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Despite Complaints, the 30th Annual HempFest to Take Place on the Boston Common This Weekend

BOSTON – Since its inception in 1989, the Boston Freedom Rally has been an annual tradition for cannabis enthusiasts and civil rights advocates each third weekend in September on the Boston Common, occurring peacefully and with relatively minor disturbances. Beacon Hill residents might have complained about surging crowd size over the past 29 years, but they’ll also likely complain about your toy poodle wearing a cardigan in the wrong color.

Last year’s Freedom Rally may have changed that perception.

After charges that attendees had left the Commons in a state of what Mayor Marty Walsh referred to as an “appalling mess”—including illegally parked cars, a massive amount of litter, and used needles on park grounds—Boston City Councillors Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim filed a request for a hearing on the annual event, citing the potential for illegal activities and suggesting organizers move the event elsewhere. Perhaps to Boylston Street, since there’s a long running history of model behavior from Patriots fans during Super Bowl rallies.

While Flynn and Zakim’s requests were eventually dismissed, this year’s Hempfest has had to scale back this year’s event from three days to only one.

You might argue that the idea of a Hempfest in Boston isn’t just an anachronism, but entirely irrelevant. After a 2016 ballot initiative legalized recreational marijuana use in the state, it might seem like there’s not even any need for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCan)—the festival’s annual sponsor—at all. With even professional athletes promoting CBD as an alternative pain treatment and performance enhancement (an industry reported to be worth $6 billion by 2025,) even public opinion on hemp has been shifted from its non-medicinal use towards its growth as an industry.

“We’re trying to just make sure that people get some good education,” MassCan press secretary Maggie Kinsella told Boston.com earlier this week. “Even though it’s been legalized, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

The Hempfest continues to draw criticism, most recently in light of reports that vaping related incidents have resulted in 380 hospitalized illnesses, including six deaths according to the CDC. Yet, as advocates are quick to point out, those incidents are largely the result of uncontrolled and synthetic CBD agents—a practice proponents are quick to disavow.

Still, the rally provides more than a public celebration of the virtues of cannabis. Live music, education, vendors, food and public speeches on topics including prison reform will be just some of the highlights for supporters and non-partakers alike. Kinsella claims that public stigma remains high for regarding cannabis use, and its the task of MassCan to confront it. She says MassCan volunteers have vowed to spend several hours following the event towards clean up efforts.

“It’s one of the most peaceful rallies that Boston has, and we’d like to keep it that way,” she said. “We just want to see people come and just kind of hang out for the day and learn about cannabis.”

The 2019 Boston Freedom Rally will be held on the Boston Common from 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm on September 21st. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Boston Freedom Rally

Image via Wikipedia, “4:20 during the NORML Marijuana Rally in Boston, MA” 2009

BOSTON Since its inception in 1989, the Boston Freedom Rally has been an annual tradition for cannabis enthusiasts and civil rights advocates each third…

‘Hempfest’ is coming. And it’s going to be a little different this year.

Here’s what you need to know about the Sept. 21 Boston Freedom Rally.

The Boston Freedom Rally, unofficially known as ‘Hempfest,’ is scaling back for its 30th anniversary.

The rally, which usually runs for three days, is restrained to just one this year after a slew of complaints following the 2018 event. Parks officials alleged the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCann) violated its permit by allowing people to drive vehicles on the Boston Common and smoke in the park. Critics also said the weekend left the park “a complete trash heap.”

This year, MassCann has blocked off seven hours for cleanup the day after this year’s rally to “make sure we’re getting every last bit of trash,” press secretary Maggie Kinsella said. They’re also discouraging the use of single-use plastics at the event.

Kinsella said the organization is expecting a packed rally now that it’s been cut into one Saturday, so they plan to space out vendors to make sure rally-goers don’t get too cramped.

‘Hempfest,’ which was founded as a way to practice civil disobedience, may seem a little less edgy now that recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts. However, public consumption — which organizers are neither promoting nor dissuading — is still banned. Violations could cost you up to $100.

Kinsella stressed the importance of knowing the laws to make sure any civil disobedience you’re practicing is intentional. MassCann discourages buying or selling weed at the rally, and though you can possess an ounce of marijuana legally, you can be arrested for less than one ounce if you intend to sell.

As far as buying goes, Kinsella said to stay away from the guy who’s trying to sell you brownies. “You can only pretend to know what is in that brownie, cookie, Rice Krispie treat, or space cake,” the MassCann website advises.

Rally-goers will also be met with food options aplenty alongside vendors selling glassware, apparel, and more. There’s also a 21+ area (they will be checking IDs) for cannabis product brands concerned about advertising their wares to minors. Cannabis and THC products will not be sold in this area either.

The focus of the event in the post-marijuana prohibition world is to educate people on cannabis and the stigma around using it, Kinsella said.

“We’re trying to just make sure that people get some good education,” she said. “Even though it’s been legalized, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

‘Hempfest’ features an “education village” where various organizations will set up booths to distribute information on all things weed. MassCann has also arranged for a large array of speakers to talk about their experiences in the marijuana world and for educational panels on topics such as marijuana as a health supplement and social justice in the weed industry. A full list of speakers and panel topics can be found on MassCann’s Instagram.

“It’s one of the most peaceful rallies that Boston has, and we’d like to keep it that way,” Kinsella said. “We just want to see people come and just kind of hang out for the day and learn about cannabis.”

‘Hempfest’ is coming. And it’s going to be a little different this year. Here’s what you need to know about the Sept. 21 Boston Freedom Rally. The Boston Freedom Rally, unofficially known as