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Boston Freedom Rally Draws Thousands to Celebrate Legalization

September 17, 2017
(Courtesy of Dan McCarthy)
For the thousands who flocked to Boston Common this weekend, the 28th annual Boston Freedom Rally was all about celebrating their historic November win, when the adult use of marijuana was legalized by voters in the Bay State.

The event, organized by MassCann/NORML, was layered with live music, public speeches, educational panels, glimmering sunshine and thick smoke-haze—along with curious tourists wandering through, unaware they’d hit the communal joint jackpot.

Police presence through the day was minimal and largely respectful. A police spokesman told the Boston Herald there were zero arrests and citations as of Saturday.

Who showed up? Musicians, longtime cannabis advocates, veterans affairs activists, mayoral candidate and pro-legalization pol Tito Jackson, Potsquatch, and thousands of others.



I bobbed and weaved through the crowd talking to locals and attendees to get a sense of the day’s vibe, what people were celebrating, and what cannabis means to them.

Abby & Kathleen: ‘Good moods everywhere.’

Abby Laner, left, and Kathleen Stacy relax and enjoy the mellow mood at Saturday’s Freedom Rally.

Abby Laner

Age: 21

What she’s celebrating: “People coming together for a good way of life. I want to surround myself with people like that.”

What cannabis means to her: “It’s something I can share with friends and have a good feeling in my joints from being in a wheelchair. It’s also why my friends call me ‘hot wheels’.”

Kathleen Stacy

Age: 21

What she’s celebrating: “Everyone having a good time together. Nothing from the outside world is affecting it. Everyone is cool and mellow and enjoying life like we should be. Peaceful, happy. That’s what I want spread out into the world: good moods everywhere.”

What cannabis means to her: “Escape, have a good time, relaxation, and no stresses attacking me all at once.”

Cara: Creating jobs

Cara Crabb-Burnham: “Getting people back to work doing something they love.”

Cara Crabb-Burnham

Age: 31

What she’s celebrating: “This is the first time I’ve been to the rally as a guest since 2008, and it’s refreshing to enjoy it without having to actually work a booth. And it’s the first one after legalization for recreational use in the state, so it’s a big day. Everyone has been great. I saw cops only have to deal with one guy, but turned out he was drunk.”

What cannabis means to her: “Jobs, getting people off unemployment and assistance, and an industry getting people back to work doing something they love.”


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Lance: It lets me sleep

Lance Patterson: “It helps me sleep and be functional in the world.”

Lance Patterson

Age: 25

What he’s celebrating: “Cannabis legalization in the state. It’s helped so many with a lot of problems. I suffer from sleep paralysis and it’s the only natural medicine that makes it so that I don’t suffer.”

What cannabis means to him: “It means I get a nights’ sleep and don’t have to be stressed out all the time. It helps me actually be functional in the world.”


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DJ Slim Puff Pass: Working safely and pain-free

DJ Slim Puff Pass: “We’re still fighting for rights.”

DJ Slim Puff Pass

Age: 47

What he’s celebrating: “Today is my birthday and my Christmas all in one. Of course I’m celebrating the legalization of marijuana, but I’m here because we’re still fighting for rights. A lot of things aren’t the way they should have been by now with regards to availability and rollout in Mass. There’s a lot of greed and snakes in the grass here. What’s really bothering me is that patients don’t have a place to go to get the proper medicine they need at a reasonable price in a location that’s close and convenient to them.”

What cannabis means to him: “Livelihood. I got in a head-on collision where my vehicle flipped over, and my back is now shot. I have two kids, a wife, a house, and a car. I have to work. I have to maintain my life in a safe manner and in a manner that’s pain free. I don’t like pills, Advil, ibuprofen and so on, so I smoke weed. It takes away my pain, keeps me focused and happy, and it’s a better way to go through life without pharmaceuticals being shoved in my pocket.”


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Allie & Ralph: Healing injuries, getting to normal

Allie Greenberg (right) and her father Ralph Greenberg: “It’s a tool for change.”

Allie Greenberg

Age: 27

What she’s celebrating: “I was associated with NETA locally, and I’ve learned about the medical side and using it as a tool for change. I’m here to spread awareness for our organization and how medical cannabis patients can work with us to help stock local food pantries.”

What cannabis means to her: “The zen effect that helps me get back to normalcy when dealing with my anxiety. I appreciate I can smoke a bowl instead of popping a pill.”

Ralph Greenberg

Age: 54

What he’s celebrating: “The arrival of open cannabis, a lot of wonderful people, and enjoying life and people in this community.”

What cannabis means to him: “Helping me with my injuries and anxieties. I’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s really helped me, much more than taking prescribed pharmaceuticals and opioids. With my non-profit Key For Hope working with the cannabis community, we hope to stock local food pantries using old keys.”

And, yes, Potsquatch was there

The author with a rare sighting of the Boston Potsquatch.

It wouldn’t be a Freedom Rally without the Squatch.

(All photos by Dan McCarthy)


Who Is ‘Potsquatch’?

Dan McCarthy's Bio Image

Dan McCarthy

Dan McCarthy is a Boston-based journalist and editor covering everything from food to politics to pop culture. His work has appeared in VICE, the Boston Globe, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, and more. He was previously the editor-in-chief for Boston's last surviving alternative weekly newspaper, DigBoston. He lectures at the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis and is currently working on his first book for Union Park Press.

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