The Maine Medical Marijuana Act would outline such a system, providing qualified patients with confidential "registry identification cards" showing that they can possess and use certain amounts of marijuana (2.5 ounces per 15-day period); the act would also create enclosed, locked, "non-profit dispensaries" that would pay a one-time registration fee of $5000, be subject to inspection (with notice), and "not be subject to prosecution, search, seizure or penalty in any manner or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to a civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or entity." In other words, the dispensary and its employees would have some amount of legal immunity — for legal amounts of pot only.

MMPI plans to use the three-day festival as a forum for public education about the ballot initiative.

"This is one of the reasons Harry and his family made the switch," Leavitt explains, referring to Brown's split with former festival organizer and promoter Don Christen. "They had seen our ability to actually carry out a successful signature campaign ... The previous promoter had been doing these for 18 events under the guise of changing marijuana laws, without a single piece of legislation passed and/or a successful signature drive completed."

It's clear that factions have sprung up among Maine marijuana activists. Christen, an outspoken and somewhat less-polished pot proponent, has clashed with Brown in recent years, and now runs his own set of pot-friendly festivals in Harmony (see "Stoned in Starks — For a Cause," by Deirdre Fulton, August 13, 2008).

It's not hard to imagine that Brown is speaking in part to Christen and his groupies when he complains about recent festival attendees and their "nasty music." But he quickly moves on to offer a more general message. "When you give someone a piece of your mind, make sure to save enough for yourself to get by on," he says, giving a preview of what he'll tell the crowd next weekend — that they are less effective when their rhetoric and attitudes get too strident. Too many activists indulge in "ranting and raving," which he describes as "not very good politics."

Both Brown and Leavitt prefer to look forward, rather than back. They talk excitedly about the weekend's "musical line-up [that] reaches beyond the usual fare of jam bands and reggae," and includes roots, Afro-dub, dance performers, and The Scallywags, "a roving band of pirates bringing songs and stories of ghost ships and revolutionaries," according to a press release. There will also be solar-powered stages, arts and crafts activities, yoga, and "Seussland," an area specially created for kids. (Don't fear an overly wholesome atmosphere, however — Late Night in Seussland, "featuring light shows and otherworldly music to send you into waking dreams" doesn't sound like the most sober of lullabies.)

Organizers want the farm in Starks to become "a place where people come and get fully engaged around the issues that are affecting them, create community, be in a liberated space," Leavitt says, likening the festival to Maine's annual Common Ground Fair, which promotes organic farming, gardening and lifestyles in Unity, Maine.

Brown cuts in: "I like that, Jonathan. A liberated zone."

It's hard to imagine Brown living anywhere else.

Deirdre Fulton can be reached at

HARRY'S HOE DOWN | June 19-21 | 45 Abijah Hill Rd, Starks | plus two other festivals later in the summer: Be Here Now, Aug 14-16 | Harry's Harvest Ball, Oct 2-4 | each event ticketed separately: $50, children 8-12 $25, children 7 and under free |

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