Thousands of people are expected at this weekend's Freedom Rally on Boston
Common. But as America's marijuana movement goes mainstream, are these rallies
sending the wrong message?
by Jason Gay
This Saturday, October 3, nearly 100,000 people are expected to descend on
Boston Common for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition's Freedom Rally,
where they will demand the decriminalization of marijuana. Now in its ninth
year, the rally is the largest pro-marijuana event in the country and perhaps
in the world. It is unquestionably one of the biggest events on the Common in
the past 20 years, with crowds surpassed only by events like Pope John
Paul II's 1979 prayer mass, which drew a spectacular half-million people.
In Boston, fittingly, only the pope outdraws pot.
Like many marijuana festivals, the Mass Cann Freedom Rally is a mixture of the
political and the celebratory. This year's rally will feature a lengthy roster
of speakers, including drug-policy activists, civil libertarians, and people
like Elvy Musikka, a glaucoma patient who is one of only eight people permitted
by the federal government to possess marijuana. Entertainment will be provided
by a bevy of local rock bands -- including neo-hippie favorites Max Creek --
and (quelle mode!) a hemp fashion show.
Of course, there will also be marijuana, and plenty of it. Rally organizers
believe that protesting a bad law requires flouting it, so this year -- as in
years past -- there will be lots of audience participation in the form of
joints, blunts, pipes, and one-hitters. By midafternoon, it is expected, the
air above the Common will be thick with smoke and the sweet, pungent odor of
Not surprisingly, this mass lawbreaking irritates the city's political and
law-enforcement establishment, which has spent the past several years waging a very
public war against Mass Cann and the Freedom Rally (see "Drug Testing," right).
Last year, police swarmed the festival, arresting 150 people for marijuana
possession -- a haul that filled the city's jails. This year, the Menino
administration tried to stop the rally before it started by denying organizers
a permit to use the Common. That maneuver was quickly overturned by a Superior
Court judge as unconstitutional.
The relationship between the Freedom Rally and the city is already tense.
This Saturday, will things get worse?
John Swomley says he's ready to spend part of this weekend in jail. The Mass
Cann attorney plans to challenge the Boston Parks and Recreation Department's
controversial requirement that Freedom Rally organizers refrain from saying
anything at the event that could be interpreted as advocating "imminent lawless
activity." When the rally begins, Swomley says, he will grab a microphone and
exercise what he believes is his protected First Amendment right to free
"I will be saying such things as `Light up,' `Get high,' `Smoke dope,' `Roll a
joint,' `Spark a bone,' whatever," says the North End-based attorney, a veteran
of civil-liberties cases. "And then I'll offer myself up to be arrested."
Swomley doesn't know whether the police will actually arrest him. His
intention, he says, is to create a less anxious environment for rally
organizers and performers who are worried about speaking during Saturday's
event. If he's arrested, other speakers will know what they're getting into, he
says. If he's not, the Mass Cann rally can proceed as planned.
This premeditated conflict is just the latest in a series of battles between
Mass Cann and the city of Boston since the Freedom Rally began nine years ago.
In the beginning, the demonstrations were small and conflicts were few. But in
recent years, the rally has grown dramatically, putting Mayor Menino and other
city leaders on edge. Last year, police made more than 150 arrests at the
event, a move that Mass Cann organizers say was unprovoked and dangerously
The arrests cast a sobering air over the rally, which is mostly a
celebratory event featuring local rock bands. "When people start getting
arrested for going to events like this, then it all of a sudden becomes more
political," says Mass Cann president Bill Downing.
The city's position on the rally, of course, is that while Mass Cann
organizers and audience members are entitled to free speech, they are not
allowed to break the law or cause damage to the Common or the surrounding
Beacon Hill neighborhood. In addition to marijuana smoking, there have been
complaints about noise and trash at past rallies, says City Hall spokesman John
The city's restrictions on the event are an effort to address those
complaints, according to Dorsey. "You just hope that the event goes smoothly
and all the conditions put in place are honored, because they have been put in
place for public safety and decorum," he says.
But the city and Mass Cann have fought for several years about which
conditions are constitutional. More often than not, the courts have sided with
the activists, ruling that some of the city's restrictions have violated the
free-speech rights of rally participants. Last year, for example, the city
asked that the crowd be limited to 10,000 people, a request that was thrown out
by Superior Court judge John Cratsley. This year, however, another Superior
Court justice, Carol Ball, allowed the city to require that Freedom Rally
speakers not incite violations of the law.
