It’s been an interesting month to be Bill Downing. A longtime Massachusetts cannabis activist, he spent the better part of September laboring under two double standards of justice at once, making for a quadruple standard of justice for a very special guy.
First, as a representative of MassCann/NORML, he endured the City of Boston’s dueling permitting standards for use of Boston Common: For most events, there is a smooth and simple process, with permits issued in a timely manner. For the annual Freedom Rally, however, permits were still being withheld a week before the event, with new requirements being introduced at every stage. The afternoon before the wildly successful two-day rally, Downing was in court filing suit against the City of Boston in order to force it to issue the permits—for the sixth time in the rally’s 27-year history. All previous suits have been decided in MassCann’s favor; naturally, this one went MassCann’s way too.
More acutely, Downing continues to endure the state’s double standard of criminal justice. Though a number of vendors sell CBD products—non-psychoactive cannabinoids used as anti-inflammatories and for several other medicinal purposes—in the Boston area with the blessing of the Department of Public Health and without interference from authorities, for Downing, selling CBD has already resulted in police raids on his shop and home, confiscation of his personal assets, and criminal charges (supposedly for selling CBD products tainted with THC). At a preliminary hearing last week, the Commonwealth declined to dismiss those charges, with state attorneys saying they’ll proceed to trial.
One of the biggest reasons to legalize marijuana is to take away the power of the police to bust down any door, saying there’s marijuana inside. The unrelenting persecution of Bill Downing shows just how dear that power is to the police and the state, and that they will never give it up until we wrest it from their hands.
Andy Gaus is a Massachusetts-based cannabis advocate and a member of MassCann-NORML.