Pubdate: Tue, 19 Jun 2001
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc
Author: Tom Bell


POWNAL - The promoters of the Cumberland County Hemp Festival canceled 
their Pownal concert after the landowner pulled out of the deal.

Maine Vocals founder Don Christen, framing the issue as a matter of free 
speech, had vowed to hold the rock concert despite being denied a permit by 
the town's selectmen. But Sunday, a Maine Vocals crew came to Andy Jordan's 
farm and began taking away the lumber that was going to be used to build a 
stage for this weekend's concert.

Christen was forced to cancel after Jordan, who was to be paid $5,000 for 
the use of his land, rescinded his lease agreement.

A week ago, Cumberland Country District Attorney Stephanie Anderson sent 
Jordan a letter threatening to seize his farm if police arrested anyone at 
the concert for selling controlled substances other than marijuana.

Jordan said in an interview Monday that he decided Friday to rescind the 
lease, in part because of Anderson's letter but also for other reasons, 
which he declined to specify.

"I just changed my mind," he said.

Jordan met with Capt. Bill Holmes of the sheriff's department around 
midnight Friday and told him of his decision. Holmes went to the farm after 
a Pownal selectman called the sheriff's department and said Jordan had 
called off the deal.

Over the weekend, Maine Vocals changed its Web site to say the concert was 
canceled. It said Maine Vocals "will be pursuing the matter," which 
Anderson interpreted as a threat to sue.

"I think it's fine that Mr. Christen said he's going after me," she said, 
speaking in Pownal on Monday night before a crowd of 100 people. "So he can 
have me!"

"We're behind you," a woman shouted.

Christen could not be reached for comment.

The festival would have featured 28 bands, speakers and educational booths. 
Tickets would have cost $30 each, with the profits being used to promote 
the legalization of marijuana.

The town had voiced concerns about the traffic, trespassing and campfires 
that could accompany the thousands of people expected to descend on the 
rural community of 1,500.

Monday evening, Anderson came to Pownal, where she spoke in the elementary 
school gym.

"Enjoy this weekend!" she said, after telling residents the news.

State law gives Anderson the authority to seek the forfeiture of property 
when the owners are aware that their property is being used for the 
distribution or manufacture of drugs.

Some question Anderson's use of that authority.

Peter Del Bianco, president of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said the 
MCLU is concerned any time public officials take actions that can be viewed 
as intimidating people to keep them from exercising their First Amendment 

If Christen contacts the MCLU, he said, the organization will look into the 

Tom Connolly, a well-known Portland defense attorney and First Amendment 
advocate, said Jordan could have lost much of his farm simply paying for 
the legal fees generated during a fight with the district attorney.

"You can kill free speech with threats of political and criminal 
prosecution," he said.

Daniel Lilley, another Portland defense attorney, called Anderson's threat 
"outrageous." He said he doubted it would stand up in court.

"They have a lot of power there," he said of the district attorney's 
office. "They should (control) it more."

Anderson told the Pownal crowd that it would have been difficult to get the 
evidence needed to prosecute Jordan and seize his property.

Assistant state Attorney General Chris Leighton praised Anderson for her 
"aggressive and appropriate stance."

He said small communities like Pownal don't have the wherewithal to protect 

"We would be in a different place if we didn't have Stephanie Anderson 
fighting the good fight here," he said.

Christen's group holds an annual "Hempstock" festival in the western Maine 
town of Starks each summer. He said he was branching out from Starks to 
take advantage of the larger population in southern Maine.
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