Swomley calls that restriction a violation of the First Amendment, pointing
out that rulings in other cases -- "Nazi cases, basically," he says -- protect
event organizers from being blamed for participants' actions, so long as
organizers do not explicitly incite violence against others. "If there is
rioting, rock throwing, bottle throwing, marijuana smoking, whatever, the
illegal conduct of people at the rally cannot be used to curtail the First
Amendment rights of organizers," he says. "It's the police's job to see that
violence doesn't occur and order is maintained."
Just to be sure, however, rally organizers have asked a team of law students
to attend Saturday's event to observe police procedures, particularly searches
of audience members (if they occur). Some of the students will be equipped with
video cameras to tape potential conflicts between rally participants and
Freedom Rally organizers find it ironic that such precautions are necessary in
a place like Boston Common, a historic site of protest events. But Bill
Downing, the Mass Cann president, thinks it all comes down to politics.
"It's fairly obvious that the city wants to be sure there's plenty of
publicity saying they are opposed to the rally," he says. "Politically, it's
great for Menino."
City leaders and marijuana activists have always been uneasy with each other.
These days, however, even long-time members of the marijuana-law-reform
movement are starting to question the effectiveness of events like the Freedom
Rally. Within the movement, there is mounting concern that rallies are too
large and too confrontational. Detractors say the pot smoking, young crowds,
and carnival-like atmosphere at these events play to the worst fears of
prohibitionists. No one in the movement wants to pick up the Herald on
Sunday morning to find a photograph of an 11-year-old kid smoking a joint on
"Festivals are fun, but it's time to get serious about reforming the marijuana
laws," reads a recent statement from the Marijuana Policy Project, a
Washington, DC-based activist group. "It isn't productive to participate in
events that simply spread the stereotypes that help keep marijuana illegal.
Teens and tie-dyes smoking pot in public will not end the drug war -- they will
only make it worse."
The main reason some activists are concerned about rallies is that they fear
jeopardizing their movement at a time when -- for sociological, scientific, and
political reasons -- it is enjoying unprecedented mainstream and professional
support. To capitalize on this embrace, the nation's pro-marijuana lobby,
historically lampooned as flaky, is giving itself a mainstream makeover (see
"Back in the High Life Again," below left). The boards of such groups as the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) are stocked with
PhDs, CEOs, and other establishment creatures. The Marijuana Policy Project
refuses to use pot-leaf symbols in its literature. Even the old marijuana
rallying cry -- "Legalize it!" -- is being largely set aside as activists tout
plans for "decriminalization," "regulation," and "harm reduction."
"The movement has coalesced and become more political than purely social or
academic," says Adam Smith, associate director of the Drug Reform Coordination
Network, a drug information center in Washington, DC. "And with the success of
getting the movement onto the front pages of American newspapers has come a
desperate need to professionalize the message and the image of marijuana."
In short: counterculture is out, corporate is in. Today's marijuana activist
is more likely to wear a suit than a tie-dyed shirt, and spends more time
wooing legislators and journalists than reading High Times.
"This isn't about having fun anymore," says Keith Stroup, NORML's executive
director, who founded the organization in 1970. "It's perfectly fine to have
fun smoking marijuana, but we're about changing laws. And you have to go within
the power structure. If you go to lobby Congress with a marijuana leaf on a T-shirt,
you're not going to be effective. We're trying to put on a better face."
But there's no denying the potential of gatherings such as this weekend's
Freedom Rally, which Stroup hastens to call "a real positive event." After all,
how many times does anyone get a chance to promote a platform before 100,000
people at once? "These are the kind of events that will inspire people around
the world," says Bill Downing, Mass Cann's president.
But when the smoke clears on the Common, hard questions will linger. Now
battling for acceptance in America's living rooms, the marijuana movement must
decide how it is supposed to move forward without alienating its past.
The cluttered office in the basement of Bill Downing's Reading home, with its
board games and stacks of National Geographics and wall posters of Chuck
Berry and John Lennon, will never be confused with Philadelphia's Independence
Hall. But the Mass Cann president -- a bearded, affable 40-year-old -- is an
American revolutionary of sorts. Today he is dividing his attention among three
computer terminals, trying to organize Freedom Rally business. The phone rings,
and Downing speaks for several minutes. When he hangs up, he happily reports
that a company that makes dilutants for urine drug tests has agreed to pay $800
to hang a banner at the rally. "Things are coming together," he says.
