MassCan's 20th Freedom Rally relatively free from arrests

Peace Pipe Dept.
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  September 23, 2009

GO GREEN Saturday’s MassCann Freedom Rally featured the lowest amount of busts in recent history.

Photos: MassCann Freedom Rally 2009. By Sarah Viera.
Assuming that, at MassCann's 20th annual Freedom Rally on Boston Common this past Saturday, all 30,000 attendees got stoned, smokers had less than a half-percent chance of getting busted. As for the 136 heads who were slapped with $100 civil citations, the collective fine couldn't kill the buzz permeating Boston's loudest and greenest end-of-summer weed fest in recent clouded memory.

"The whole day was amazing for a lot of reasons," says MassCann board member Mike Cann, who booked the acts for both stages. "First of all, people couldn't believe that Termanology and Big Shug brought Styles P and Buckshot. You also know it was a good time because all of the food vendors were completely sold out by 4 pm."

The 20-band throwdown was the first Freedom Rally since Question 2 passed a Commonwealth-wide vote this past November. The referendum effectively decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and made it possible for authorities and smokers to find some harmony in what's forever been a burnt relationship.

"I definitely saw people blazing near cops who didn't say anything," says Boston weed-rap czar DJ Slim, who performed tracks from his album Hemp Hits. Adds Cann: "It was an improvement from the past, but we still had issues with police searching bags. They had a tent where they were detaining people, and at one point they even got the horn player from The Force. A lot of people saw it as harassment — or at least a waste of resources."

The Boston Police Department (BPD) does not disclose deployment numbers, but there appeared to be a thick police presence on the Common. Near the stage, uniformed officers videotaped dancing music fans (and the show, presumably); on the outskirts and beneath the trees, undercover big brothers passed out citations. Nonetheless, only three criminal citations were issued (for possession with intent to sell) — down from 44 in 2005, 53 in 2006, and even last year's mere six nabs.

"We supplied what we felt would be an ample amount of officers to keep citizens safe," says BPD media-relations officer Joe Zanoli, who claims police are trained to abide by current statutes. As for allegations that bags were searched illegally: "[Officers] know what they can and can't do," says Zanoli. "There are a lot of different circumstances, and each individual incident dictates what actions the officers can take."

"I guess I have to give [the BPD] credit for publicly admitting that it was a peaceful event," says Cann, referring to remarks by BPD spokesman James Kenneally. "That's what we've always said — if you had this kind of event with alcohol, there probably would have been a shooting."

Related: Photos: MassCann's 2010 Freedom Rally, Rolling Rally: Our guide to the 22nd Annual Freedom Rally, Photos: Freedom Rally 2011 at Boston Common, More more >
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