branches of the now-infamous Liberty Tree. Britain eventually backed down, repealing the tax and giving the people their first in a series of wins, ultimately culminating in one of the bloodiest battles for secession ever waged, the American Revolution.
A stewardess tapped me on my shoulder as we began our descent into Logan International Airport. I leaned over Jessica, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Boston Common. Built in 1634, it was the oldest park in the country and home to the Boston Freedom Rally.
I tipped the Uber driver a pre-roll as we arrived at the Club Quarters Hotel, located only a few blocks from the Common. Dropping off our bags, we stepped into the busy streets and began the short walk through the financial district to the park. The Common has long been a hub for social activism, hosting speakers the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Pope.
The park was filling up as we arrived. The large oak trees dotting the landscape were used for public hangings until 1817 and still loomed eerily overhead. My nerves started to return as we headed deeper into the 383-year-old park. We stopped to check in with Massachusetts native and Freedom Rally organizer Philip Hardy, who was set up near the main stage. “I think [legal cannabis] will bring healthier and safer access to patients,” he told me. “The revenue will help the state, but it’s still a black market—there are only 11 dispensaries in the whole state, and they are dragging it out even more for recreational.” As a cannabis business owner himself, the uncertainty was clear in his voice. Massachusetts was a battleground state, and we were standing on the front lines.
80 Years of Reefer Madness
Pressing on, we ran into Cannabis Cup regulars Paul Wall and Baby Bash backstage. “We’re gonna get all these people off heroin and pills and fentanyl, man, and get them on the real organic green,” exclaimed Bash. “It’s time the states start realizing we need to help our people!” I asked Bash and Wall—both Texas natives—what it was like to see legal weed come to the East Coast. “It’s great, man,” responded Wall. “It’s great to see this. You know, as a kid—and even back in Texas right now—the way cannabis is looked at is like heroin or meth. They are just now starting to decriminalize it, little by little. They just gave out their first license for medical marijuana, but just for CBD. Baby steps, but it’s like…we’re looking into the future here.” He said motioning to the crowd.
Even for two Texas boys, it was easy to see that after 80 years of Reefer Madness in the U.S., we were finally starting to win. Cannabis users were no longer in the minority, we were the vocal majority now. Like the people of Boston, we had risen up and taken it back. The people were about to have their first victory in a long time, and I had to wonder, what would be next? As my time came and my name was called to the stage, suddenly my nerves were gone. Taking the microphone, I knew just what I had come here to say…
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