A Badge of Honor: Busted on the Boston Common

As we approach the annual Boston Freedom Rally in mid-September, held on the historic Boston Common, I thought it might be a good time for me to share with the readers the details of a bust I experienced, along with High Times associate publisher Rick Cusick, for sharing a joint at the combined NORML/High Times booth at the 2007 Freedom Rally.

The reality is that marijuana smokers remain the target of aggressive and misguided law enforcement activities in most states today. They read about the newly-won freedoms in a handful of states, and dream of the day when their state laws will become more tolerant; but they are still being busted in large numbers and have to worry that next knock on the door may be the police with a search warrant, about to destroy their homes and wreck their lives, looking for a little weed.

In fact, 749,825 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2012 (the latest arrest figures that are available), and approximately 87% of those arrests (658,231) were for simple possession for personal use; they were just marijuana smokers, not traffickers. Another marijuana smoker is arrested every 48 seconds in this country!

And for each of these unfortunate souls unfairly caught-up in the criminal justice system, the experience is personally frightening and alienating, even if they manage to avoid a jail sentence (and far too many still go to jail).

But my story is a little different; a story of two old men arrested for sharing a joint at the Freedom Rally, with the court subsequently trying to dismiss the charges, but the defendants demanding to go to trial.




22 thoughts

  1. The spirit of Nixon’s hate lives on because of his anti-marijuana policies in the Controlled Substance of 1970. The aggressive and misguided law enforcement officers attack pot smokers before they saw the reds of their eyes.

  2. I don’t understand. NORML and High Times representatives will themselves smoke pot in public, but these organizations support ballot initiatives that keep public use of pot illegal. As long as public drinking or smoking is legal, I think that these organizations should push to have laws for cigarettes and marijuana harmonized. I wonder what state or city will be the first to truly legalize marijuana so that it is treated the same as tobacco or alcohol.

    [Editor’s note: That’s correct, NORML and High Times are keen enough on ending mass cannabis arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations, replacing the failed public policy with tax-n-regulate policies, to support ballot initiatives that also prohibit the public consumption of the herbal drug. The clear gains in public policy reform at the core (ending cannabis prohibition) far outweigh minor political compromises (public consumption).

    Unlike cannabis, tobacco is non-psychotropic. NORML is not against reasonable tobacco use restrictions in public either. Other than selfishness, what justification can one offer to expose people to any form of smoke if they are not participating in the behavior or don’t acquiesce that they’re entering an adult establishment where cannabis smoke is present (i.e., a location specific for adult cannabis consumption like The Netherlands’ hundreds of so-called ‘coffeeshops’)?

    The pubic consumption of alcohol too is severely limited across the United States save for a few small ‘party’ streets, i.e., Austin (6th Street), Key West (Duval St) and New Orleans (Bourbon St.). The lawful public use of cannabis will probably not be too much different or evolve too radically away from existing alcohol/tobacco models.

    NORML and High Times both support the public use of cannabis by adults in private commercial settings (restaurants, bars, ‘coffeeshops’, etc…). However, if public polling does not yet support commercial cannabis venues for adults to responsibly imbibe, and there is clear public enthusiasm and resources to place a legalization initiative measure on the ballot, reformers and forward-looking commercial companies are going to continue to move forward with legalization despite not every policy reform ideal being accomplished in one fell swoop.

    Reforms today are the foundation for more reforms and greater freedoms tomorrow.]

  3. Keith, you are right on the money about so many of the cannabis community seeing the newly acquired freedoms in Colorado and Washington, and wanting them in our states as soon as possible.

    I’m looking to the upcoming election, and how things go in Oregon & DC. The prohibitionists have dispatched Sabet to Oregon to spew his hate against the cannabis community there. SAM will get some print and sound bites on the air waves, but some new upbeat, pro-cannabis documentaries on CNBC and CNN, a la Trish Regan on the money side, Dr. Gupta on the medical side, will be a great ratings boost when they premier and reruns. Nothing keeps up the drumbeat like reruns. Pro-cannabis documentaries keep voters up to date and how cannabis can help their cash-strapped states, all the while refuting prohibitionists and aiming to undo the damage done to the legalization momentum by such groups as SAM.

