Last Saturday, on the Amherst common, a very special event took place. It was called Extravaganja, and it was sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition. In fact, this month’s event was the 20th anniversary of the festival, which includes an agreement with local police that as long as smoking pot was confined to the common, no one would be arrested for possession or use.
Like many community events, Extravaganja featured vendors selling everything from food to jewelry, and happy people playing hacky-sack or Hula-hooping. Unlike every other day fair, however, this one also featured a collection of pro MMJ activists who took the stage to share their views on the use of marijuana (medically and otherwise) in Massachusetts, and across the country.
One such speaker was veteran activist John Sinclair who was arrested 42 years ago because he sold two marijuana cigarettes to undercover cops. He received a sentence of ten years (but was released in 1971), and an eponymous song written by John Lennon (it appeared on Lennon’s album “Some Time in New York City”).
Said John to the press, “I was involved in the first wave of those opposed to marijuana and I spent 2½ years in prison for it. They have filled the jails and prisons with people like us all based on these ridiculous marijuana laws.”
Sinclair also complemented the UMass group hosting the event, saying, he was impressed with their work, and the university’s acceptance of its existence. He also said, “Massachusetts has made some great strides toward decriminalization, but the struggle is far from over. In the end all we really want to do is get high and treat our medical illness and we don’t want to be interfered with by the police.”