Downing, who became involved in marijuana activism following his graduation
from Babson College in 1980, has watched the drug-law-
Back in the high life again
Close to death in the 1980s, the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws (NORML) is back -- and better organized
Few events better illustrate the maturation of the marijuana activist
movement than the resurrection of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws, better known as NORML. Founded in 1970, the Washington,
DC-based lobbying group enjoyed some strong success in its formative years. But
its influence dropped sharply in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan launched an
all-out drug war. "It was a very challenging time," says NORML's founder,
attorney Keith Stroup, adding: "There were serious discussions about closing it
[the organization] down."
But these days, NORML is back. Thanks to recent organizational changes and the
ever-widening debate over issues such as medicinal marijuana, NORML is enjoying
a second wind -- and a new relevance in Beltway circles and beyond. "NORML,
like a lot of the [marijuana] issue, is trying to go mainstream," says Bill
Downing, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (Mass Cann),
the state's NORML chapter.
As an example, Downing points to NORML's dream-team board of directors.
NORML's previous board was dissolved in 1994, and the keys were turned over to
Harvard Medical School professor Lester Grinspoon -- the author of Marihuana
Reconsidered, a seminal book among legalization advocates -- with the
instructions to give the beleaguered organization a makeover. Today, the board
includes the likes of Grinspoon; Nobel Prize-winning chemist and DNA specialist
Kary Mullis; author Barbara Ehrenreich; Louis Lasagna, dean of the graduate
biomedical science program at Tufts University; and Ann Druyan, the widow of
Carl Sagan and the secretary of the Federation of American Scientists. The
organization also brought back Stroup, who had left NORML more than 10 years
earlier to pursue other interests.
NORML's revamped leadership decided to broaden the stagnant organization's
mission. Recently, the group launched the NORML Foundation, an "education,
research and legal foundation to focus on the costs and alternatives to
marijuana prohibition and provide legal assistance to victims of the current
marijuana laws," according to its Web site. The foundation also serves as an
important nonprofit fundraising arm. (Because the original NORML is a lobbying
group, contributions to it are not tax deductible.)
One NORML Foundation initiative is the Cannabis Media Project, an advertising
campaign crafted by Joe White, one of the cofounders of the Somerville-based
Share Group, Inc., which helps nonprofit companies market themselves and raise
money. White, an energetic salesman if ever there was one, talks excitedly
about the project, which seeks to counter the antidrug advertising campaigns of
the federal government and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
"This issue will not go anywhere until you change the climate around
cannabis," White says. "And to change the climate, you have to use multimedia
images." As an example, White says, "Envision a billboard on the Mass Pike that
says, `Last year, 37 students died from binge drinking; 250,000 people died
from cigarettes; zero died from smoking marijuana."
Another element of the Cannabis Media Project will be the "outing" of
important people who have used marijuana. White stresses that these won't be
outings in the classic sense -- no one's marijuana use will be exposed against
his or her will -- but the campaign will attempt to show that the drug has been
used harmlessly and responsibly by prominent individuals.
"Someone needs to respond and tell the truth about cannabis," says White, who
expects the first Cannabis Media Project advertisements to start appearing by
the end of this year.
In the meantime, NORML continues its upgraded campaign of legislative
lobbying. Even though a recent House vote on medicinal marijuana lost 310 to
93, Stroup, who began courting congressmen when Nixon was in office, says the
organization's marijuana mission is starting to find a better reception on
Capitol Hill. "Finally, after nearly 20 years of the war on drugs and `Just Say
No,' we are entering an era where serious policy officers are considering
alternatives to prohibition," he says.
NORML has also improved its media relations in order to spread its
message. "We're a small organization with a relatively small budget," says
Stroup. "The only way we'll change public attitudes is by working through the
media. We cannot allow the other side to define the debate."
Of course, NORML continues to face an uphill battle. The organization is still
subject to occasional snickering (makeover or no makeover, NORML staffers
remain more laid-back than many of their Beltway colleagues), not to mention
competition from other cannabis organizations such as the Marijuana Policy
Project. And Stroup acknowledges that some countercultural diehards may be
disillusioned by NORML's newly manicured operation.
