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40,000 in Boston for Pro-Pot Rally

October 3, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ With swirls of marijuana smoke wafting through the air, about 40,000 people poured into Boston Common on Saturday for a rally supporting legalization of the drug.

Police, who had vowed a crackdown on the 9th Annual Freedom Rally, arrested about 40 on drug possession charges. That’s far fewer than the 150 arrests at last year’s event, which attracted about 10,000 more people.

``The cops were trying to intimidate people from coming ... but I don’t think it worked,″ said Bill Downing, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.

At one police checkpoint, Amy Cook and three other students prayed for pot smokers to turn away from drugs. ``They’re going to do what they’re going to do. But they might see us and think twice later,″ she said.

Doug Goudreau, 19, of Peabody, said marijuana was plentiful at the rally _ at about $5 per cigarette, or $20 to $30 for a small bag.

The police, he said, missed a lot of the dealing.

``They don’t know what’s going on,″ Goudreau said. ``They look for the fools who are acting stupid.″

Tie-dyed shirts, mushroom-shaped hats and marijuana-leaf motifs were everywhere, as was the unmistakable odor of pot _ masked occasionally by the smell of tobacco or clove cigarettes.

Richard Elrick, a councilman in the Cape Cod town of Barnstable, sold ``Decriminalize Marijuana″ buttons to help raise money for the cause.

``Marijuana is less of a public health threat than alcohol or tobacco,″ he said. ``I can’t think of a more counterproductive way for society to spend its resources than to arrest marijuana users.″

On the west side of the park, 16-year-old Jake Sealine of Cambridge displayed homemade didgeridoos _ a musical wind instrument. Many mistook them for marijuana bongs and Sealine had to explain himself again and again.

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