(Ed Andrieski, Associated Press file)

Small-town Massachusetts cannabis advocates: “People are afraid to make their voices known”

July 19–MILFORD — On the grass of Draper Park Tuesday evening, Lynn stood among a group passing a marijuana joint around, taking turns to take hits.

She uses the drug primarily to cope with Crohn’s disease, she said.

But although she uses it for a medical condition, Lynn said she still finds that marijuana use is still generally a taboo subject for others.

She declined to provide her last name out of fear in getting in trouble with her employer.

It’s an issue that advocates like her that want recreational marijuana shops to be allowed to operate in Milford say has dampened open public support for the cause from their fellow residents.

“I think a lot of people are afraid of coming out and voicing her opinion,” Lynn said.

About a dozen residents assembled at the Main Street park Tuesday, holding signs and smoking marijuana to garner support ahead of the Sept. 19 referendum, which will ask the town whether it should ban the sale of marijuana.

The rally, organized by the Citizens for Responsible Cannabis Retail Sales, is the second in the past month launched by advocates who say the referendum vote is out of line and unnecessary.

“If you’re going to have alcohol sold…you should have marijuana shops available on the same circumstances,” said Bryant Hopkins, who came out to support the cause.

He said he does not use the drug, but noted that a majority of Milford voters were in support of legalizing recreational marijuana when state voters approved it last November.

Local voters passed the ballot question by about 500 votes, with nearly 54 percent of the state opting in favor of the legislation, which also allow towns and cities to ban marijuana businesses.

“I find (the referendum) a very cynical move on selectmen,” Hopkins said.

Both Tuesday’s rally and one that was organized last month drew about a dozen in attendance, though many advocates — some who were present at both events — say the turnout is not representative of the number of people who support allowing stores in Milford.

“We’ve talked to people directly and they’re concerned with coming out,” said advocate Glenn Wiech.

He cited a 2016 Gallup poll that indicated 13 percent of American adults use marijuana and 43 percent of Americans say that they have tried it at some point in their lives.

But he said some are afraid to voice their support for the cause publicly often because of fear of being stigmatized or punished by employers or other organizations.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re in that situation now,” Wiech said.

With legalization in Massachusetts, he said he hopes the taboo will be lessened in the years to come.

Many rally attendees wore a name tag with “Joan” written on it to symbolize solidarity with those who could not speak up.

“People are afraid to make their voices known,” Wiech said.

Christopher Gavin can be reached at 508 634-7582 or cgavin@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @c_gavinMDN

Information from Milford Daily News