But NORML isn't looking back. "We were truly marginalized when we started.
People thought we were just a bunch of hippies," says Stroup. "That has
reform movement slowly creep from the nation's margins. Once a prize cause of
counterculturalists, marijuana is no longer exclusively the domain of hippies
and the college elite.
In essence, the movement has grown up to meet the times, says Chuck Thomas,
communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "The '70s were a time
of civil rights, and the marijuana movement of the '70s was a civil rights
movement," he says. "They'd say, 'We have the right to smoke pot,' and if
questioned, they'd say it isn't really harmful. Whereas now we are looking at
drug policy and a whole range of options between legalization and prohibition.
Even with drugs prohibited, there are ways to reduce the harm."
The evolution of marijuana-law reform from a fringe cause to an increasingly
mainstream issue can be traced to several developments. One, of course, is the
mainstreaming of marijuana itself: as the baby boomers take control of the
country's boardrooms and elected offices, the plain fact is that a substantial
number of them have smoked pot at some point in their lives, and many of them
do not buy into the historical demonization of the drug.
"It's the maturing of America," says NORML's Keith Stroup. "You now have two
or three generations who grew up familiar with marijuana. They never believed
in 'reefer madness' because they smoked it in college and they know it didn't
make them crazy."
A second, equally significant development is the growing support for
legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Though critics suggest that
marijuana's medicinal value is overrated, clinical and anecdotal evidence
points to the drug's value as an antinausea agent, particularly for people
undergoing chemotherapy. It has also been used to alleviate nausea and appetite
loss among AIDS patients, and to reduce intraocular pressure among people
suffering from glaucoma.
"Research should go on, and while it does, marijuana should be available to
all patients who need it to help them undergo treatment for life-threatening
illnesses," the New England Journal of Medicine concluded in
August 1997, adding: "As long as therapy is safe and has not been proven
ineffective, seriously ill patients (and their physicians) should have access
to whatever they need to fight for their lives."
Activists say that the medical-marijuana debate has attracted people -- the
elderly, for instance -- who might have ignored the issue of drug-law reform in
the past but became involved when they, or a family member or friend, grew
sick. "They have seen that when they smoke a marijuana cigarette it relieves
the pain and tension," says Stroup. "Once they see that, they are no longer
going to believe what the government tells them about marijuana being a
dangerous drug, because they have seen that it can be terribly helpful."
There is now widespread support for change. NORML cites recent polls showing
that 65 percent of Americans favor legalization of marijuana for medical
purposes. Two years ago, California and Arizona became the first states to
allow the use of marijuana under a physician's supervision (though users and
doctors are still subject to federal prosecution). This November, five more
states -- Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon -- will vote on
medical marijuana. So will Washington, DC.
Another development advancing the discussion of drug-law reform is the
mounting recognition that the nation's multibillion-dollar drug war has been
woefully inept. Even in places like Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill, it is
increasingly difficult to find anyone who disputes that federal and state
policies of the past 20 years have been largely ineffective in reducing drug
use or trafficking in this country.
"It would be hard to think of an area of U.S. social policy that has failed
more completely than the war on drugs," journalist Michael Massing writes in
his forthcoming book The Fix (Simon and Schuster). "Since 1981, the
federal drug budget has soared from about $1.5 billion a year to more than
$17 billion. The United States has sent spy planes over the Caribbean,
built a paramilitary base in Peru, financed coca-eradication programs in
Bolivia, and set up giant radar-bearing balloons on the Mexican
border. . . . In 1996, more than 1.5 million people were
arrested for drug offenses. The nation's state and federal prisons, which in
1980 housed fewer than 30,000 drug offenders, today harbor nearly 300,000.
Despite it all, cocaine is cheaper than ever before, and heroin is being sold
at purity levels six times those of the early 1980s. And the abuse of these
drugs remains rampant."
Indeed, such political mouthpieces as conservative William F. Buckley and
libertarian economist Milton Friedman have long condemned the drug war as
indefensibly wasteful. Even former Massachusetts governor William Weld -- a
Republican who was once a prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office -- supported
legalizing medicinal marijuana when he was in the State House.