    Saw on national news the U.S. is having a heroin epidemic. The average age of a heroin addict is dropping, meaning a lot of young people are getting hooked. Same thing was reported about Pennsylvania.

    Apropos, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter is supposed to sign the cannabis decriminalization legislation, according to KYW News Radio 1060.

    A bit farther east, the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is supposed to vote on legalizing medical marijuana on Tuesday, September 9th, although it still won’t be legal at the state level.

    Here’s the link to WGAL TV’s website with the full report:


    The Pennsylvania legislature is due to return September 15 for its fall sessions, and there is supposed to be a veto-proof majority for pending medical marijuana legislation. There is MMJ legislation in both the state House and state Senate. I checked the legislature’s website for what might be scheduled for upcoming sessions, but couldn’t find anything at all about MMJ. I’m hoping they vote, and it gets legalized before the election this November. Governor Corbett won’t sign the legislation because he is for ONLY low CBD for children who suffer from seizures who can benefit from it, and everyone else be damned.

    In the hopes that the MMJ does pass, I am then hoping that Corbett loses the governor’s seat to Tom Wolf, and then that Wolf expands MMJ California style or something much less restrictive. New Jersey’s and New York’s medical marijuana laws are far too restrictive. Christie isn’t going to expand it, and Cuomo, that other governor with presidential aspirations, isn’t going to stick his neck out and expand his state’s either, although I don’t know why because Americans overwhelmingly approve of medical marijuana. Definitely not presidential material, Cuomo and Christie need to “evolve” or they never deserve to get elected to any public office ever again.

  4. Regarding the heroin epidemic, a separation of the soft drugs market and the hard drugs market, such as that advocated by the Trimbos Institut, Utrecht, Netherlands, occurs when people seeking cannabis, the 3rd most popular recreational drug after tobacco and alcohol, buy cannabis at a place that does not also sell hard drugs. Legalisation means people looking for cannabis will not have to buy it from dealers who are selling weed out of one pocket and heroin, crack, meth as well. A legal and regulated market means you don’t have to worry about dealers mixing heroin or some other shit in with the weed to get you hooked on hard drugs, and you avoid their offers and their pressure to get you to try hard drugs. If cannabis is legal, and all they are allowed to sell is cannabis, you have a separation of the cannabis market from the illegal market that is still peddling hard drugs.

  5. The legalization of cannabis should be the basis of a national political party again. And this time let’s not get stoned before the convention.

  6. “The pubic consumption of alcohol too is severely limited across the United States save for a few small ‘party’ streets”

    You’ve got to be kidding me. right? Did you not go to college? There are drunk people up and down the street in my town ALLLLLLLLL NIGHT LONG. There are 3 bars on 1 block of street, and they give out coupons for free/extra drinks. Same way with the next town over, and the town after that. Let’s not short ourselves now.

    [Editor’s note: College towns are replete with alcohol violation citations for open containers and public intoxication every weekend school is in session…because what the offenders are doing is illegal.

    Again, there are very few strips of land in the US where the public use of alcohol is sanctioned and local customs encourage such.]

  7. It is easy for you to say, …”badge of honor” as you have a job to go back to and are not judged by an employer.

    How about being a veteran who hasn’t worked in multiple years now all because I have a, “…badge of honor” as well.

    I suppose it all depends on your perspective…

  8. @anonymous: Keith makes the point very clear that he did not have as much to lose as the average marijuana consumer, which draws out the humorous irony of the confused law enforcement when they realize the hunter became the hunted.
    As far as consuming marijuana in public places and reducing violence, I foresee public vaporizing bars full of marijuana at stadiums and the NFL finally changing their marijuana policy after November elections. Did anyone read the article in the Times opinion by Nate, former Broncos tight-end? Classic. The whole point on pushing pills that kills while NFL players get less suspension for synthetic heroin and domestic abuse than they do for a non violent pain-controlling joint that kills no one was an awesome argument for legalization.

    We need more articles like this from the front lines showing role models that will lead us out of the valley of Prohibition and set our people free.

  9. Please, tell us: what is the potential consequence, of, ‘saying those forbidden words,’ in court? Is it a potential charge of contempt? Can you cite any such case? Do only members of the Bar risk getting in trouble? From lawyer William Penn, to non-lawyer NJWeedman, I don’t find any example, made. Thank you.

