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Thousands supporting marijuana legalization gather in Amherst

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/>People smoke marijuana on the Amherst Town Common in 2013 during the Extravaganja festival. The event returns Saturday.

    SARAH CROSBY
    People smoke marijuana on the Amherst Town Common in 2013 during the Extravaganja festival. The event returns Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lazarus White of Townsend, center, and Brandon Pires of Belchertown, right, celebrate, Saturday, during Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Lazarus White of Townsend, center, and Brandon Pires of Belchertown, right, celebrate, Saturday, during Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alisha Linnus of Athol dances to music, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Alisha Linnus of Athol dances to music, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • People purchase "tasty treats", Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    People purchase "tasty treats", Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Friendship bracelets were displayed for sale, Saturday, at Extravaganja. Held in Amherst Center, the event was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Friendship bracelets were displayed for sale, Saturday, at Extravaganja. Held in Amherst Center, the event was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A large crowd gathered Saturday for Extravaganja, the rally held in Amherst Center to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A large crowd gathered Saturday for Extravaganja, the rally held in Amherst Center to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A large crowd gathered Saturday for Extravaganja, the rally held in Amherst Center to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A large crowd gathered Saturday for Extravaganja, the rally held in Amherst Center to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Incense is burned, Saturday, April 20, 2013, at Extravaganja. The event was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Incense is burned, Saturday, April 20, 2013, at Extravaganja. The event was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ariana Waite of Palmer hoola hoops, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana. Waite attended to enjoy the gathering of friends, good vibes and dancing.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Ariana Waite of Palmer hoola hoops, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana. Waite attended to enjoy the gathering of friends, good vibes and dancing.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • UMass student Sae Bluff hoola hoops, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    UMass student Sae Bluff hoola hoops, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nick Cosenze of VT hands over a blunt, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Nick Cosenze of VT hands over a blunt, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nick Cosenze of VT displays a staff decorated with crystals and plants, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Nick Cosenze of VT displays a staff decorated with crystals and plants, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/>People smoke marijuana on the Amherst Town Common in 2013 during the Extravaganja festival. The event returns Saturday.

    SARAH CROSBY
    People smoke marijuana on the Amherst Town Common in 2013 during the Extravaganja festival. The event returns Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH CROSBY<br/>People smoke marijuana on the Amherst Town Common in 2013 during the Extravaganja festival. The event returns Saturday.
  • Lazarus White of Townsend, center, and Brandon Pires of Belchertown, right, celebrate, Saturday, during Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Alisha Linnus of Athol dances to music, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • People purchase "tasty treats", Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Friendship bracelets were displayed for sale, Saturday, at Extravaganja. Held in Amherst Center, the event was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A large crowd gathered Saturday for Extravaganja, the rally held in Amherst Center to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A large crowd gathered Saturday for Extravaganja, the rally held in Amherst Center to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Incense is burned, Saturday, April 20, 2013, at Extravaganja. The event was a rally for the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Ariana Waite of Palmer hoola hoops, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana. Waite attended to enjoy the gathering of friends, good vibes and dancing.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • UMass student Sae Bluff hoola hoops, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Nick Cosenze of VT hands over a blunt, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Nick Cosenze of VT displays a staff decorated with crystals and plants, Saturday, at Extravaganja. The event, held in Amherst Center, was a rally to support the legalization of Marijuana.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • SARAH CROSBY<br/>People smoke marijuana on the Amherst Town Common in 2013 during the Extravaganja festival. The event returns Saturday.

But the thousands of people who descended on the Amherst Common Saturday had the same goal — supporting legalization of marijuana — at the 22nd annual Extravaganja hosted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Cannabis Reform Coalition.

Organizers from the club said they hoped that the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people who came to enjoy the six-hour rally and music festival would act responsibly and avoid conflict with law enforcement, which included three Amherst officers on bicycles who patrolled during the event.

Police Chief Scott Livingstone said before the event that usually traffic is more of a concern than the behavior of people who attend the Extravaganja. For the past four years, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil violation in Massachusetts.

At least one arrest was observed during the festival. Shortly before cheers erupted at 4:20 — a number associated with smoking marijuana — a small group gathered near the edge of the common when one young man was arrested. People took pictures as he shouted expletives at officers who then took him into custody.

A spokesman for the Amherst Police Department said he could not yet release any information about that arrest or any other during the event.

Jeff Alexander, a UMass senior who is the vice president of the Cannabis Reform Coalition said it was more organized this year in planning the event than in recent years, and the police presence was expected.

“I’m just glad we can have an event like this and when we leave, the common will be just like it was when we found it,” he said.

Professor David Lenson, program director for the comparative literature department at UMass, was among the speakers who addressed the crowd between musical acts. He spoke about the history of marijuana legalization and UMass.

Lenson remembered that in the first years of the Extravaganja, there was more tension between rally-goers and law enforcement. “The guys smiling at you on bikes would have been chasing you,” he said.

The crowds cheered at Lenson’s call for legalization: “We will not stop until the day when no one is in prison for a nonviolent marijuana offense.”

Dr. Jill Griffin of Northampton sported a “Medical Marijuana Doctor” T-shirt as she addressed the crowd and encouraged people to ask her questions about medical marijuana.

Many people sat in circles of friends on the blankets that covered the center of the common, amid a slight haze of smoke and distinct odor of marijuana. The largely calm and relaxed crowd became increasingly denser throughout the day.

Some people gathered by the stage and jumped and danced to the music that could be heard throughout the downtown area. Bands included Who’da Funk it?, Deadfish, Downbeat Keys, The Sun Parade, The Mary Jane Jones and BootyStank.

Saturday was also the first day of the Amherst Farmers Market and tents formed a border between the two events. One vendor from the Extravaganja ventured to the market to give the farmers some soap samples.

Jeremy Baker-Plotkin of Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst said that while some of the vendors knew about the festival, not all of them were aware ahead of time.

“Most people have just been rolling their eyes a bit. It is a conversation starter,” he said. “I have had a lot of conversations about legalization today. Everyone has their opinions.”

Matt Biskup of Queen’s Greens of Amherst said that while the presence of the festival did not seem to be helping sales at the farmers market, there were no problems with the two events being held simultaneously.

Alexander said the vendors at the marijuana festival were pleased with the event. They lined the common selling everything from Italian sausage and lemonade to marijuana paraphernalia.

Kathleen Ahamed Broadhurst, who said she has attended the festival for years, this year was present to sell her jewelry with the six-month old Good Life Collective, a group of local artists from western Massachusetts.

“I love Extravaganja,” she said. “I really believe in the message of legalization. My husband has epilepsy and medical marijuana has really had a (positive) effect for him.”

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