Pubdate: Mon, 01 May 2000
Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2000 Daily Hampshire Gazette
Contact:  115 Conz St. Northhampton MA 01060
Fax: (413) 584 3200
Author: Kay J. Moran


(AMHERST) - The pro-marijuana rally Saturday on the town common  was 
sun-drenched and peaceful, with only three people in the crowd of about 
1,000 arrested for possession of the drug.

But in a major effort Friday and Saturday nights to enforce alcohol laws, 
police made 26 arrests and laid the groundwork for criminal complaints 
against 24 others. In addition, officers responded to 23 noise complaints, 
mostly loud parties at  numerous locations.

At Saturday afternoon's Extravaganja, a succession of speakers urged 
legalization of marijuana, interspersed with bands sending the same message 
while getting the crowd dancing to their music.

Ann Awad, the newest member of the Amherst Select Board, mentioned her 
support for last month's referendum urging decriminalization of marijuana. 
Activist Isaac Ben-Ezra said he, too, voted for the referendum, but told 
the crowd too many of them were smoking cigarettes, a known health hazard. 
He urged support for keeping restaurants and bars tobacco-free.

Carla Howell, Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate, called the war 
on marijuana "a no-win, immoral war," then urged people to sign her 
nomination papers.

There was none of the anti-police rhetoric evident at previous years' rallies.

"If you do chose to puff down today, please keep it discreet," announced 
master of ceremonies Mycho Jellison of the Cannabis Reform Coalition. "We 
don't want to have any confrontations with the police, who are here today."

Members of the coalition, a student organization at the University of 
Massachusetts, had worked with police beforehand to ensure a peaceful 
demonstration. For the first  time about 20 young people wearing bright 
yellow T-shirts printed with "Extravaganja  2000, Cannabis Reform Coalition 
- - security" were on hand to monitor the crowd. They and Jellison urged 
people to pick up their litter, leaving the common clean at the end of the day.

Four mounted officers from the town and the UMass police departments rode 
around the perimeter while officers in plain clothes mingled with the 
crowd. Between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. they arrested Thomas P. Brewer, 19, of 
Monroe, Conn., and Kevin M.  Burns, 20, of Cambridge, both UMass students, 
and Shawn C. Mullen, 17, of Agawam, and charged each with possession of a 
class D substance, marijuana.

Others appeared to be smoking marijuana, especially after 4 p.m., but no 
one else was arrested.

"I think that the cooperation between the organizers and the police was a 
big factor in making everything go as well as it did," Police Chief Charles 
Scherpa said Sunday.

The rally was not the only thing on the agenda for Scherpa's department 
this weekend.

With the weather getting warmer and the end of classes just two weeks away 
at UMass and Amherst and Hampshire colleges, the police anticipated active 
partying.  Two dozen officers were on duty Friday night and about 20 on 
Saturday night, nearly triple the usual number.

Some watched package stores, bars and known outdoor gathering spots for 
underage people trying to buy liquor or carrying it around. They made many 
of the weekend's arrests, on charges that included underage possession of 
alcohol,  transporting alcohol while under the legal age, using false 
identification to purchase alcohol, and carrying open containers.

Other officers followed cars carrying beer kegs from package stores to 
residences,  where they checked to see whether the kegs had been registered 
in advance, as required, with the police department. Four men living on 
Triangle Street and at three different Main Street residences each were 
issued $200 tickets for not registering. All those kegs were confiscated.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart