Axios Boston

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Welcome back. It's Friday.

Today's weather: Cloudy and near 60.

ğŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to Axios Boston members Ken Sadowsky and Evelin Calista!

Today's newsletter is 881 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Campuses are on edge — just in time for graduation

Campus police watched over student demonstrators at Northeastern. Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Boston area colleges are bracing for a month of commencement and graduation events while student unrest is near a boiling point on some campuses over the war in Gaza.

Why it matters: A little over a week after the pro-Palestinian student encampment at Northeastern University was cleared by police and nearly 100 demonstrators were arrested, the Northeastern community will gather at Fenway Park for their annual commencement ceremony.

  • Tensions between students and the college's administration are at a fever pitch.

What they're saying: "Things obviously aren't back to normal," civil engineering major Colin Sutherland, who graduates Sunday, told the student paper the Huntington News.

Northeastern University spokesperson Renata Nyul wouldn't say if the school will put restrictions on students' or guests' speeches or ability to express political stances on their mortarboards or graduation regalia, a popular tradition at NEU and other schools.

  • Nyul told Axios in a statement there will be "enhanced student affairs and public safety staffing" at Fenway on Sunday, but would not answer questions about limitations on students' speech.
  • National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan is scheduled to speak at NEU's Fenway ceremony Sunday.

What we're watching: Civil liberties expert Harvey Silverglate told Axios that students who demonstrate at graduation should be constitutionally protected.

  • "The constitution gives us the right to aggravate our fellow citizens and gives the right to aggravate the leaders of our institutions, and our own government," Silverglate said.

The big picture: President Biden defended students' right to protest peacefully Thursday, but condemned aggressive actions on campuses nationwide as students rally against the Israel-Hamas war.

What's next: Emerson College, which had its own student encampment raided by police last week, will hold commencement May 12.

  • Boston University and Tufts University's events are the following Sunday. Harvard's commencement is May 23.

MIT will hold its commencement ceremony May 29.

  • School spokesperson Sarah McDonnell told Axios MIT police and local first responders "will engage in wide-ranging scenario planning ahead of this year's Commencement ceremony" to prepare for situations that could impact the event.
  • McDonnell said in an email MIT does not publicly discuss the specifics of internal safety plans.

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2. Biden moves to ease up on cannabis

Marijuana plants found growing in Southern California in March 2024. Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

The Biden administration is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug as soon as Tuesday, clearing the last regulatory hurdle for a major policy change.

Why it matters: The new rule, which has to be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would recognize medical uses of marijuana and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than other drugs.

  • It would not legalize cannabis outright for recreational use, the AP first reported.

Zoom in: Reclassification could bring some financial relief to Massachusetts cannabis business owners who are struggling with low sales in an oversaturated market.

  • It could enable local shops and growers to deduct business expenses on their federal taxes, similar to state returns.
  • It could also increase banks' appetite for approving loans for individuals and companies in the industry, says Blandine Jean-Paul, vice president of marketing for Ethos Cannabis.

The DEA move would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy, to a Schedule III drug.

  • Other Schedule III drugs, which have "a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence," include Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone, per the DEA.

3. BTMU: Read witness on the morning after

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A Canton firefighter testified at trial that he heard Karen Read say she hit her boyfriend the morning after he was killed. (MassLive)

  • "I hit him, I hit him. Oh my God, I hit him," Read said, according to Lt. Anthony Flematti, though he didn't tell investigators at the time.

The Red Line's partial shutdown that started yesterday was going just fine until a train broke down on the operating portion of the line and messed up nearly everyone's commute. (WCVB)

The Patriots are over Bill Belichick's "do your job" slogan and moving on to a new three-word wonder: "Process... Progress... Payoff." (NBC Sports)

Novartis is buying a Watertown-based cancer treatment startup for $1 billion. (BBJ)

4. 🗓️ Weekender

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Friday

It's prom night at the ICA — the young at heart (and over 21, please) will gather for the museum's First Fridays event for a retro-glam good time.

  • You might even get crowned "prom regent."

ğŸŽ¶ High Street Place's Boston Calling Night gives you a taste of the jams you'll hear at the festival this year, 6pm-11pm.

  • It starts with live sets of artists Bad Rabbits and ToriTori! followed by a DJ spinning tracks from this year's lineup.
  • Tickets are free, but limited.

Saturday

📷 Mass Audubon throws a "pigeon party" — an afternoon walk at the Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan discussing the humble pigeon, 10:30am-12pm.

Celebrate "Star Wars'" 47th birthday with a May the Fourth brunch at the Summer Shack in Cambridge, 11:30am-3pm.

ğŸŽžï¸ The Boston Independent Film Festival runs through Wednesday, so you still have chances to see films like "Rojek," "The Remarkable Life Of Ibelin," "Gasoline Rainbow" and more.

ğŸŽ¶ The Viva Selena! tribute show is back at Club Cafe for its third year, featuring a Latine drag cast, 8pm-9:30pm.

  • Price: $20.

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Deehan enjoys elaborate mortarboard decorations regardless of political bent.

Steph is heartbroken that so few got this Outkast question right.

This newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner and copy edited by James Farrell.