PUB­LIC POT PUFF­ING, NO COP CRACK­DOWN

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By JOR­DAN GRA­HAM

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.”

STAFF PHOTOS BY CHRIS CHRISTO

STAFF PHOTO BY CHRIS CHRISTO

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.

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