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A Beautiful Day To Bake In The Sun


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As students poured out of the dorms to enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend, they may have noticed something different in the air; a funny smell. The copious amounts of marijuana smoked over the weekend, here on campus and around the world, would certainly be to blame.

The weekend was one for the pot heads, starting with the stoner holiday of 4/20 on Friday and continuing with the Cannabis Reform Coalition's (CRC) 16th annual Extravaganja on Saturday. According to organizers, the latter event, hosted on the Amherst town common, drew over 2,000 people from around the Pioneer Valley for a celebration of all things marijuana.

By 2 p.m. the common was packed with participants and observers. A few people came prepared with lawn chairs and coolers but most simply brought blankets, and for those that didn't bring anything, the moist ground was good enough.

The majority of people were seated in over a dozen smoking circles strewn out over the grass. Towards the back, people tossed around Frisbees and played Hacky Sack and Bongo drums and hookahs weren't the least bit out of place. It was one of the few events in which you might see a guy use a pet snake to pick up girls instead of, say, a dog.

While the majority of the participants were students, there was a pretty diverse showing of people from around the area. Kids ran around carefree while parents sat and enjoyed the good weather and music. The presence of such innocence was not lost on anyone.

"Only in the town of Amherst would you find an event like this," observed University of Massachusetts student Will Constantine. "There are all these students smoking, yet families are still walking around without a problem."

Lots of people brought their dogs out which was a welcome addition, except that when you are partaking in illicit drug use in a public area, it can be disconcerting to encounter a German Sheppard or Pit bull. Older hippies watched their generational counterparts while handing out leaflets for various causes.

Lining the edge of the common were businesses and organizations that had set up tents or tables to push their wares or causes. Some were obvious (a wide selection of hand-blown glass pipes) some were a little puzzling (like the Libertarian party) and others, like the guy selling psilocybin mushroom spores, only added to the atmosphere of total disregard for drug laws.

The live music was generally well done with a cross section of stoner-friendly tunes including a bass-heavy jam band, a couple reggae acts and other rock bands. In between sets local performers did their act for the crowd.

Norman B had the crowd going with his one man poetry show, Deviations From the Norm, "War on drugs? If they were on drugs, they wouldn't be going to war!" Then Motown performed some slightly modified old R&B hits.

The CRC also repeatedly addressed the crowd about their ongoing battle in the decriminalization of marijuana. Guest speakers spoke of the importance of bills currently in the Massachusetts Congress.

Senate bill 944 would legalize marijuana for medical uses and protect caregivers from prosecution for giving marijuana to those who need it medically.

Senate Bill 1011 would decriminalize marijuana and make possession of under an ounce punishable by a $100-$500 fine or community service.

This would make possession akin to a speeding ticket (i.e. it doesn't go on anyone's criminal record).

Cards expressing support for the cause were passed out for people to fill in and have sent to their congressional representative.

According to the organizer, at least one person was arrested for possession of marijuana early in the day but reports of others weren't confirmed. Still, visible police presence in the area was minimal.

Uniformed officers mostly kept off the common, while some bike officers hid behind parked minivans watching. Officers in plain clothes were present but mostly passive.

"They're looking for things like open containers and drug-dealing," according to Sawyer. The CRC meets with the Police Chief each year to agree on proper security measures. "This is a peaceful protest and they know that."

The CRC does its own security and when the police notice something they don't like, they bring it up with the club's security team before they arrest.

Extravaganja seemed to be a big success, the turnout was great and the atmosphere was positive. The band played, the sun shone, the people baked and everyone was happy.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Daily Collegian (Massachusetts)
Author: Matthew Cadwallader
Copyright: 2007 The Daily Collegian
Website: The Daily Collegian
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