Pubdate: Mon, 20 Sep 2010
Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U, MA Edu)
Copyright: 2010 Back Bay Publishing, Inc.
Author: Josh Cain


For at least a few moments Saturday afternoon, Keith Saunders couldn't
stop to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the Boston Freedom Rally.

Unlike the thousands of others who had gathered at Boston Common for a
day of live music and hemp-assisted relaxation at the city's annual,
massive rally in support of legalizing marijuana, Saunders had serious
business to attend to.

Just outside the tent belonging to the rally's organizers, the
Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, Saunders was organizing the
festival's long list of speakers, made up of medical marijuana
patients, prominent activists and at least one notable name in
governor's race candidate Jill Stein.

Breaking stoner stereotype after stoner stereotype, Saunders deftly
dealt with a minor crisis about locating the speakers and coordinating
their stage times.

"We basically run the entire permit process of this event for the city
of Boston," Saunders said, describing MassCann and its national
affiliate, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
(NORML), as veterans of organizing hundreds of volunteers and
navigating city law requirements.

"We're not more organized than any other group, we've just been doing
this for 21 years," he continued.

Saunders, a former president of MassCann who received a Ph.D. from
Northeastern University, reflected the diversity of the Freedom Rally,
attended by groups of people from across the United States.

One of those groups was the Hare Krishna Temple of Boston, associated
with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The temple
partnered with MassCann to hold its festival celebrating a traditional
Indian holiday Ratha Yatra.

"We've been doing festivals all around. The festival we did today was
an ancient festival about pulling the cart of the 'Juggernaut.' In
India they do this festival where they pull three huge carts down the
main road. Here we did on a smaller scale," Vish Sheth, one of the
festival's attendees and a Florida resident, said.

This smaller festival, complete with musicians playing Indian drums
and chimes and examples of Indian food and clothing, was located on
the side of the Common bordering Tremont Street, separated from the
larger Freedom Rally.

Sheth said the Krishnas were grateful to partner with the Freedom

"I think that the Boston Freedom Rally was looking for some
alternative, open-minded events, and the Krishnas are the most
alternative and open-minded you can get."

Michael "Mike Cann" Crawford, president of MassCann, said during his
years of involvement in the legalization movement, he has seen
acceptance of marijuana by the public grow substantially.

He echoed Saunders' statements that the movement's war for tolerance
has already been won.

"The Cold War ended before the Berlin Wall fell. That's where we're at
right now," Crawford said.

Stein, the Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Massachusetts governor,
provided yet another view point: the political ramifications of
completely legalizing marijuana use in the state.

"We're putting money into the hands of criminals, where we should be
putting money into the hands of our communities to strengthen schools,
provide health care, create jobs and create affordable housing,"
Stein, a physician and Harvard Medical School graduate, said.

"So it feels unconscionable to me not to stand up when we have such a
devastating problem, violence associated with the illegal drug trade
is killing people on our streets."
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