Advocate challenging Maine’s medical marijuana law

December 06, 2004

Associated Press, Foster\'s Daily Democrat

MADISON, Maine — A marijuana reform advocate who has been arrested several times is challenging Maine’s medical marijuana laws just as the Supreme Court considers legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes.

Don Christen, who established a marijuana distribution center at his home last October and was subsequently arrested, claims the state’s law legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes does not address a distribution plan for patients.

Christen said he was providing marijuana from his home to five seriously ill people who had received written notices from their doctors. He was arrested last month and charged with growing and trafficking in marijuana.

'The problem is the Maine law is so vague,' he said. 'I expected the police. I knew they’d come.'

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned whether state medical marijuana people who aren’t really sick might abuse state marijuana laws. It debated whether the federal government can prosecute patients who smoke pot on doctors’ orders.

The stakes are high on both the personal and the government level — 11 states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996.

Somerset County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Carl Gottardi, who arrested Christen, agrees that Maine’s law doesn’t fully address how to distribute the drug to people are genuinely benefit from the drug.

'If, for example, a doctor allows that a patient should have marijuana, where do they get it?' Gottardi said.

Gottardi said his drug eradication team is aware there are people with serious medical conditions who can possesses a certain amount of marijuana under law.

'We don’t go around raiding people who have slips from their doctors,' he said.

Christen is the most prominent marijuana reform advocate in Maine. For years he organized Hempstock, an annual festival in Starks to advocate the legalization of marijuana.

When he was arrested last month, Christen had 13 plants as part of what he called his winter medicinal crop. He contends he is legally allowed to grow six plants per patient. His arraignment on the drug charges is set for Jan. 19 at Skowhegan District Court.

Three years ago, Supreme Court justices refused to protect distributors of medical marijuana from federal anti-drug charges.

They are confronting a more personal issue this time — the power of federal agents to go after sick people who use homegrown cannabis with their doctors’ permission and their states’ approval.

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