‘HempFest’ Organizers Rolling Forward With Annual Rally On Boston Common

The group was in court Friday, after filing an injunction, so they could hold a two-day event.

It looks like a judge ruled in favor of allowing a group of pot proponents to hold a two-day rally on the Boston Common this year.

The tweets, sent by officials from the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML], came hours after they met with a judge, after filing an injunction against the city of Boston. Earlier this week, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department refused to issue organizers a two-day permit for their annual “Freedom Rally.”  But now, the event will be held on Saturday, September 14, and Sunday, September 15, spanning two days, for the first time ever.

Organizers of the annual Freedom Rally—or “HempFest,” as it has come to be known—sought the court’s mediation earlier in the week after sparks ignited between members of the group and city officials. Last Friday, the group posted a notice on their website claiming that a lawyer representing the city said no permits to put on the pro-pot rally would be distributed this year.

Days later, the city said it would grant MassCann/NORML a one-day permit on the Common, but snubbed their request to make it last through Sunday. Organizers said in a statement this week that whatever the judged decided, they would show up anyways. “[We] will still put on both days of the rally, permit or no permit,” according to a statement.

But now, they can do so with the proper permits in place. Saturday’s event will begin at noon and run until 6 p.m., whereas Sunday’s, through a compromise with the judge, will be held from noon until 3:30 p.m., according to Tweets from MassCann/NORML’s official account. 

Organizers said they still plan on staying “[until] after 4:20,” though. Bill Downing, treasurer of MassCann, could not be reached for comment Friday, following the announcement about the permit approval.

The two-day pro-pot gathering, which draws thousands of people to the Common to “build a consensus for a more moral and rational public policy regarding all uses of the cannabis plant,” also ran into trouble with elected officials this year, prior to the permit debacle. In August, Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan filed legislation to raise the cost of a citation for smoking marijuana in public, specifically in parks, by $200. Linehan said it was a coincidence that his proposal was filed prior to the Freedom Rally.

This isn’t the first time they have had to go to court to get the “okay” to hold an event, either. According to the group’s website:

In 1997 and 1998 the City imposed unworkable and unconstitutional restrictions which were overturned by court injunction. In 2008, the City attempted to siphon off any proceeds from the rally and redirect them to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, a scheme that was also overturned by court injunction.

Here is a list of all the speakers and bands that will be appearing at the two-day event.  MassCann/NORML officials also compiled a list of ways to attend the Freedom Rally responsibly.