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.”