For the sixth time in the 27-year history of the Freedom Rally, the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML is suing the City of Boston over its unreasonable refusal to grant permits for the annual Freedom Rally on Boston Common this Saturday, Sept. 17, noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 18, noon to 6 p.m. MassCann has won all five previous suits; this time it is also confident of victory against a blatant effort by the city to stifle free speech.
Other organizers of events on the Common report a simple and smooth permitting process. In MassCann’s case, however, there is no agreed-upon set of requirements from one year to the next. Each year the City presents a new basket of arbitrary requirements aiming to make the Rally more troublesome to produce or less profitable.
Demands have often included hiring large details of police for “security” when MassCann has already hired the Park Rangers, the official guardians of the Common. In other years, the Rally’s hours have been suddenly cut or the dates shifted from one weekend to another. This year a totally new requirement was introduced without warning in the last week of negotiations: that MassCann should admit vendors in the Freedom Rally area who have not been licensed by the contractor in charge of Rally vending, allowing those vendors to sell their wares alongside vendors who have paid for their spots.
But the larger issue is simply this: the City’s constantly shifting set of arbitrary roadblocks has nothing to do with security or prudence and is simply an attempt to disable an event that says something the Mayor’s office disagrees with, namely, that recreational marijuana should be legal for adults to buy, sell and possess in Massachusetts.  In short, it is a direct attack on free speech carried on in broad daylight on the Boston Common, grounds sacred to free speech since the American Revolution and before.
That is what 5 previous court decisions have found. MassCann is confident of vindication this time too.
The Mayor has reason to worry that the message of legal marijuana might be spreading too far for his tastes. Even without the Rally, Massachusetts voters are saying what the Mayor doesn’t want to hear: in a recent poll conducted by WBUR Question 4, the ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in Massachusetts that will appear on the ballot this November, was supported by 50% of respondents and opposed by 45%. If this trend holds, next year’s Rally may convey a message even less agreeable to the Mayor: not that recreational marijuana SHOULD BE legal for adults, but that it now IS legal.