Terptown Throwdown festival permits medical consumption

The music and arts fest took over the Spencer Fairgrounds for a trailblazing display of cannabis and community

By Grant Smith

The grassroots fight for cannabis rights in Massachusetts has been raging for decades (and continues to this day in front of the State’s Cannabis Control Commission), but one would be forgiven for thinking the war might well be won after spending some time in Spencer at the first annual TerpTown Throwdown event on Saturday.

Described to me as the “East Coast’s first cannabis and music festival” by organizer Phil Hardy of The Hardy Consultants, the Spencer Fairgrounds played host to a fun filled and joyous gathering despite temperatures topping nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-afternoon.

The mercury readings aside, smiles were abound as attendees took in the sights and sounds; from musical acts (mostly a blend of rock and reggae) to merchandise (glass water pipes, art and clothing) and food vendors (Thai food, pizza and other carnival staples), there seemed to be something for everyone in the cannabis community to enjoy.

And enjoy they did, as Matt (last name withheld upon request) from Assonet, MA described; “This was my first experience at a paid cannabis festival and I can’t say enough about the awesome people, great music and relaxed vibes…I’ll be coming back if they host another one for sure.”

The festival, celebrating all things cannabis, drew an impressive crowd with organizers reporting they were still counting admissions late into the day.

The expansive Spencer Fair Grounds, nestled in gently rolling hills 10 miles outside of Worcester, also proved a perfect setting for the large crowd. There was more than ample room for vendors, media and attendees alike to spread out and relax in the daytime sunshine.

Robert Hawco, co-host of The Hawco and Carnell show on the DisruptBoston network broadcasting live from the media tent, “It’s really the best atmosphere I’ve ever been around at this kind of festival…a great spot that is far enough from civilization to allow us all the chance to relax while also being close enough for a day trip.”

Hawco concluded, “The vibe is really just incredible, almost beyond words…I can feel the love and light from everyone I come across and that is really special.”

Perhaps it was because of that endless positivity and appreciation that even an afternoon rainstorm could not put a damper on the festivities, as attendees were quick to selflessly assist one another to secure tents and other valuables during the passing maelstrom.

A thorough but quickly moving security apparatus was also in place to ensure attendees were 21+, and the small cadre of local police in attendance were mostly hands off as they strolled the grounds throughout the day. There were no reported negative interactions between police and festival attendees.

One interesting aspect of the fully permitted event was the “medicating area”, wherein registered medical cannabis patients were able to consume cannabis after verifying their medical marijuana patient registration with security and obtaining a green wristband (public consumption of recreational cannabis is currently illegal under state law).

For their part, the state’s regulatory body, the aforementioned Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), has been slow to roll out a proposed system for one and three-day recreational consumption licenses (which would allow events such as the TerpTown Throwdown to facilitate social consumption of recreational cannabis for all attendees). That initiative, having been under consideration for nearly a year, was delayed until the fall of 2019 by a 3-2 vote at a CCC hearing in late May following the suggestion of Commissioner Kay Doyle. In its stead, medicating areas such as the one provided  on Saturday in Spencer may well become the norm under an obscure provision of state law (Chap 94G, Section 13C) that allows consumption of medical cannabis in any location wherein cigarette smoking is permitted.

As such regulatory hurdles make clear, breaking new ground in an industry that is only just beginning to have its time in the sun can be difficult for even the most intelligent and well-intentioned industry insiders. However, with the recent rapid pace of change in relation to cannabis laws (and the general societal stigma surrounding the plant) the trailblazing tenacity on display in Spencer on Saturday may well soon come to be the norm in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Grant Smith is a Massachusetts medical cannabis patient, founder of Mass Patients for Home Delivery as well as a contributor to midnightmass.substack.com & The Young Jurks at anchor.fm/theyoungjurks or wherever else podcasts are streamed. 

This article was produced with support from Midnight Mass & The Young Jurks, your contributions are greatly appreciated and help us deliver more local coverage!

The next live episode of The Young Jurks, this Wednesday, July 10th at Verilife - Wareham, MA. Watch The Young Jurks, Wednesday at 2.