Don Christen, a marijuana activist and Maine resident (whose Hempstock festivities I wrote about in August) was acquitted last week on charges of illegally cultivating and furnishing marijuana. The jury decided that Christen, who is also the founder of the marijuana-legalization activist group Maine Vocals, had the proper documentation to show that he was growing the cannibis for not only for medical purposes but for one specific pot-prescribed patient, Carroll Cummings. Christen and his lawyer, as well as marijuana activists around the Internet, hailed the outcome as a victory for their cause.
District Attorney Evert Fowles, who prosecuted the case, told the KJ/MS that on medical marijuana, "we need to go back to the drawing board. We need to first have a discussion as to whether there is any medical viability of marijuana." In other words, people who say they smoke pot for therapeutic reasons are full of it.
Maine author Wendy Chapkis (I wrote about her book, Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine, earlier this month) would likely disagree with Fowle. In a mid-December phone interview, Chapkis admitted that she too she used to harbor the doubts about medical marijuana -- "I assumed that medical marijuana was kind of a joke," she says -- until she started talking to patients. In doing so, she learned that it's not just the physical effects of marijuana that help these patients -- it's also the "psychoactive effects of the drug," which the medical marijuana movement downplays for fear of living up to the stereotypes its worked so hard to dispell. Now, Chapkis sees "the value [for medical marijuana users] in having their consciousness altered -- how crucial it was to their sense of well-being to get high."
In other local pot news, the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, which aims to "decriminalize, tax,
and regulate marijuana," recently announced that it has gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2009.