Marijuana fest – Extravaganja – draws fans to Amherst Town Common –

Posted on: April 28th, 2012 by admin No Comments


AMHERST – An eclectic blend of aromas filled the air around the Amherst Town Common Saturday when a large group of marijuana enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the 21st annual Extravaganja festival.

Sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Cannabis Reform Coalition, the event featured six live bands and five guest speakers in addition to the many vendors who lined the edges of the field selling everything from glass pipes to hemp food products.

“It is a demonstration of how much support there is for the legalization movement both in town and on campus,” said the event’s organizer and coalition member Alexander Delegas. “We are trying to show the lighter side of the issue.”

Capt. Christopher G. Pronovost, of the Amherst Police Department, said that the event would not receive any special treatment from law enforcement and that both state and local laws would still apply. “If wee see people openly smoking we will cite them,” said Pronovost.

Possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is a civil offense that carries a $100 fine. Distribution of the drug is a felony, “and passing a joint could technically be considered distribution,” according to the coalition’s website.

There were still many in the crowd who decided to smoke, and even some who brought large water pipes along. Many were open about their smoking.

While uniformed officers were not circulating through the crowd, they did issue citations to people opening smoking marijuana on the outskirts of the festival.

“The police want us to exercise free speech so they work with us on that,” said Delegas. He pointed out that marijuana has been officially de-prioritized by the Amherst Police Department for several years.

For Kevin Clark, of Greenside Up Gallery in Boston, Extravaganja is one of many similarly oriented festivals that he attends each summer. This season he plans to travel for 30 weeks selling his glass pipes and smoking accessories across the East Coast. And he is not alone, many of the vendors present at the festival travel to together.

“It is really a subculture of free thinking and free-willed people,” he said. “We are like a nomadic traveling herd.”

Glass merchant Steve Cambria, of Fishbowl Glass, has been attending the festival for 10 years. He said that he was surprised by how large the event has grown. “It shows how many people support (marijuana),” said Cambria. He said he feels it is especially important for young people to become educated on the issue because they will be the ones to create policies concerning the drug in the future.

Owner of Happy Hempsters, Kirk Jaskoviak, has been attending Extravaganja for three years in order to promote alternative uses of the hemp seed. He sells many hemp enhanced food items such as smoothies, protein drinks, energy drinks and even lollipops at his stand.

“I want to normalize the concept of cannabis,” said Jaskoviak. “It is not just a drug.” He uses the oil from the hemp seed in order to infuse his food with omega acids and protein to create a “well balanced food source.”

“I am here to support the cause more than anything,” said Jacqueline Richard, of Sterling. This is the first year that she has attended the event, and she brought a box of homemade baked goods to sell.

“There are always people who have a stigma towards the cannabis culture,” said Delegas. It is his hope that events such as these will eventually influence policy surrounding the legality of the drug. “I believe any one who does research will find that it is one of the least harmful substances,” said Delegas. He said that he has received overwhelmingly positive responses from people so far concerning the event.

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