"The reason why the movement is becoming more mainstream is that the rational
and scientific evidence [supporting decriminalization] is indisputable," says
Michael Cutler, a Mass Cann member and Brookline attorney.
Cutler is the national coordinator of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, a
group of attorneys and judges who favor drug-policy reform. Modeled after the
original Prohibition-era Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, the VCL seeks to
"level the playing field of public opinion" on the drug war. Its founding
committee includes Elliot Richardson, who served as attorney general under
Richard Nixon, and Nicholas Katzenbach, attorney general during Lyndon
To a certain extent, marijuana activists have been down this road before.
Throughout much of the 1970s, in fact, there was widespread national discussion
about the prospect of legalization. Eleven states decriminalized possession of
small amounts of marijuana. At one point, President Carter suggested
eliminating federal prosecution for possession of less than one ounce.
NORML's Stroup, who was a major force in the drug-law-reform discussion a
generation ago, says the current situation recalls 1973 or 1974, when the first
states decriminalized marijuana. The same kind of momentum now exists for
medicinal marijuana; it's a state-by-state debate where Stroup predicts major
national breakthroughs "within two or three years."
Because advocates believe they need mainstream support to achieve these
breakthroughs, however, massive public rallies and "smoke-ins" give some
activists pause. No one wants to be ridiculed as goofy and hippie-dippy
"Ultimately, we need to be able to be trusted by the public. We need to be
trusted by parents, by people who have no interest in using drugs," says Chuck
Thomas of the Marijuana Policy Project. "To win that trust, we have to
consistently show that we're not doing anything to increase drug use."
The Massachusett Cannabis Reform Coalition, the state's NORML chapter, is a
cash-poor grassroots organization with roughly 3000 members and few assets
other than the copy machine in Bill Downing's basement office. These days, the
Freedom Rally is pretty much Mass Cann's raison d'être. Started in
1990 as a small-time protest at the USS Constitution in Charlestown, the
rally moved to the State House steps the following year. It rained all day. "We
had 300 to 400 people, and not all of them at one time," Downing recalls.
Since then, however, the Freedom Rally (known in previous years as Hempfest)
has grown quickly: last year it attracted, depending on whom you talk to,
60,000 to 100,000 people. Drawing on the entire New England area in addition to
Boston's substantial college-age population, the Freedom Rally now dwarfs such
well-known older rallies as the Harvest Fest in Madison, Wisconsin, and the
Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Getting bigger, of course, creates problems, not the least of which is Mass
Cann's deteriorating relationship with the City of Boston. In the Freedom
Rally's formative years, Downing says, the city took a mostly laissez-faire
approach to the event, providing a permit to congregate on the Common in
exchange for assurances of a paid police detail. Arrests were few. But as the
rally expanded, the city became more protective of the Common and more
aggressive about enforcement, peaking with last year's 150 arrests.
"I thought a riot was going to start," Downing says. "People were running down
this big hill . . . it was quite exciting."
Flustered, City Hall tried stopping the rally altogether, rejecting a Common
permit for Mass Cann on the grounds that its proposal did not "adequately
provide for the preservation of public grounds" or address public-safety
concerns. But that denial -- called "clearly unconstitutional" by Mass Cann
lawyer John Swomley -- was summarily rejected by Suffolk Superior Court judge
Carol Ball, who ruled that the city had violated Mass Cann's free-speech
Swomley and Downing argue that in order to make a political point, the city
wasted time and money pursuing a case it knew was unconstitutional. "They knew
they were going to lose this case from the start, which is the best evidence
that this was politically motivated," says Downing. (Responds mayoral spokesman
John Dorsey: "This may have had more attention than other events, but we deal
with these kinds of issues all the time.")
The mayor, obviously, wants to look tough on drugs. But City Hall's campaign
was also driven by a shrewd calculation: though many citizens may support the
reform of drug laws, and perhaps even the legalization of marijuana for
medicinal purposes, few of them are thrilled by the idea of 100,000 people
getting high on Boston Common.
"As long as the government is able to portray the drug-policy movement as a
bunch of irresponsible potheads, then there is political capital to be made in
cracking down on them, whether by constitutional or extra-constitutional
means," says the Drug Policy Reform Network's Adam Smith.
