SKOWHEGAN — As he fights off the ravages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, marijuana advocate Donny Christen on Monday told an assembly of supporters outside the Somerset County Courthouse to keep up the fight for free access to pot and to work to change the laws in Augusta.

“The reason we’re here is the fact the plant’s been legalized, they say, when in fact it hasn’t,” Christen, 64, told the group of more than 30 people, bundled up against a raw Patriot’s Day drizzle. “It’s all right for people to have a bag of pot – a little one – but for the people who want to grow it and sell it and help the sick, it’s not over, because they’re going to try to make it three plants or six plants and people are still going to go to jail over this.”

Glenn Lewis smokes a joint and carries a pro-marijuana flag during the annual Patriots Day smoke-in on the steps of the Somerset County Courthouse in Skowhegan on Monday.

New legislation that has passed the Maine House and Senate will soon be headed for the governor’s desk. Christen said he does not support the bill because it simply heaps regulations on regulations. He said he and his supporters want the freedom to grow and use as much marijuana as they want.

Christen, of Starks, said the reason for the protest was to “free the people” from the new “Reefer Madness,” referring to the 1936 cult film about the horrors of marijuana use.

Christen’s annual Patriot’s Day rally at the courthouse is in its 28th year. Attendees carried colorful flags and cloth banners Monday, proclaiming “Use Hemp Daily” and “A Spliff a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.”

As it has been for years, the rally was set for “high noon” Monday outside the courthouse in Skowhegan at the corner of High and Court streets.

Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said his officers would monitor the demonstration and respond if needed. There was no police presence Monday, as protesters proudly sparked footlong marijuana joints wrapped in hemp paper. Others had marijuana candy and cookies, which they happily handed out as free samples.

There were older folks, cancer victims, young people, nonusers, all gathered to support Christen in what he said might be his final rally due to poor health.

Susan Randall, stood and said, “If you think that Donny’s been doing a good job in trying to legalize marijuana and fight for you,” then you should support a GoFundMe page called Breathe for Don and donate money to help with medical expenses.

One of the father-daughter support teams was Christen and his own daughter, Tara Friend, 45, of Starks, holding a hemp oil lollipop.

“I’m so proud of him – he’s an amazing man,” she said. “I am here to support my dad. I’ve always been there to support my dad. That will never, ever stop.”

CJ Douglass, 38, of Headie Eddie’s marijuana candy company of Fairfield and his daughter, Michaela Corson, 20, of Winslow also attended.

“I’ve been supporting Donny since 1995,” Douglass said.

Christen formed the marijuana advocacy group Maine Vocals in 1990. The group grew to include hundreds of members so that by the first Hempstock festival at Harry Brown’s farm in Starks in 1994, there were 12,000 to 15,000 people, he said.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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