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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Daze of change: 21st annual Freedom Rally invades Boston Common

Tom Russo
Journal Staff

Last Saturday, tens of thousands flocked to the Boston Common for the 21st annual holding of The Boston Freedom Rally (or as it is commonly referred to, Hempfest).  Smokers and interested onlookers of all colors and ages inundated the Commons on Saturday, Sept. 18, for the celebration’s kick off at “high” noon.

The common was crowded by 11:00 a.m. for the festivities, which grows in attendance each year. Keith Stroup, founder of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) said in his keynote speech that there is a simple reason for this – “progress”.

Many will agree. “The vibe is much calmer than last year; even though marijuana was freshly decriminalized then, the police still had under-covers everywhere,” said Rich Chuili, 20, of Newton. “There is much less of it this year. If nothing else, they’re less visible. That makes it easier to have a good time.”

Chuili has attended almost every Hempfest for the past five years. “With the decriminalization and all, more people want to come out,” he said.

Vacationing in Boston from Chicago, Bob and Dee Schultz, 62, were surprised and amused by the festival. “We didn’t know this was going to be going on when we came here, but we’re having a nice day and no is hurting anyone,” said Schultz. “We don’t use the stuff, but this doesn’t bother us at all.”

In addition to heavyweight keynote speakers Stroup and NORML Executive irector Allen St. Pierre, music from popular acts included Onyx, Rage Against the Machine cover band, Prospect Hill, and Termanology. Entertainment played throughout the day as attendees perused various tents and carts selling hemp products, art work, blown glass, and food from vendors throughout downtown.  No alcohol was sold at the festival, yet marijuana use was encouraged. In addition to NORML, the event was also sponsored by High Times Magazine, one of, if not the largest, magazines dedicated to hemp and its derivatives.

The message was clear from Stroup, St. Pierre, and High Times Representatives,  “Support the legalization of hemp; it is paper, fiber, fuel, and medicine. Be Responsible.”

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Daze of change: 21st annual Freedom Rally invades Boston Common