First of all, and this should hopefully be obvious considering the title of this post, please note that there is nothing official whatsoever about this compendium. If you plan to counter-protest hate-mongering demonstrators in Boston this weekend, or really if you plan to stand up for your rights on any day, I recommend pursuing resources like “Know Your Rights: Demonstrations and Protests,” a quick and almost universally applicable guidebook published by the ACLU that covers everything from permits to First Amendment particulars.
At the same time, there is some seriousness to this list. Having covered several hundred actions myself over the past 20 years, I am not at all ashamed to say that I have often used marijuana while working that beat—to counter stress, boost creativity, and of course to get in good with sources (don’t pass judgement on that last one before considering the innumerable scoops that materialize over martinis). I hope that pointers on this front will actually be useful for some reporters and protesters, all of whom should prioritize safety before smoking. But for those who do choose to consume in the moment, and who maybe don’t have access to clandestine vape accessories or edibles, this should come in handy…
Or at least as respectful as possible. Like a lot of other smokers, I find it silly that it still seems more acceptable to puff a Marlboro in front of children than it is to light up a spliff. With that said, and I shouldn’t have to tell you this, it’s great if neither could be blown into the face of the young people around. Not unlike a ballpark, major rallies and marches often wind up having a family section of sorts, often near the back and away from potential clashes. And while those may also sound like excellent nooks to get stoned in, if you’re out there demonstrating for a positive cause anyway, then you might as well act neighborly.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Like your kindergarten teacher always challenged, if you don’t bring enough for everyone, then don’t you dare show off your stash in class. I’m not saying that you have to smoke out thousands of your fellow rally-goers or anything like that, but sometimes there’s no better smokescreen than an actual smokescreen. What are the police going to do, arrest all of you? Perhaps, but if they do—especially in Mass, where cannabis is legal—they were probably fixing to rough you up anyway. Considering the precedent of tens of thousands of people inhaling together in relative peace on the last several Freedom Rally weekends, the benevolent smoky mob method should work around here.
BOSTON PARKS RULE
This is one of those tricky scenarios, since anyone who burns around here, and especially those who have been to a Freedom Rally, know that Boston Common—and particularly Mount Michael Malta—are essentially home base for hundreds, if not thousands of pot smokers. Still, I would be even less responsible than I already am for writing this column if I didn’t at least inform you that smoking anything in Boston parks, including the Common, is banned and can get you fined for up to $250.
I will embarrassingly admit that this is something I never thought too much about in the time that I was tracking Occupy from coast to coast like a storm chaser. Or when I was growing up in New York City, basically burning a blunt every time that I walked down the street. But police, a lot of whom tend to hang around protests, are a lot more likely to harass or arrest a black or a brown person for weed than a white guy like me. Several studies show this sickening proclivity. Consider this injustice and apply that knowledge to behavior as needed; if you look like Mel Gibson, for example, maybe wait until the cops clear out before passing your rig to an associate who looks like Danny Glover.
KNOW YOUR PLACE
This can be applied to just about anyone going to any rally anywhere, but there’s no doubt that many cannabis enthusiasts occasionally need reminders that it isn’t always a good time to discuss marijuana policy. People, especially those who are out countering hate speech and President Turd Helmet, are aware of the tremendous and disproportionate toll that the eternal war on drugs has taken on communities of color. And yes, those issues are important. But neither organizers nor the marchers behind them want their actions tarnished by a loudmouthed ganja preacher, especially one who is surrounded by a cloud of smoke.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.