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Freedom Rally Supporters Protest Marijuana Laws

By Dana Levine


40,000 people gathered on the Boston Commons this Saturday for the eleventh annual Freedom Rally, an event created to protest laws against the sale and use of marijuana.

The rally, which was organized by the Massachusetts Cannabis Coalition (Mass Cann), a chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), featured speeches by Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for U.S. President, and Carla Howell, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for the Massachusetts Senate seat.

Howell strongly attacked Senator Edward Kennedy’s position on the war on drugs, calling him a hawk and herself a dove. “Senator Kennedy has voted for the war on drugs time after time after time,” she said. “The government attacks our homes, our churches, and our schools .... We must end the lies about marijuana.”

Howell went on to advocate that all nonviolent marijuana users should be freed from prison. “This no-win war on drugs is another Vietnam,” she said.

Browne took a stronger stand, promising that if elected President, he will use his power of pardon to release federal prisoners convicted of drug offenses. “I pledge to you, I swear to you, I will immediately pardon everyone in federal prison from a drug offense,” he said.

Browne argued that while the Democratic, Republican, Green, and Reform parties may all have different views, “they are arguing over who best can run your life. I want you to be free.”

He further promised that if elected, he will attempt to remove the government’s influence over the lives of the American people. “I don’t want to go to Washington to get good ... programs. I want to get the government out of your lives.

While Browne acknowledged that the Libertarian party will not win the Presidential election, he still encouraged his audience to “vote libertarian on your ballot, from your president to your dog-catcher.”

If Browne receives 5 percent of the popular vote, then his party will gain federal matching funds in the 2004 election and possibly even a spot in the next presidential debates.

Several members of the MIT Hemp Coalition, MIT’s chapter of NORML, attended the freedom rally. Paula E. Heaney ’01, an officer of MITHC, was impressed by Mass Cann’s preparedness for the rally. “Mass Cann really does a good job about having that huge booth right in the middle of the Commons and giving out information, she said.

Heaney said that her group attended the rally to gain attention from the MIT and Boston communities. “What we had hoped for was that people from MIT who didn’t know about MITHC would come to the rally and see us,” she said. About fifteen people associated with MITHC attended the rally.

“We also wanted to give our new members a chance to do something fun,” Heaney said.

According to The Boston Globe, 70 people at the rally were arrested for marijuana possession and sales.