These days, walking through the Boston Common guarantees any dedicated pot smoker a fit of neck-snap fever.


Our noses are so unaccustomed to smelling marijuana in public that walking through the park can be totally distracting, with that wonderful sticky icky scent causing you to look around, wondering: “who’s got the herb?”


In just two years, this park has completely turned from night to day.


Last year, I didn’t even attend the Freedom Rally, held every September on the Common. The blaze gang and myself were boycotting the concept of the previous year’s “Freedom Rally” at which we witnessed tie-dyed, dread-headed strangers popping up in circles of kids, asking for a toke, and slapping cuffs on any “hippie” they could grab.


Fortunately, I was not arrested at that 2007 Rally. Perhaps it was thanks to staying only an hour because the heavy air of paranoia was too much to smile about.


I did make it out of the Rally and the Common with a few items of value to me: Common Sense for Drug Policy’s Top 40 Public Service Advertisements booklet, a NORML button which I stuck on the outside of my little pink purse, and a business card from a guy that worked for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a card I would keep by my computer for the next two years without really knowing why.


Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Even then their title audibly oozed importance.


Flash forward to October 19, 2009: I bomb onto the Rally scene on a beautiful Saturday, sporting my finest Marley gear, tasteful pot-leaf accessories, and a Flip Cam with tripod. My mission: a video for class.

Everything has changed.

The sun beamed over the baking Common, illuminating eruptions of smoke above the heads of thousands. A radiating force of righteous truth stood behind a table labeled with a banner for Students for Sensible Drug Policy. During a quick interview, Stacia Cosner, SSDP Outreach Director, rolled me up and smoked me at my own game.


Talking with Stacia was like a triple-perc rip. Smooth heatin’ up, and crazy enlightening. She touched briefly on the success of Brown University’s SSDP chapter, to make sure I knew how significant the organization has become. She then devoted her full attention and genuine enthusiasm to empowering my half-doubtful aspirations of starting a chapter at the school I’d just transferred to—Emerson College, located alongside the Common.


My blind fantasy started to act itself out when Stacia sent me a list of email addresses the day after the Rally, collected from Emerson kids who had spoken with SSDP reps and wanted to join up. I used the addresses to invite people into the Facebook group I created for our SSDP chapter, in addition to an email dialogue at


Within three weeks, we had 26 members. On October 14, Emerson Students for Sensible Drug Policy took its first public action as an organized group: we attended a legislative hearing of the Joint Committee on Revenue for Bill H2929—to legalize marijuana as public policy—in the Massachusetts State House in Boston. It was a great day for democracy, with many witnesses: details to follow!



Ariel Shearer is a student at Emerson College in Boston and the president/founder of Emerson Students for a Sane Drug Policy