Masscann's 'hempfest' Attracts 50,000

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, Sep 25, 2003.

    by Cassandra Miller, (Source: Daily Free Press)
    Regional News

    22 Sep 2003

    Rhode Island
    Pot and politics fueled the 14th Annual Freedom Rally Saturday, where 50,000 people gathered on Boston Common for "Hempfest," an event sponsored by the Massachusetts Cannibis Reform Coalition and the National Organization for the Reform of the Marijuana Laws.

    Event planners wanted to use the event - whose theme was "Fight Terrorism, End Prohibition" - to question the Bush administration's idea of tying marijuana users to terrorism to justify an expansion of the "War on Drugs," according to Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Dr. Ethan Nadelmann.

    Other topics addressed at the event were the full-out legalization of marijuana, the non-recreational uses of hemp and the medicinal benefits of marijuana.

    "We cannot afford to have our terrorism efforts fail as has the war on marijuana consumers," said Keith Saunders, a MassCann director. "The link between ending marijuana prohibition and fighting terrorism is the money. Police officers' time spent enforcing prohibition could and should be spent fighting terrorism."

    The afternoon featured non-stop entertainment and speeches. Top Boston bands, including several winners of the 2003 Boston Music Awards, cannabis experts and political activists took to the stage.

    Ed Rosenthal, a cannabis expert and member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, urged attendees to register to vote and change the laws prohibiting marijuana. Several tables were set up on the Common for voter registration.

    "We know that marijuana has to be legal," Rosenthal said.

    At one point, Rosenthal, also a member of the Garden Writers Association of America, had audience members chanting "these laws are doomed" at the 60 police officers patrolling the Common. He labeled the "ABC" team of Ashcroft, Bush and Cheney the "axis of evil" and said they were taking away constitutional rights.

    "The war on drugs has weakened The Bill of Rights," said Nancy Murray, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts' Bill of Rights Education Project, who also spoke at the event.

    She spoke out against the USA PATRIOT Act, saying it invades Americans' right to privacy, and asked people to sign a petition to repeal the act. As of Saturday afternoon, the ACLU had gathered 75,000 of the 150,000 signatures it is hoping to collect during the effort, Murray said.

    Others joined in attacking the government for cutting down on civil liberties.

    "The prohibition of the hemp plant is depriving people of their freedom and their liberty," said Jean "Magic" Black-Ferguson, founder of Grammas for Ganja and one of the festival organizers.

    Black-Ferguson helped set up the "Hemposium," where people could learn the many uses of hemp. A display showcased hemp products like food items from Canada and Europe, including hemp ice cream and hemp waffles, hemp clothing, hemp insulation, hemp shampoo and hemp rope. Hemp can also be grinded up and used to absorb oil spills.

    Black-Ferguson said hemp is a benign plant that is strong, lightweight, non-toxic and biodegradable. She said she started Grammas for Ganja in Seattle to " bring awareness to women."

    "Women are the ones who are going to change the laws," she said.

    One speaker pushed for the medical uses of marijuana.

    "Pot is my Prozac," said Marcy Duda, an advocate and user of medicinal marijuana. Duda said she uses pot instead of prescription pain-killers for her nerves and to ease the pain of five aneurisms - she was originally prescribed Oxycontin, but became addicted to it and sick from taking it.

    David "Captain Joint" Bunn, a Hempfest Board of Directors member and High Times 2003 Freedom Writer of the Month, also said pot is a therapeutic and inexpensive alternative form of medication. Bunn said he uses pot to soothe his arthritis, asthma and anxiety attacks. He said many of his doctors have recommended use of the drug to ease his pain.

    Bunn said he was prescribed pain medicine for the four surgeries he has undergone in the last year, but said he only uses pot as a medicine, because the pills prescribed did not work.

    But Bunn also said recreational use of marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

    "Drunks are having testosterone battles on one side of a party, and the stoners are laughing at them," Bunn said. "Potheads are peaceful."

    Attorney Michael Cutler said the United States should have a policy of treatment instead of punishment for marijuana use.

    "The death of prohibition is inevitable," Cutler said. "The government is making crooks rich," and should legalize pot in order to regulate its sale and distribution.

    "If we can tolerate alcohol and tobacco, we can certainly regulate and make safer marijuana," he said. "The pot distribution process works fine. Anyone can get it without any regulations. We need to legalize it to provide a safer framework for children."

    Many attendees signed cards at ACLU tables supporting a bill to make the " possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction, punishable by $100 fine" in the state of Massachusetts.

    MAP posted-by: Richard Lake
    Pubdate: Mon, 22 Sep 2003
    Source: Daily Free Press (MA)
    Copyright: 2003 Back Bay Publishing, Inc.
    Author: Cassandra Miller

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