For years, MassCann has been something of a gentleman's club, trying to legalize pot in Massachusetts with limited success. But the March 19 board election brought a dramatic change. Six of the 12-person board's new members are women — most of them under age 30, and all of them on Facebook. Their energy and ideas differ completely from the old guard.
MASSCANN's recent board elections injected the organization's leadership with some youth — and six women, the most ever.
Even their first board meeting (March 30) in the back room of Uno Chicago Grill in Newton was standing room only: plenty of young blood, and now, more estrogen.
New secretary Niki Snow says this board meeting looked nothing like the first MassCann meeting she attended just last summer. "There were five or 10 people at a time in meetings, it was just the board." The men in charge spent their time in heated legal debates, Snow says. "I wasn't learning or understanding."
Snow describes the contrast between the old and new MassCann in terms of two main ideas: new members stress a commitment to community while the old school focuses on challenging the law.
Take Steve Epstein, for example: he's treasurer of MassCann and has been on the board for 20 years. He's a lawyer by day, smokes a lot of cigarettes, and often stresses how difficult it is to pass new legislation. "The only way for the federal government to change the law is to pass the 21st Amendment for marijuana," barks Epstein during the board meeting at Uno, explaining to the crowd why he thinks MassCann can't campaign for legalization in 2011-2012.
Epstein's lawyerly approach is typical of MassCann's past strategies. The organization pushed nonbinding ballot questions in Massachusetts districts throughout the 2000s. Yet the 2008 decriminalization of marijuana came from an initiative by the rival ad-hoc group Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, not MassCann.
When elected board president last year, Mike Crawford (a/k/a MikeCann) decided the group needed serious revamping. "Bringing in women was a goal of mine," says Crawford, recently re-elected for a second term. "Time for them to step up . . . and younger people, too." There had been women on the board before, Crawford says, but never more than one at a time. He says he also wants to reach young professionals willing to moonlight as activists.
Snow credits Crawford with bringing her back into the group last summer, along with new members, by hosting the "Battle for the Rally," a battle of the bands to elect acts for the annual Freedom Rally on Boston Common. The Freedom Rally pot festival is organized by MassCann each September, and Crawford says another "Battle for the Rally" is being planned this summer.
At the recent meeting, the new members focused on community-oriented event planning. Even after two hours, when the elders were ready to pack it in, the young turks weren't ready to stop talking pot — even if it meant waiting a little longer to smoke it.
The OGs of MassCann even tried wrapping things up by telling everyone in attendance to call their local representatives (and, you know, lecture them on the glory of ganja). New board member Cara Crabb-Burnham had other ideas.