The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition is preparing for new leadership following the resignation of its president amid financial turmoil following its annual Freedom Rally festival. 

“The MassCann organization is going through a transition,” wrote board member Jennifer Gaskin in an email. “Grant Smith Ellis was asked to resign by the board and [he] complied last week.”

“The members of MassCann have always been able to lead the organization forward and whatever their decision on the 17th, I know that it will be what is best for the organization,” said Grant Smith Ellis.

Smith Ellis resigned Oct. 28 following a meeting with the MassCann Board of Directors to discuss the finances of the organization following the annual Boston Freedom Rally cannabis festival the previous month, Sept. 18.

Gaskin noted that the organization would be voting on a new president on Nov. 17, and that a new press secretary would also have to be selected. Until then, the remaining board members are collaboratively leading the organization rather than an interim president.

“We are unable to make any further comments at this time,” she said.

Gaskin confirmed that as of Monday morning, Nov. 11, there were officially three candidates for president: current MassCann board member Robert Jeffrey, cannabis activist Chandra Batra and Averyl Andrade, who operates Between the Rows cannabis coop.

One of MassCann’s most well-known functions is organizing the annual Boston Freedom Rally, which is one of the largest of its kind in the country. 

The first Freedom Rally was held in 1989 in western Massachusetts. At the time, it was part festival, part political action demanding cannabis law reform. The annual event has taken place in the Boston Common since 1995. 

Covid-19 forced MassCann to cancel its 2020 rally, which is typically held on the third weekend of September. One year later, MassCann was not even sure that it would be granted the permits for the 2021 event by the City of Boston until 36 days before it was scheduled to take place.

This left the organizers, many of whom were new to planning of this scale, to scramble to make the event happen, according to MassCann Secretary Lorna McCafferty.

“It was really the amount of time we had to plan this and little expenses coming up here and there,” she said.

The event, which is partially a fundraising vehicle, brought in about $150,000 to the organization. Unfortunately for the organizers, the event cost about $158,000 to plan and conduct, according to McCafferty.

“We’re not in the minus, but we spent money that was in the reserves,” she said.

McCafferty was also optimistic about the future of the organization.

“We need some new blood to come in and help with new ideas. I think we have some good candidates for that,” she said.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...