PUBLIC POT PUFFING, NO COP CRACKDOWN
Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts will flock to the annual Freedom Rally on the Common this weekend, where revelers can listen to live music, buy a bong and freely smoke weed in public, despite a recent vow from police officials to crack down on drug use at the beloved park in the wake of a brazen shooting.
“We like to smoke weed — we figured, it was a cool event,” said Madison Robinson, who was among the scores of people puffing pot in the park yesterday during the 28th annual Boston Freedom Rally.
The three-day festival, which will continue today, features two stages where bands put on live performances and dozens of vendor stands where area businesses sold everything from bongs and bowls to grinders, jars and rolling papers. Chris Smith, who said he went to the rally yesterday to buy a bong, proudly told the Herald he’d already put his purchase to good use.
And though it’s illegal to smoke marijuana in public, a police spokesman said there were zero arrests and zero citations issued during the “peaceful” gathering yesterday, which occurred less than a week after the department vowed to add patrols and enforce a “zero tolerance” marijuana policy after a 19-year-old Hyde Park man was shot multiple times near the Parkman Bandstand Tuesday evening.
While announcing a “comprehensive approach” to addressing crime at the popular city park, Lt.
Detective Michael McCarthy said the department will install security cameras, have two uniformed police officers on walking beats around the clock in three, eighthour shifts, at both the Common and the Public Garden, and crack down on the sale and consumption of all drugs — including marijuana.
“It will be a zero-tolerance approach to violations, whether it’s smoking, or the sale and distribution of marijuana,” McCarthy said Thursday. “If that is witnessed, or observed, our undercover officers will act on that. We are not taking this lightly. There will be some changes made down there.”
There was minimal police presence inside the festival itself yesterday, with cops largely — and quietly — monitoring the event from the outskirts of the Common.
In a statement last night, a parks department official noted that although the city has legally challenged the event going back to the 1990s — and as recently as last year — the courts have allowed the gathering to continue.
“This is not an event that we endorse, as it is a direct affront to the enacted smoking ban in City parks including Boston Common,” the statement read, adding, “This event is clearly not in line with the cultural and family-friendly events that we present in our parks. We will continue to work with the City of Boston Law Department to discuss our options moving forward. The public’s support and input is invaluable to this process.”
For 27 years, the rally was designed to advocate for the legalization of recreational marijuana. But yesterday, people celebrated the recent legalization of recreational pot by spreading blankets across the Common and lighting pipes, bongs and marijuana cigarettes.
“We wanted to come to the Freedom Rally and express our feelings for marijuana,” said Bernie Platel. “We believe in it.”
Many of those gathered yesterday said ticketing people for smoking weed in public seemed like an overreaction to the shooting.
“The chances are if that shooting, if it was over drugs, it was not over weed,” said Jen DeDeo. “It was definitely over something harder.”
Others acknowledged that there’s a good reason why it’s illegal to light up in public.
“This is just an event, I don’t think it should be a common thing for people to smoke in parks, around kids,” said Yervant Oh. “Everybody should just do it privately.”
WEED FREEDOM: Revelers smoke pot and interact with cops at this weekend’s Freedom Rally on the Common. Despite pledging zero tolerance for drugs on the Common after a shooting Tuesday, police made no arrests and issued no citations for marijuana yesterday.