There have been some big adjustments in the MassCann ranks over the past year, most notably the election of six young women to the historically male-dominated board. Overall the group is looking good, with new blood pushing for legal bud and record meeting attendance.
Still, institutional memory is vital in any ongoing conflict. That's where MassCann treasurer Steven Epstein comes in; having been down since day one, he can outmaneuver any cheap attempt to silence his organization's annual Freedom Rally.
We met up with Epstein at UNregular Radio in Downtown Crossing, where he co-hosts The THC Show with MassCann President Mike "Cann" Crawford. Always outspoken, the two-time High Times Freedom Fighter of the Month was glad to rap about everything from evil anti-pot forces to where to find a good "fuck shack" in Western Mass.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU PLAYED A ROLE IN THE FREEDOM RALLY? I've been involved for 22 years, ever since [the late weed warrior] Jack Herer made me take the California Reefer Raiders pledge to do all I can to legalize marijuana by the time I'm 80 or dead.
WHY 80? I asked him that, too — he didn't have an answer!
HAVE YOU MET OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR TRAVELS WHO HAVE TAKEN THE SAME PLEDGE? Oh yeah. Either from him or other people who were involved with the first legalization attempt in California back in the '80s.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE FIRST FREEDOM RALLY IN NORTH ADAMS BACK IN 1989? There were some fuck shacks on the southbound side of Route 2, and some fields on the northbound side down the hill, so we went over there and had a party after the rally was over. In 1989 you couldn't smoke pot in public — you'd get in trouble. Now there are tens of thousands of people out there smoking.
WHOSE JOB IS IT TO COUNT HOW MANY PEOPLE ATTEND THE FREEDOM RALLY? We used to have a gated community, but we didn't have anyone to click. So the police have done an estimate in the past couple of years.
THERE HAVE BEEN SOME PERMITTING ISSUES IN THE PAST. DOES THE CITY STILL BUST YOUR BALLS NOW THAT WEED IS DECRIMINALIZED? I'm not sure that they bust our balls any more than they do any other organization that fills the parade ground, but the City of Boston always tries to throw some sort of curveball at us. It's okay, though — we can smell freedom in the air. There are even Republicans out there who are in favor of [legalization].
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW WHO ARE COMING TO THE RALLY FOR THE FIRST TIME? It's really a protest — it's about telling the people under the golden dome 300 yards away to the northeast to lighten up and catch on to where they were as teenagers, or still are in some cases.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MARIJUANA DOES GET LEGALIZED HERE? DO YOU JUST ROLL ONE UP AND CALL IT A DAY? Of course not. We would return to our NORML roots as a consumer protection organization, and work to prevent the government from getting off track from the Constitution again.