Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Hempfest 2017

Vendors, performers and speakers alike congregated once again at the Freedom Rally to discuss the legalization and recreational use of marijuana.

For more pictures from this year’s Hempfest, visit Uncovered with Flash.


Thousands flocked to the grassy knolls of the Boston Common this past weekend for the 38th annual Boston Freedom Rally, the second largest gathering of cannabis enthusiasts and activists in the world, behind Seattle’s Hempfest. Patrons of the Rally came prepared for a weekend full of art and celebration, one in particular went so far as to dress as a fully fledged bud of marijuana.

The yearly event has been organized by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCANN), a state affiliate of the national marijuana activism group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Colloquially known as Hempfest, the rally began in Northampton in 1989, before it moved to the Commons in 1992, where it has been held every third weekend in September since. While inexperienced participants likely did not notice the difference, this year’s Hempfest certainly arrived with an extra air of hype; it was the first rally following the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the Commonwealth last November.

Katie Hehl / Journal Contributor

This year’s Rally featured two stages, both of which were nearly always crowded with people watching speakers, live acts and live DJs. Those who congregated by the Charles Street Stage on Saturday were treated to such acts as Mendo Dope, a Californian hip-hop group with electronic influences and Over the Bridge, an upbeat reggae band from Gloucester, Mass.

Over the Bridge, hailing from the North Shore, represented themselves well on their home turf, playing songs that matched the festival’s easy-going and relaxed mood. Songs such as, “Wash” and “Something in the Water” proved to match the feeling of the crowd with their upbeat attitude and overall positive vibe. Over the Bridges’ songs are representative of the feeling of summer, and with the season’s ending quickly approaching and Fall upon us, the crowd and the band seemed to display a similar feeling of disappointment when the end of the set neared.

Compared to Mendo Dope, with a sound similar to that of two high school boys attempting to freestyle in the basement of a house party, with the parents patiently waiting upstairs for everyone’s grownups to pick them up at 10 p.m., gave a seemingly never-ending 45-minute set that can only be described as an absolute disgrace. With tracks like “Now I’m High,” and “Down to the Roach,” the band should probably stick to a “weed-to-know” basis and perhaps consider switching to parodic performances.

For those who came with money on hand, a surreal bazaar was constructed with vendors selling a cornucopia of products. Boston Smoke Shop, a local favorite, advertised alluring deals to potential customers from their pop-up shop by the baseball fields. Just north of the Parkman Band Stand on Flag Staff Hill, a row of psychedelic tapestries fluttered in the wind.

Hempfest can also serve as a reminder that archaic stereotypes about smokers are just that. Much of what attendees consider typical would have many questioning whether or not they’d gotten a contact high. Businessmen in suits paused to inspect video-game themed bongs; parents could be seen entering the park with a child in tow; families looked on curiously as they took a stroll through the Common, some oblivious to the nature of the event altogether.

Not everyone was riding the high this weekend, however. Question 4, the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana  use was opposed by many local politicians, including

Haley Clegg / Photo Editor

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh came under fire from organizers of the Freedom Rally last year after attempting to revoke an already-granted permit, claiming vendors approved by rally organizers were unlicensed, according to the Boston Herald. A Massachusetts Superior Court judge sided with organizers in issuing an emergency order allowing the 2016 rally to go on as planned.

As the weekend drew to a close, the haze dissipated from between the trees, the crowd thinned and the Commons returned to its normal traffic state, patiently awaiting the return of another gathering of celebration and art.



View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Kaitlin Hahn, News Editor | she/her they/them
Kaitlin Hahn is the News Editor for the Suffolk Journal. She is a print journalism major and an English minor from Southern California. Kaitlin is also serving as the President of Suffolk University’s Queer Student Union and a Diversity Peer Educator for The Center for Diversity & Inclusion at Suffolk University. Through her involvement with the media and clubs on campus, Kaitlin hopes to improve Suffolk as a whole. She aspires to become a travel journalist and gain the opportunity to see and write about the world. Follow Kaitlin on Twitter @KaitlinHahn_
Nick Viveiros, Senior Staff Writer
Nick Viveiros is a senior majoring in Politics, Philosophy & Economics and Journalism. Born and raised in Fall River, MA, he began writing for the Journal in the fall of 2016.

Nick published his first book, the poetry collection this new world, during his first semester of college. His second book, Love Across the Zodiac, was released through his company, Quequechan Press, in mid 2019.

Follow Nick on Twitter @thenickviveiros or head on over to his website,

Comments (1)

All The Suffolk Journal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • B

    BobSep 20, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    I clicked on the link but I don’t see any pictures…..?

Activate Search
Hempfest 2017