Rally Aims For Change In Marijuana Laws


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Thousands came to the town's common where the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition yesterday held its 16th annual Extravaganja - a protest of current marijuana laws with a rally featuring live music, political speakers and vendors.

Jonathan Werner, 21, a junior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and current president of the coalition, said that the group urges relaxation of marijuana laws.

"We want to decriminalize marijuana in Massachusetts and we want to raise awareness of our legalization effort," he said, adding that he believes the penalties people get for smoking marijuana are unfair.

"The real problem is that besides the actual jail time, there are also other kind of things. This goes into your record and you'll have problems with (landing) a lot of jobs," Werner said.

Brian Castro, 22, Werner's roommate and new member of the coalition, said he had underestimated the event.

"I always knew about these guys, but I didn't really it was this big, to be honest," he said.

Saturday's Extravaganja hosted a tight line up of bands, including Ras John and The Loose Caboose, a longtime Pioneer Valley reggae band, and political speakers, including George D.J. Phillies, who is running this year for the nomination of the Libertarian Party for U.S. president. Phillies called yesterday for an end to the war on drugs, which he described as "a racist war that was started against Mexican-Americans having a good time."

"Elect me a president and we'll make a difference, we'll bring the racist war on drugs to an end," said Phillies, a 59-year-old professor of physics living in Worcester. "I speak for the things the Libertarian Party stands for: civil liberties, education, energy, environment, and ending the pointless war on drugs which is even a bigger failure that the war in Iraq."

The event's previous speakers included lawyers, politicians, professors, doctors, medical marijuana patients, former policemen and students, Werner said.

This year's Extravaganja was dedicated to the founding coalition member Aaron D. Wilson, who died unexpectedly of heart failure this winter at the age of 35. He founded the coalition upon his 1989 arrival at UMass.

"It's like once a year event and I really like to come here," said Bryan R. Howe, 18, of Deerfield. "I've been to this a couple of times before. I really like it, it's pretty laid-back atmosphere. You feel like cops leave you alone in here. I mean, I don't do anything, I just like to be hanging out, watch people, listen to the bands. It's very nice."

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Republican (MA)
Contact: apeshkov@repub.com
Copyright: 2007 The Republican
Website: MassLive.com
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