Amid the likely clouds of smoke on the Boston Common Saturday afternoon there's going to be some frank talk about marijuana.
Retiring U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is among those scheduled to speak at the annual Freedom Rally, which has been held for more than 20 years.
The Newton Democrat said that while he doesn't smoke weed he supports the rights of other people to do so and will speak about why legislators are making a mistake by not allowing it.
"Freedom is the issue. It is a great mistake for our society that wants to be a free society to prevent people from making their own choices when they don't hurt other people," Frank told Metro Thursday from Washington, D.C.
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Frank's appearance is causing surprise and excitement among organizers who said they requested the popular Newton Democrat to speak at the event for years and finally received an OK this year.
Frank said he was able to this year because he is retiring and not keeping a busy campaign schedule during this time of year like in years past.
"Barney Frank, he is going to be the attention grabber indeed," said Bill Downing, treasurer of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, which puts on the rally. "A lot of people will come out to hear what he has to say."
Frank has been a longtime supporter of marijuana rights and last year submitted legislation to limit federal laws regarding the drug.
Downing said he expects many of the speeches Saturday to be pep talks, especially ahead of a crucial vote this fall.
A hot topic at the rally is November's ballot question that asks voters whether to legalize medical marijuana.
"That's going to make huge changes here in Mass.," Downing said. "One of the big changes is people read about marijuana here in Massachusetts and almost all of it is terrible -- a teen smoking or people shooting each other because of a bust gone bad or whatever.
"Once medical marijuana is here, tens of thousands of people dying across the state can get relief ... and positive stories about marijuana can help the sea change," he said.
Frank said he supports the ballot question, which recent polls show has strong support.
"I think this is one where the public is ahead of the politicians," said Frank. "The politicians are afraid to do it. I think they are mistaken to be afraid ... that they'll be soft on drugs."
Some of the dozens of speakers and bands at Saturday’s rally include:
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, retiring congressman from Newton
Lester Grinspoon, author of “Marihuana Reconsidered” and associate professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School
Keith Stroup, founder of National Organization of the Reform for Marijuana Laws
Spiritual Rez, Boston Music Award winners and Berklee College of Music alums
As part of the November ballot, Massachusetts voters will be asked to vote for or against legalizing medical marijuana.
Polls conducted by Public Policy Polling in August showed 58 percent of respondents are in favor of allowing medical marijuana use, with 27 percent against, according to the State House News Service.