Mayor Walsh issues statement following Boston Freedom Rally


Ashton Chan, at right, of Waltham smokes with Michael Gordon of Framingham Sunday at the Boston Freedom Rally for legalized marijuana Sunday, Sept. 16 on Boston Common. / Photo by Riley Robinson

By Guy Ovadia, news correspondent

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the Boston Common was left in poor condition after a pro-marijuana event.

The event, which was organized by marijuana advocacy group MassCann, is officially called the Boston Freedom Rally. It is an annual event which was held from Sept. 14 to 16.  

“As a city, we take tremendous pride in our public spaces, and the conditions we saw in the aftermath of this weekend’s Boston Freedom Rally . . . are both appalling and unacceptable,” Walsh wrote in a statement on Sept. 17 on 311, a local complaints site. “The Boston Common is a beloved place in our city, as it is America’s first park, and we expect that all event organizers and vendors respect this public space, because it belongs to all of us.”

City Council members Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim said that the event needs to be relocated next year in a meeting on Sept. 26. The Friends of the Public Garden, a neighborhood group, wrote that the rally left behind piles of trash and hypodermic needles and caused damage to the grass with vehicles.

*Quote Statement from Liz Vizza, Executive Director, Friends of the Public Garden:

“The Friends of the Public Garden strives to keep Boston Common in great condition for all to enjoy, so we are both disappointed and frustrated that the Freedom Rally left this public green space in disarray. Moving forward, we hope to meet with organizers to share expectations and establish a solid action plan to avoid any issues in the future.”

Although MassCann denies most of these claims, the litter issue is a valid concern they plan to address in subsequent rallies. In a Sept. 17 Facebook post, the organization acknowledged the mess, calling those who perpetrated it “animals,” and thanked those who volunteered to help clean it up.

“We posted our own image on Sunday evening as vendors were cleaning up,” said Maddie Kinsella, MassCann’s press secretary. “We want to make sure this does not happen again next year, but it’s the only valid complaint they had.”

Kinsella said MassCann’s goal is to hold vendors and the concessions company they work under liable for their waste management. The organization will begin imposing fees on vendors to ensure they are keeping their areas tidy and is planning a recycling initiative next year.

Kinsella said that some claims, such as those that say the Common was littered with hypodermic needles after the rally, mischaracterize the entire event. In fact, she claims that legal marijuana reduces opioid overdoses. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s website, states with a legal cannabis industry experience fewer opiate overdoses than states without it.

“Boston has an opioid problem, so you can find that stuff everywhere,” Kinsella said. “States with a medical or legal cannabis industry see reductions in opiate overdoses by 23 percent.”