  10. Brother editor,

    It’s just not every time school is in session, in fact, its a mix of both college students, underage people, and adults getting drunk. The cops just take them to the drunk tank. The next 2 towns over ARE NOT college towns, and they have just as many people drinking and walking around as we do. I was recently in Nashville a month ago, it was 4 P.M. and people EVERYWHERE were drunk walking down Broadway. It was annoying. I saw at least 5 people crawling around. One guy stopped to help a girl. He was like “you’re going to get raped, let me take you to the hospital before something happens”

    [Editor’s note: Indeed, public drinking and drunk behavior…all illegal. Some towns enforce their laws with vigor, others, not so much. Same too with tobacco. Probably same too with cannabis as it is legalized state-to-state. In the end, it is all largely about local mores and values. Where permissive views prevail, cannabis use in public will be tolerated, where public attitudes (coupled with bylaws and enforcement priorities) are not keen on the herb being used in public, reasonable and fair civil penalties are expected.

    Variables remain however, such as the still grey area in public health and consumer choice of ‘vaporized’ products like e-cigs or vapor pens. Still evolving…watch this space.]

  11. Keith,
    You draw me out to “watch” the vaporizing progression of our marijuana movement. Now you’re old school… And I love a good rolled up joint now and then. But because of the illegality of marijuana… Combined with the fact that mothers and wives with children don’t like the image of a man with smoke in his face pinching a roach with his lips vacuuming in the last traces of smoke at a family barbecue… (Not naming names)… It’s quite a bit more discreet to vaporize or at least use a one-hitter. I didn’t believe in this propaganda until I caught my wife at a family barbecue standing next to some of my old friends from Austin who we’re using vaporizers tied around their necks… Right next to my wife!
    Now let me explain: my wife is a traditional Mexican woman… Raised…for good reasons… To avoid “marijuanos” at all costs. Getting caught up in using marijuana in Mexico is the equivelant of my U.S. Colleagues getting caught up working for the government: you never see them again!
    But vaporizing? It’s not even on a traditional Mexican woman’s radar! The irony is when she was hurting with labor pains with our first born we went to see a curandera, (healer). The curandera rubbed some healing oil she provided to the local church and with a few motions while my wife was on her knees she turned the baby and said “the baby was in the wrong position. She is facing the right way now.” Immediately my wife’s nausea was gone. I asked the curandera what was in the oils? Olive oil and marijuana, among other herbs.
    The public consumption of marijuana is all about perception. If we wish to consume marijuana, in whatever form, politely and effectively, we are going to have to resort to vaporizing, oils and other forms of ingestion than the traditional smoking joint. Don’t get me wrong, God how I wish I could share a joint with my brothers in peace more often and not have to deal with the redicilous repricussions of piss testing or the scrutiny of certain female partners who we love… But times are changing fast. And if there’s a Super Bowl with a bar full of vaporizers waiting to change the violent nature of the American game we call legalization, than so be it; game on.

  12. I’m tired of the double standards and miss guided facts about marijuana and comparing it to street drugs and alcohol. This is a plant given to us by God that requires no intervention by man to produce it’s benefits. Cocaine, heroine and alcohol have to be processed. Yes, they are plant based but they are not used in their natural form. It’s all because of our governments prohibition that these recent synthetic and life threatening forms of drugs have appeared on the streets. Just look at what Meth has caused and what a process it takes to produce, let alone it uses pharmaceuticals to make it. All one has to do with marijuana is “dry it”.

  13. @Keith, I appreciate the understanding I gained from you provoking @Julian’s report of ethnic conservatism at the border and why he appreciates the trend toward vaporizing– nothing on the planet looks worse than a “good old joint” and the reason is that in the eyes of children and naïve good folks every joint and every picture of a joint is a $igarette advertisement.

    We cannabinoid progressives ought to be more aggressive taking on the worst crime in the history of the human race, 200,000,000 deaths since 1853 from the H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide Combustion Squares format. Don’t you see– degrade, destroy that 700-mg monster and NORML will get a $1.5M No-evil Prize and a US Govt. Department named after it.

