Pubdate: Mon, 28 Apr 2003
Source: Massachusetts Daily Collegian (MA Edu)
Contact: 413-545-1592
Copyright: 2003 Daily Collegian
Author: Morris Singer, Collegian Staff 
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Huddled under umbrellas or soaking in the rain, protestors braved the
elements Saturday to speak out on laws against marijuana at the University
of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition's (CRC) annual Extravaganja

The rally has been the feature event organized by the UMass CRC since its
founding over ten years ago. Extravaganja usually brings between 500 and
1,000 marijuana enthusiasts and is one of the largest events of its nature
in the state of Massachusetts, shadowed only by Boston's Freedom Fest, which
often hosts about 50,000 people.

Extravaganja, which took place from 12 to 8 p.m. at the Amherst town common,
attracted a crowd of no more than 150 people at any time, as supporters came
and went throughout the day.

Bands played and guest speakers talked during the festivities, keeping
protestors entertained and informed. The CRC also ran a raffle for two
airplane tickets and hotel accommodations in Amsterdam for the annual
Amsterdam Cannabis Cup. At the Cup, participants compete for a prize
recognizing the person who grew the best strain of marijuana as determined
by the attendees.

Aaron Wilson, one of the guests who spoke at the rally, said that the United
States government is denying its citizens fundamental rights. One of the
rights he talked about was the right to one's body.

"You have the right to your own body and no one, no government can tell you
what to do with your own body," Wilson said.

At one point, several protestors dove into a pile of mud that had been
softened by the heavy rains of the afternoon. Covered in dirt, they got back
on their feet, danced to the music, and continued to dive periodically.
Bystanders applauded their efforts.

The occasional smell of lit marijuana drifted by, although no arrests were
made during the afternoon. Police concentrated on ticketing cars which were
illegally parked, or which were parked without sufficient meter money.

According to Katie Mayer, a member of the UMass CRC, the protest is always a
peaceful event.

"They [the protestors] don't cause any fights," she said.

Mayer said that the laws regarding marijuana are a violation of basic
rights. She contested that a lot of people consume marijuana despite the
laws. She also made analogies to the prohibition of alcohol during the

"I think that the marijuana prohibition is a lot like the alcohol
prohibition," she said.

Mayer said she thinks that this sort of event is effective in bringing about
change. In Amherst, the laws banning consumption of marijuana were
de-prioritized in 2000, she said. De-prioritization of a law means that the
police are no longer required to enforce the law. Mayer feels that this
action may help bring about the changes the CRC is looking for.

"Maybe it's a step in the right direction," she said.

Mayer blamed low turnout on the weather. The heavy rain and the cold
temperature discouraged many people from coming, she said. She noted that
many people remained at the rally despite the outdoor conditions.

"A lot of the people who have been here have been here all day," Mayer said.

Throughout the event, Mayer remained hopeful that the weather would clear
up. A lot more people would have come to the event if the weather had been
better, she said.
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