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Medical-Pot Activist Faces 5 Years For Cultivation


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Marijuana legalization activist Donald Christen faces up to five years in jail after he was found guilty of aggravated cultivation of marijuana.

A Somerset County Superior Court jury found Christen guilty of the cultivation charge Friday, but not guilty of the more serious crime of aggravated drug trafficking.

That verdict capped a weeklong trial in which Christen, an advocate of legalizing marijuana, claimed the cannabis police seized in a November 2004 raid on his Madison home was destined for patients.

Maine is one of 12 states that have medical marijuana laws, although many consider the law unworkable because it does not provide a legal means of acquiring the substance.

A measure now before the Legislature, LD 1418, would create a registry of nonprofit corporations that could provide the drug to qualified users.

Christen, 53, said he did the best he could to comply with the medical marijuana law and said he will try again during sentencing to convince Justice S. Kirk Studstrup that he met the law's requirements. If he is not successful, he said, he plans to appeal.

Prosecutors, however, say Christen, who was previously convicted of furnishing and trafficking in marijuana, was essentially thumbing his nose at the law.

"We have always fully complied with both the letter and the spirit of the medical marijuana law," District Attorney Evert N. Fowle said Monday. "This is Donny pushing the limits and acting in a way that is contemptuous of our law."

Christen is founder of the Maine Vocals, a now-defunct organization that advocated legalizing marijuana. He also organizes a series of rock concerts in Starks with a marijuana theme, including Hempstock and Harvest Fest.

In addition to other patients, Christen said he was growing for his wife, Pamela Christen, who was then undergoing chemotherapy as part of her treatment for cancer. He admitted, however, that he would have used some of the marijuana himself.

Christen said he considers himself a patient because he has a bad back, although he acknowledged he does not qualify as a medical marijuana patient under Maine's law.

People who qualify under the law include cancer patients and people who suffer from AIDS, glaucoma and certain other conditions.

Patients or their caregivers may grow up to six marijuana plants, although only three of those plants can be mature or flowering.

Christen, however, had 13 plants at the time of his arrest, according to police and prosecutors.

Police say he also had more than a pound of harvested marijuana, although Christen said much of that amount was not usable.

The case underscored apparent conflicts within Maine's medical marijuana law.

Not only does the law not offer a legal means to buy marijuana or marijuana seeds, it only allows possession of two-and-a-half ounces.

Christen said one plant alone may provide a user with between four ounces and a pound of usable marijuana. That means that, by harvesting one plant, a grower could be violating the law, he said.

Christen said that when he didn't have his homegrown marijuana to give to patients, he bought marijuana and resold it to them, getting them a better price by pooling their money.

Fowle acknowledged that the current law is poorly drafted and confusing, but said Christen should make changes through the Legislature, not "thumb his nose at the law."

He said his office would ask for an "appropriate" sentence.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Kennebec Journal (ME)
Author: Alan Crowell
Contact: acrowell@centralmaine.com
Copyright: 2007 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
Website: MaineToday.com | Kennebec Journal
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