The golden dome of the Massachusetts State House shone like a beacon of truth in a fair blue sky for five Emerson Students for Sensible Drug Policy members on a sunny Wednesday, October 14. We followed the glowing orb all the way into basement courtroom B2, location of the legislative hearing before the Joint Committee on Revenue for Bill H2929, a proposal to legalize marijuana as public policy.
We left our school on the corner of Tremont and Boylston at busy 9 A.M., walking through Boston Common. We stopped at the infamous “freedom” monument to suck down three quick jibs, then giddie-upped the street to the State House, where we passed through security with ease, received thoughtful directions from officers to find the hearing room, got Minute Man pot leaf stickers from Steve Epstein and Mass Cann, and finally sat down, taking up an entire bench in a standing-room only hearing hall packed with mostly students. We inadvertently divided our companion activist group, Suffolk University’s NORML, led by Jeff Morris, president, into two rows surrounding us.
Now, I’ve never been within ten feet of a real live legislature. But I was amazed at the understanding I heard coming from these committee members. They celebrated the number of citizens present and asking to be heard. “This is probably the largest number of people at a hearing asking to be taxed,” said Rep. Jay Kaufman, committee co-chair.
They expressed genuine interest while indicating realization that they too, were victims of marijuana prohibition misinformation.
The committee’s reactions also suggested they wanted to change that reality. We watched new thoughts form in the minds of each of the officials as these ideas broke down walls of understanding. The majority of the questions they asked over the course of three hours were being answered by students.
This democracy in action was so exhilarating that I couldn’t resist popping up to speak at the last minute, without having signed up, and without a speech or even a preplanned thought. My hand shot up in the middle of the co-chair’s sentence.
“May I?” I walked up to the speaker’s stand, and just totally gushed. Continuing with the tone set by citizens who testified before me, I spoke the truth straight from my heart and they heard me.
And you know what else? They reacted. People clapped even though they knew they weren’t supposed to (the co-chair had warned us earlier that clapping is against their courtroom policy). The court officer thanked me and shook my hand. It was entirely liberating.
We won’t know the result of these hearings for a while. But I foresee only one outcome for the SSDP groups like ours now forming in colleges all around the country: the joint liberation of Earth’s most valuable resources, cannabis plants and young budding minds.
Ariel Shearer is a student at Emerson College in Boston and the president/founder of Emerson SSDP.