Smokers Are Planning A Protest On Boston Common

It's in response to a new city law that fines people up to $250 for lighting up in public spaces.

Peeved by a recently passed law that prevents people from lighting up in public parks all around the city, a group of pot proponents is trying to plan a “smoke out” on the Boston Common this weekend to fight back against the new ban.

According to a Facebook page called “Boston Common Smoke Out/Vape Up!,” organizers are encouraging people to show up at the park near the State House on Saturday, and start puffing away on cigarettes, marijuana, and vaporizers in order to send a message to City Hall that their new ordinance is out of line.

“As concerned citizens who spend much leisure time on the Common and other parks, we are outraged to learn that there will now be a…fine for smoking outdoors,” organizers wrote on the event page. “We reject the Nanny State ban on smoking outdoors, we recognize this as unenforceable at best— and selectively enforceable at worst—[and] we see potential enforcement as a huge waste of tax revenue.”

The “smoke out” is in response to a law former Mayor Tom Menino signed off on before he left office. The ordinance bars anyone from smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and vaporizers in 251 public areas around Boston, and allows officers and park rangers to issue citations of up to $250 to anyone who breaks the rule.

As of Thursday night, 37 people had already committed to attending the smoking session on the Common.

The group said they plan on disobeying the ordinance on the third weekend of every month until the ban has been repealed, despite the hefty fines. Whether or not they follow through remains to be seen.

Mike Cann, a marijuana advocate, was helping spread the word about the impromptu gathering, and sharing event details on Twitter and Facebook Thursday night. Cann said he understands the city’s concern about the dangers of second-hand smoke, but thinks that the way in which the ordinance is written goes overboard.

“They have gone way too far,” he said. “And for me, the reason I am going to show up and go to these and support these events is because of the kids out there who may not know about these fines. If someone can’t pay these fines, and didn’t know about the law, that could become a criminal matter.”

City officials, when they passed the smoking ban in December, said they would educate the public and visitors before issuing citations. But Cann still thinks lawmakers have overstepped their bounds.

Cann said that people have been lighting up on the Common for decades—whether it be cigarettes or marijuana—and the new law feels like a clever way to keep the annual Freedom Rally, a two-day event that promotes marijuana legalization and education, from happening in the future.

“[Boston officials] were politically motivated to go after the Freedom Rally. They found a way to do it, and they had talked about doing this ordinance before the Freedom Rally this year,” said Cann.

He said the law is a “huge waste of resources,” and he feels as though it could lead to problems like New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” program.

Cann said the turnout will likely be small this weekend because of the last-minute notice and the chilly weather, but he still expects around 50 people will take part in the smoke out, an event he believes will be the starting point of something bigger.

“By the day [April 20] comes around, they should expect to have thousands of people out here,” he said, referencing the date “4/20,” a day when pot smokers typically gather together and light up. “They are going to have the biggest 420 problem on the Common than they have ever had before. I’m telling you, this is the way people feel in the city. With what’s happened with decriminalization, and medicinal marijuana, this is just the start.”