beginning an interesting story — Hemp activists get the joint jumping

Boston Herald, Sept 16, 2007


Two of the nation’s leading advocates for legalized marijuana were arrested on Boston Common yesterday for lighting up a joint during the Boston Freedom Rally, a pro-hemp event that promotes decriminalizing the drug.

R. Keith Stroup, 63, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Rick Cusick, 53, an editor at High Times magazine, were charged with possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. “We were smoking a joint behind the booth here,” Stroup said. “I’m sure the police would rather be chasing real criminals. We’re both productive, hard-working taxpayers.”

High Times and NORML are co-sponsors of the annual rally that celebrates pot culture and traditionally results in dozens of arrests of addle-brained youths who mistakenly believe it is legal to toke up for just that day.

“A lot of them said they thought it was an amnesty,” said one of the cops at the makeshift booking area where plainclothes police led the shame-faced youths who were caught smoking reefer. The 60-plus arrested found it was not only not legal for that day but would cost them a day in court.

Despite the number of arrests, while Stroup was onstage telling the crowd about his own arrest he also prompted the audience to “stand up, light up and let the world know how you feel.” The advice was heeded by men who identified themselves as Anthony Martins, 22, of West Bridgewater, and Josh Hatfield, 22, of Weymouth, and passed a joint back and forth during Stroup’s speech.

“No, I don’t think it’s legal,” Martins said, when asked if he thought there was an amnesty. “It’s something I’m proud of. It’s not like I’m a heroin addict.”

Asked why he was smoking pot, Martins said, “To fight the power.”

Stroup, who was arrested once before 24 years ago, said he and Cusick were relaxing and smoking a joint in the park, an activity he said was no harm to anyone.

Both men said police treated them well and professionally during the booking process.

“I’ve been waiting 33 years to get arrested,” said Cusick, chuckling. “When it happened I was calm, like a monk. I told them I’d call my lawyer, but he got arrested with me.”

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