Indeed, throughout its existence, the rally has been lampooned by detractors
as a goofy gathering of people more interested in lighting up than speaking
out. The local media, too, have pretty much marched in lockstep with this
"Walk through the annual pro-pot Freedom Rally on Boston Common and you'll be
lucky to find someone who can recite the alphabet, let alone the First
Amendment," Herald columnist Joe Sciacca wrote last month. "These people
think a political party is something you bring a keg to. Ask them who wrote the
Constitution and they'll answer, 'Uh, like, the Pilgrims, man?' "
This Cheech-and-Chong portrayal irritates rally organizers. They draw
comparisons to the gay and lesbian movement, whose leaders are often chagrined
when, after a Pride rally draws 50,000 people, the clip on the six o'clock news
features the one guy who marched naked in silver body paint.
"Everyone could be dressed in their Sunday best and it would not matter," says
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the NORML Foundation, NORML's new
nonprofit arm. "The general media would be looking at the most freakazoid
persons they could find."
But do marijuana activists invite this kind of stereotyping when they host
massive, freeform rallies with rock bands and radio-station sponsorship? While
it's true that the Mass Cann rally is a political event, it's also fair to say
that a large percentage of the audience is there to get high and have fun. That
doesn't make it wrong. But it does make some people worry.
"There has been ongoing and seemingly never-ending discussion as to whether
these events are more help or hindrance," says Smith. "I think the consensus is
that mass gatherings, in and of themselves, can be extremely useful, but in
order for their benefits to outweigh their costs, they need to be directed
The biggest concern, by far, is the participation of kids. "The worst
nightmare is that these rallies will attract a very youthful population," says
the VCL's Michael Cutler. Mass Cann treasurer Steven Epstein acknowledges that
instead of having a young crowd of 100,000, the Freedom Rally might be more
effective with "30,000 people, median age 45."
Because of these issues, it's not surprising that NORML is cautiously starting
to distance itself from large-scale marijuana rallies. Though Keith Stroup says
he supports the Freedom Rally, Tanya Kangas, the NORML Foundation's director of
litigation, says flatly that rallies are "not a priority" for the national
"The rallies do have a positive message, and they are fun for smokers and help
people feel courageous for a short period of time," Kangas says. "But I'd love
to see them follow up a one-day celebration with voting and further
Indeed, in the eyes of some activists, large, smoky, celebratory sit-ins like
the Freedom Rally may be on their way out. Some NORML chapters in other states
have begun experimenting with tightly structured protests that St. Pierre
describes as "smoke-free, kid-free, and psychedelic-color-free." The Marijuana
Policy Project specializes in small, well-publicized acts of civil
disobedience, such as having a medicinal-marijuana user light up in a
"In a way, it's indicative of the maturation of a political movement," Smith
says of this shift. "If you look at most political movements, they get to a
point where they need to control their message, especially in an age of PR,
sound bites, and mass media coverage."
Freedom Rally organizers insist that their event is a serious protest, an act
of civil disobedience in step with the free-speech traditions of Boston Common.
But they don't want trouble or sensational headlines, either. Downing even
hesitates to call the rally "pro-marijuana." "We're not pro-marijuana," he
says. "We're anti-prison."
No question, Boston's Freedom Rally is a big deal, and no smart marijuana
activist is going to trample on such a huge event. Like the Drug Policy Reform
Network's Smith and NORML's Stroup, MPP's Chuck Thomas takes great care not to
disparage the Freedom Rally or its organizers. But speaking of rallies in
general, Thomas says: "It's not a question of whether we should be
demonstrating or not. The question is whether we should have focused, targeted
demonstrations with a respectable message."
Most activists believe there's still room in the marijuana movement for events
like the Freedom Rally. After all, they say, there is a time to be serious, and
a time to tell everyone to light up and poke fun at the establishment.
"We're a big tent," says Michael Cutler. "We can no more disassociate
ourselves from the more counterculturally committed members than the gay
movement can disassociate itself from ACT UP."
Keith Stroup agrees. "When you're dealing with social movements, you don't
have the kind of finely honed control that you'd have with a private
corporation," he says. "Social issues are not neatly organized. It's not
possible to do it that way."
Still, Mass Cann carries a heavy burden to Boston Common this weekend. Not
only must they try to keep peace with city leaders and police during the
Freedom Rally, but they must satisfy an activist movement that is maturing
fast. It's a formidable task. They can't afford to get burned.
Jason Gay can be reached at jgay[a]phx.com.