    (Don’t get me wrong, tobackgo per se ain’t evil, a 25-mg single toke every day or two is o.k. Or substitute alfalfa, basil, chamomile, damiana, eucalyptus etc.)

    Here’s another wacky suggestion: have an expert cartoonist show you and Bob Marley sharing a toke on a two-stemmed one-hitter (two 12-inch flexible pvc tubes, a little over a penny an inch).

  14. Why treat cannabis like alcohol or tobacco. Do all the strains of cannabis cause numbness? NO! Does any strin of cannabis cause complete intoxication as alcohol does? Not even close! Then why equate this plant to alcohol? i would like to plant my cannabis in a green house but my government makes me a criminal if i do so and can seize all my property. Bloody alcoholic politicians!

  15. @Why – The reason so many of us advocate for treating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol is because it is a way for people who are clueless about what marijuana use is really like to take a step forward towards legalization. That is to say, many who would be completely against outright legalization, might be okay with treating it like alcohol.

    Of course, those of us in the know, fully realize that alcohol is the FAR more dangerous substance…

    By the way, even though the proper name for our favorite herb is cannabis, we continue to call it marijuana simply because those same clueless people would have no idea what we are talking about if we used it’s proper name.

  16. @Keith, I just wanted to make sure you know how much I appreciate what you do; you’re bigger than the big Lebowski; the work you do and are doing is contagiously inspiring. No buts about it. You’re a real rebel and I’m proud of where you’re leading NORML at this crucial time in our nation’s history.
    @mexweed, when I first wrote my response here I had just read the wonderful opinion article by Nate Jackson in the New York Times regarding marijuana in the NFL. I was so shocked by how many injuries he suffered, bones broken, torn muscles… Literal constant pain. Then my mind wandered into the future seeing Stadiums filled with marijuana vapor bars that even NFL players could use at half time. How about the half-baked half-time report from Nate’s Bud Bowl? And then I started seeing that seem in the Big Lebowski where Jeff Bridges is smoking a joint in a bath tub with whale music in the background and I thought, “Well, that’s good too.” Some things work in private, and others in public.
    Getting back to the pain in football, it dawned on me that the average player uses pain killers and alcohol to manage their pain, not because they don’t prefer to treat themselves to marijuana, but because they’ll get suspended if they fail a random piss test. So instead of consuming non violent marijuana, which some players do anyway according to Nate, our NFL players are using pills, steroids and alcohol to treat their pain! What a violent cocktail of hell our laws have served upon the players of our favorite pastime.
    In an increasingly public world, where video cameras are on our phones activated by google chrome apps and God knows who else as we write on them, (I cover mine with tape) we are becoming horrifically accosted by the ugly truth of prohibition. We NEED public venues to consume cannabis. If we have to use vaporizers to avoid second hand smoke to minors, so be it.

    One thing is for sure; Watching an NFL player violently beat his pregnant fiancé is a lot uglier than watching him pull the last smoke out of a roach on the sidelines. Let’s Put THAT in a marijuana superbowl commercial.

  17. Hello Miles, “By the way, even though the proper name for our favorite herb is cannabis, we continue to call it marijuana simply because those same clueless people would have no idea what we are talking about if we used it’s proper name.”

    Both names are equally “proper” to use, but people don’t get the difference. Cannabis is not a “proper name”, but Latin name. All different species of animal, plant, fungus or protist used to be designated with a Latin Bionomial. They still get designated with a bionomial, but it doesn’t have to be Latin anymore.

    So there are plants which the name _Cannabis_ refers to which have nothing to do with marijuana, but are siblings species or varieties. However, all kinds of marijuana are a valid within Cannabis. In time, we will have more types of Cannabis than just marijuana and hemp. In the future there will be varieties of Cannabis that are used for different applications; like perfume, oil/fuel, industrial materials, ect. No one will think of these plants as “marijuana plants” either when they are going in to our gas tanks, not our smoking pipes.

  18. “Bios” = life

    “Nomos” = name

    Maybe the answer is to refer (as in “reefer”, “riefer”, “reforestation” etc.) to tokeworthy herb as Cannabis ameriwana (note praiseworthy nationalist spelling).
    Man’s best friends:

    cannabis– canis

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