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Pro-Marijuana Concerts Have Mellowed


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Along with warm temperatures, longer days and mosquitoes, summer in this rural town brings a full lineup of rock concerts laced with a heavy dose of marijuana advocacy.

Freedom Fest, the first of a six-event lineup of weekend concerts, starts the summer series this weekend and is followed a week later by The Maine Garden Fest. Hempstock, the oldest of the events, is scheduled for August 16-19.

In the 1990s, Hempstock typically drew thousands of visitors, overwhelming the town of about 600 and causing a backlash. Residents adopted a mass gathering ordinance. Police set up roadblocks near the entrance to the concerts, checking attendees for probation violations.

This year, Donald Christen, who started Hempstock almost 17 years ago to advocate the legalization of marijuana, said he expects no controversy.

"We don't want any trouble and we don't cause any," said Christen.

Freedom Fest will feature Jim Weider, a former member of "The Band," and "jam band" Stratospheerius.

Last year more than 500 people camped out at Freedom Fest, said Christen. This year, he said he expects more based on the number of calls he has received.

The concerts are platforms to advocate legalizing marijuana, but they are also money-makers for Christen. After starting out with one -- Hempstock -- he has added additional events over the years.

The Maine Garden Fest, June 22-24 features Strangefolk, which Christen calls one of the top jam bands in the area.

He said organizers send people into Starks to monitor noise levels and nobody parks along the road.

As long as there aren't too many concertgoers, police tend to more or less leave the events alone, said Christen.

"They have one or two pass- throughs ... but they don't have a big presence," he said.

State Police Acting Lt. Roderick Charette, commander of the Troop C Barracks in Skowhegan, said police do take Hempstock into account when planning manpower allocation.

"It is what I term to be a notable event, like the Skowhegan Fair," said Charette. "We will have extra troopers in the area."

Christen's own presence on the first day of Hempstock is in question, however, because of his scheduled sentencing that day on charges of cultivating marijuana.

He did not deny that he was growing marijuana, but said he was growing it legally under Maine's medical marijuana law on behalf of his wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer, and for another friend who also is qualified to use the drug.

Christen, who represented himself in court, said he hopes the judge will see him as somebody who was trying to follow the law but just did not have all his paperwork in order.

"If he gives me something I can't deal with, we will just have to appeal," he said.

News Mod: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Morning Sentinel (ME)
Author: Alan Crowell
Contact: acrowell@centralmaine.com
Copyright: 2007 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.
Website: Pro-marijuana concerts have mellowed
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