Images by MichaelZai
I’ve been to nearly a dozen MassCann Freedom Rally events, had a blast at all of them, and have even spoke at a few of their annual galas. I’ve also been to marijuana forums in some other cities, plus I’ve participated in more college lectures and symposiums than I can count. They’ve all been valuable in one way or another; the Freedom Rally in particular along the lines of spurring activism. But the first-ever New England Cannabis Convention, held this past weekend in the Hub, was another cup of herbal tea altogether. And I’m not just saying that because my colleagues at the Dig set the spectacle.
In the relatively intimate setting of the Castle at Park Plaza, it was clear how far the Massachusetts cannabis community has come since its strictly underground years. There’s still a significant black market element, and thankfully the people who have been involved with cultivation in the past are powering medicinal efforts, but the counterculture has officially connected with the mainstream. Parents. Healers. Grandparents. Caregivers for folks with any number of ailments. For two straight days they sat and shuffled side by side, sharing tips and teaching one another.
My experience was magical from the beginning. Regular Blunt Truth columnist Mike Cann approached me like a friend in high school delivering breaking gossip: “Do you see who’s walking right there behind you?!? Right over there!”
“Huh?” I figured he was talking about one of the industry icons. Perhaps legendary Bay State activist and caregiver Bill Downing, who was standing 10 feet away in a booth, surrounded by inquiring minds. “No.” Mike was determined to shock me. And then he did. “It’s Bob Lobel. Like, Bob Lobel from television!”
I’m not much of a sports fan, but you don’t have to be a Fenway Faithful to be well acquainted with Lobel, who for generations was the face of Boston sports. He’s a father figure—the public trusts and adores him—so his presence in the hall was awfully significant. As the broadcast icon said to a packed crowd after we lured him for an interview—you heard that right, we got Bob Lobel to join us for a panel about medical grass—he’s the last person anybody ever expected to be sitting up there. Like a lot of other attendees though, Lobel, who suffers from pain stemming from spinal stenosis, thinks highly enough of pot to flank the movement.
At this moment in time, marijuana culture in the commonwealth appears to be reaching more and more of the 99 percent, and probably a few plutocrats too. Listening to experts speak on panels about everything from strain-testing to legalization seemed to be a learning experience for all, novices and pros alike. We joked, we nerded out and discussed policy, we had joint-rolling competitions every hour on the hour. Stay tuned: We’ll be posting lots of content on DigBoston.com over the coming weeks.
Finally, it goes without saying that we shouldn’t need such a convention. Marijuana should be legal in the first place, and doctors should have been prescribing buds for years. That said, we have what we’ve been given, which at this juncture in Mass is a community force intense enough to take these issues seriously, since lawmakers won’t bother. With the likes of Bob Lobel backing the cause, it’s only a matter of time before we have a canna con at Fenway.
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.