Honoring the ‘King of Pot’

Marijuana advocates want to place a memorial on the Common for Michael Malta.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear

Up on a grassy knoll not far from Beacon Hill, pot proponents are known to gather together and share insight about the benefits of marijuana legalization.

That hill, by the Soldiers and Sailors monument, was one of Michael Malta’s favorite spots in the city. Both during the day, as he worked at a business nearby for more than 20 years, and after he was off the clock, when he pushed for patient access to medical marijuana, Michael was keen on the commemorative statue at the top of Boston Common.

So it’s fitting that family members of the “King of Pot” —as he came to be known to his followers and supporters—want a plaque bearing his name placed on a bench that’s there, on the hill where he spent so much time connecting with others.

“When Michael passed away, I was not aware of the reach that he had. We knew that he knew a lot of people, but I didn’t realize that people loved him like they did. People organically want to remember him and carry on his legacy,” said Valerie Malta, Michael’s wife. “A lot of people really appreciated that message and they wanted to make sure his name was carried on, and I think [putting a plaque on the Boston Common] is a great way to memorialize that.”

Malta has been slowly raising money through an online fundraiser to have the city make a special bronze plaque with a message paying homage to her husband’s impact on the marijuana legalization movement, and reach across the country. “The ‘King of Pot’ passed away suddenly on October 6, 2013. He was an inspiration to many, a father, son, husband, friend to all ,and one fiery fueled marijuana legalization revolutionary,” the fundraising pages says.

The process for dedicating a bench—or even tree—to a loved one in Boston is fairly simple. “Whether existing or new, a donor recognition plaque will be installed on the bench or at the base of the bench,” according to the city rules. Once a plaque is installed, it remains there for 15 years.

But the cost to do so is less attainable.

For Malta to have her husband’s name on a small piece of commemorative material, it will cost upwards of $3,000 to $5,000. To get there, she is relying on the donations of the people that knew Michael best, and has been organizing private events in his honor while simultaneously running the website fundraiser.

Although she hasn’t figured out what the plaque will say once she raises the money, Malta said she wants the small sign to be installed on what is known as “Mount Mary Jane,” or “Mount Michael Malta,” where pot advocates regularly congregate—especially during the annual Freedom Rally, an event that thousands of marijuana proponents attend to call for legalization.

Malta said her husband, who suffered from anxiety and depression for much of his life, relied on medical marijuana to ease his pain, and his message was always aimed at finding ways to help make the drug more accessible to those in need, specifically during the rally.

“It is difficult to describe the importance of Michael Malta to the marijuana law reform movement in Massachusetts and by extension his unique contribution to national reform,” wrote High Times reporter Rick Cusik in a 3,000-word story about Michael, after he passed away. “Under his nom de guerre Malta produced and directed countless videos, podcasts, conducted interviews, blogged, agitated, and organized exclusively for marijuana law reform and posted all of it on [his] website that he tirelessly marketed.”

During the Freedom Rally on the Common last year, which spanned two days for the first time, organizers ran into permitting issues with the city. So on Sunday, the second day of the event, when supporters were forced to shutdown before “4:20,” Michael gathered up attendees, brought them to the top of “Mount Mary Jane,” and delivered a speech alongside others, professing the benefits of medicinal pot.

“All the of the speakers went up to this bench on the hill and started speaking,” Michael’s wife said, adding that she hopes to raise enough money for the plaque so it can be installed in time for next year’s rally, despite contentions with the city over a newly-passed ban on smoking on the Common. “He was a warrior for rights, and he was the guy that hugged everybody. He was more about the love than the fight.”

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  • Sarah Sparks

    He was a great man who touched so many hearts, including mine.

  • Casey Jones

    K.O.P. K.O.P. K.O.P. <3

  • The Dude

    That sounds fine…but as long as Mrs. Malta installs the plaque, could she tell the class-skipping hop-heads who congregate at the top of the hill there not to deal, litter, fight, rob, cuss, tag, urinate, and generally act like thugs on or around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (which serves as a memorial for those men who died defeating slavery, not getting high), as I’ve seen them do every summer day and night? I would have much more respect for the cause, if its advocates weren’t so disrespectful both to themselves, others, and our historic places.

    • Brooke Andrade

      Hey Dude, That isn’t a representation on most of us that have and do congregate on Mount Malta. The people I know that go there are respectful, courteous and usually end up picking up the trash in whatever area we sit. The people you speak of are also generally drinking and doing other things besides just smoking a doob and enjoying the spot. Michael Malta was and is a great activist friend, and all around amazing soul. He would help anyone out if they were in need and cast a voice for those who either didn’t know how or couldn’t. He was loud enough that plenty heard his message and even more agreed and rallied around him and the cause. KOP will forever be in my heart on my mind and next to me when I go to Mount Malta to partake in a cause that meant and means so much to so many. And a permanent tribute to him on the Mount would be only fitting as he was also trying to defeat and oppressive force that held many people down through not being able to get a medication that actually helps them and to the recreational user who got caught with a joint on them and has a permanent record making it hard to get a job, among other things. KOP will live on forever!!

      • The Dude

        I’m all for legalization, I’m glad he fought for something he believed in, and I’m sure you and your friends are respectful when you gather there…but when you do gather their again, please tell the other folks enjoying a doobie (among other substances) to respect the park and the other visitors who enjoy it? I walk through there every day before work on a volunteer basis picking up trash and reporting graffiti on the monument and benches to the city. People stay up there all night getting bake, and throwing their crap everywhere instead of a trash barrel. It is shameful that such a stirring memorial to those men who died destroying slavery is so mistreated by others who, if you asked most of them, would only express an interest in getting politically motivated only if it involves their right to get high. Would they be willing to die for that right? Maybe its just me, but I find of all the issues of this earth to fight and die for and respect, I would put the elimination of slavery (which still exists in the world) at the top of my list, and getting high or drunk in public places whenever I like at the bottom. It’s just no that important to me. I’m sorry that it is for you – how much violence has been caused both in our city and worldwide because of the need to get high? That’s why I support legalization, not because I like grass, but because it could reduce this violence. But by all means, continue to smoke your weed and support all that violence, until it is legalized, as a form of ‘protest’. That’s just my two cents.

  • http://dotheword.org/2013/08/21/should-we-forgive-the-unrepentant Phaerisee

    I certainly am glad that our brave veterans with PTSD and severe pain will have a safer alternative to improperly tested, fast-tracked pharmaceuticals or dangerously addictive narcotics.

  • Geoff

    Instead of raising money of the backs of many sick and poor people to get some plaque made which isn’t going to benefit anyone’s health or well being, maybe the money could be better spent on an actual charity that is doing something good for others. A plaque is just a piece of plastic. Putting money where it really counts and where it helps the living, I would think, would be more suitable to celebrate someone who tried to help others.