A Badge of Honor: Busted on the Boston Common

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel September 8, 2014

    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 responses to “A Badge of Honor: Busted on the Boston Common”

    1. Jeremiah says:

      Maybe you guys should start a advertising campaign informing people of their rights as a jury member.

    2. Joel: the other Joel says:

      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.

    3. Cleveland Green says:

      You Sir.
      Are a rebel with a cause.

    4. Cupishere says:

      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.]

    5. TheOracle says:

      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.

    6. TheOracle says:

      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.

    7. Sam says:

      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.

    8. AlaminoCasino says:

      “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.]

    9. Anonymous says:

      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…