At 26 years and counting, it’s no longer unusual to see the cannabis-friendly Freedom Rally on Boston Common.
But the two-day festival, which again drew thousands and is among the largest of its kind, had special significance this year. With two groups leading state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana this year, the rally’s seasoned volunteers and goods-purveyors under tents said they had their eyes on the future of toking up in Massachusetts.
Voters could get the chance to weigh in on legalization for recreational use in November 2016 if campaign organizers collect enough signatures to get their questions on the ballot.
One of the initiatives is being run by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, a tax-and-regulate platform.
But it was the other, a proposal for light regulation and no new taxes run by a group called Bay State Repeal, which earned endorsement from the Freedom Rally’s organizers. Volunteers from Repeal were collecting signatures from attendees.
Helping out on Sunday was Stake McAskill, a veteran of the state’s pro-legalization battle who said he's been volunteering for rally organizers MassCann since the 1990s.
He said Bay State Repeal’s initiative was the right one for the state.
“Instead of compromise, we just want to repeal it like they did with booze,” said McAskill, who was also spraying water-based paint tattoos on festivalgoers’ skin from a booth. He argued legalization would increase access for patients. “It shouldn’t be all about money. It should be about how many people you can treat.”
Nearby, Jeanne Ficcardi-Sauro told Metro she had helped hundreds sign Repeal’s petition.
Ficcardi-Sauro, a member of MassCann’s Board of Directors, said she was a new recruit to the legalization cause. A 57-year-old breast cancer survivor, she said she uses the drug to manage her pain.
“I learned about [marijuana] and it blew me away. I got educated and now I’m an activist,” she said. She raised an Eagle Scout, she said. She had a green “Rx” spray-tattooed on her cheek. “The momentum is here,” she said.
The crowd as always was a mix of young and old, with area colleges well represented.
On a pink blanket splayed out on the Common lawn, 20-year-old Heather Smith, a fourth-year civil engineering student at Northeastern, shared a blunt stuffed with marijuana with Nikki Guilmette, 21, who was visiting from Connecticut.
“It’s cool to know this could be normal some day and we could just be out here, not just at the Freedom Rally,” Smith said.