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Pot Fest Must Pay For Police


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AMHERST - It looks like the Extravaganja festival held on the common in the spring could turn into a real bummer for its organizers.

The town wants the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition to pay for a police detail to watch over the festival, which seeks to promote awareness about marijuana laws.

And that's not sitting well with members of the coalition, and last night more than two dozen members crowded the Select Board meeting to fight the measure.

Officials had told the group recently they would have to pay for two police officers to cover a full day of activity at the April event. Town Manager Laurence R. Shaffer said officials have discussed at length charging when a private group reserves the common for an event that would require a police presence.

Shaffer said he attended the festival last year and that "a crowd of that size requires a police detail." He estimated about 1,500 people attended.

"The Select Board does have some responsibility for the common," said board member Anne S. Awad, who wanted to know what criteria would be used to determine when a police detail is needed. "I'm very concerned about the liability if this group saw it as a violation of their civil liberties," she said.

"We're going to apply it across the board," Shaffer said. "It has everything to do with budget constraint."

Shaffer said the town is letting all organizations that apply to use the common know fees will now be charged and that groups can apply for a waiver for this year.

This way, the town could "set the table, and transition ourselves," he said.

Coalition member Terry Franklin of Amherst said the group would not be applying for a waiver. He said the "town has no right to impose a fee." He said he's been in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union whom he said "is very interested."

"You can't charge ( for coverage ) of a political event. The Extravaganja is a political event," said coalition president Jonathan Werner.

But Shaffer said the town was not targeting the group. "We're looking to pay for services," he said.

Members of the group will meet with Shaffer later this week and board members want to look at legal documents before scheduling the group to return for a more in depth discussion.

Source: Republican, The (Springfield, MA)
Copyright: 2007 The Republican
Contact: letters@repub.com
Website: MassLive.com
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