Pubdate: Mon, 04 Jun 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Associated Press


POWNAL - Maine Vocals' pro-marijuana agenda was not the reason the group 
was denied a permit to hold a concert and rally later this month, an 
elected official in this southern Maine town said.

Sue Mack, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said there were a 
half-dozen reasons the board felt Maine Vocals' plans did not meet the 
requirements of the mass-gathering ordinance.

They included parking considerations and a restriction on mass gatherings 
of this type in the rural zone.

"I believe we had a very open and fair hearing. I thought we bent over 
backward to make it a fair process," she said.

Maine Vocals, whose members employ civil disobedience in their efforts to 
legalize marijuana, plan to defy local government by holding their 
gathering without a permit.

The Board of Selectmen denied Maine Vocals a permit for the Cumberland 
County Hemp Festival, which is scheduled for the fourth weekend of June. 
Organizers said the festival could draw triple the town's population of 1,300.

"Now, instead of fighting for our rights on the cannabis end of things ... 
now we're fighting for freedom of speech and the right to gather," said Don 
Christen, the group's founder.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Department plans to send deputies to the 
scene in case thousands of people do descend on the rural community.

"Some residents of Pownal hope I can put an end to it before it even 
starts, but going back to the constitutional issue, I may not be able to do 
that," said Sheriff Mark Dion. "I took an oath to protect those rights."

Dion plans to meet with District Attorney Stephanie Anderson to determine 
what kinds of offenses could produce arrests that will lead to court 
prosecution and to figure out sort of pre-emptive actions his deputies can 
take to limit the size of the gathering.

Maine Vocals has been holding summer concerts each year in the Somerset 
County town of Starks since 1990. Christen said the group wants to expand 
to southern Maine to take advantage of the large population.

Pownal residents and officials worry that traffic, trespassing and 
campfires could lead to problems outside the festival grounds.
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