Crash Barry was the most popular street vendor in Monument Square on Thursday afternoon.
It helped that he was handing out marijuana, and it was free.
The local writer and marijuana entrepreneur gave out small envelopes of pot after announcing the giveaway on social media. The line formed immediately at noon and was about 100 people deep throughout most of the lunch hour. Each person received a single gram of a marijuana strain called Blueberry Euphoria. Barry estimated that he handed out about 225 grams of pot within an hour.
“We’re doing this because we live in a place where it’s legal to give a gift of marijuana,” Barry shouted, prompting a raucous cheer from the line in front of him.
Barry is a well-known advocate for legal weed, and the event coincided with April 20, or 4/20. The number 420 is a universal code for smoking marijuana, a tradition that began in California when a group of high school friends gathered at 4:20 each day to get high.
The date has become a holiday of sorts, and was celebrated in pot-friendly cities around the country with various events, many of them starting at “high noon” or at 4:20 p.m. In San Francisco, medical marijuana businesses planned a 4:20 p.m. countdown and “bud drop,” raining marijuana instead of confetti. Denver planned to celebrate with concerts and a street festival. Marijuana dispensaries planned block parties in Seattle.
The events were partly celebrations that marijuana is now legal in eight states and Washington, D.C., and partly political rallies to maintain the momentum despite lingering uncertainty about whether the Trump administration will just say “No.”
Back in Portland, Bunker Brewing Co. got into the spirit with a “4.20 Party” advertised in a Facebook post that said festivities would begin at 4:20 p.m. “Need we say more?”
ABOUT 225 GRAMS OF POT DISTRIBUTED
Barry’s giveaway in Monument Square also was marketing for his business, “The Crash Course in Cannabis Cultivation,” which offers a $420 seminar on how to grow your own cannabis. He handed out fliers for the class and copies of his book “Marijuana Valley,” a partly fictionalized account of his experiences on an Oxford County pot farm.
Maine voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in November. It’s legal to give marijuana away, but retail sales won’t be allowed until at least early 2018. Adults 21 and older can grow their own plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and registered medical marijuana providers can possess larger amounts.
Use of the drug is not allowed in public – whether as recreation or medicine – although that didn’t stop some people from openly smoking Thursday in Monument Square, including while standing in the slow-moving line.
The 225 grams that Barry handed out Thursday is equal to nearly 8 ounces. That amount of marijuana could sell on the street for about $2,000 or more in Portland, according to a web-based global price index for marijuana called The Price of Weed.
“It’s a holiday,” Barry said. “I wanted to help out as many people as possible because the way the law is crafted, it’s legal for people over 21 to grow, smoke and possess it, but there’s no way to get it.”
Barry checked IDs for most of the people who approached his table. No uniformed police officers appeared to be present at the event or in the square, and the Portland Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On each envelope was a note about the marijuana strain, a plug for Barry’s class and a note about state law.
“This herbal gift must be used in accordance with Maine law,” it reads. “Do not fly airplanes, drive motor vehicles, skateboards or bicycles for 3 hours after smoking, vaping or eating.”
Barry circulated a password – “cannabis liberation” – on social media before the event. Gary Gaskell, 49, of Portland, was one of the first in line.
“I support the legalization of marijuana,” Gaskell said, holding his free package. “It’s come a long way since I was a kid.”
CROWD A MIX OF YOUNG AND OLDER PEOPLE
Nick Hasenfus, 22, of Portland, heard about the giveaway from his girlfriend. He came to Monument Square with his two roommates to see it for himself.
“I had to see it to believe it, but it’s pretty righteous,” he said after making his way through the line.
Keri Robbins, 32, was walking in downtown Portland when she ran into a friend who told her about the giveaway. She headed straight to Monument Square to stand in line. She makes marijuana butter and smokes recreationally, and she has several relatives who use marijuana to treat seizures or cancer.
Robbins gestured to the people in front of and behind her in line. The crowd was a mix of young and old. A few presented their cards identifying them as medical marijuana patients. Some wore suit jackets or business attire; more were dressed casually in jeans or sweatpants. One woman in line early wore a spandex body suit decorated with cannabis leaves.
“You can see the diversity in the line, all different people,” Robbins said.
Not everyone in the square approved of Barry’s idea.
Stuart MacKenzie was downtown for an afternoon appointment when he stumbled upon the giveaway. As the 63-year-old Westbrook man watched the line, he shook his head in frustration.
“This guy should be put in prison,” MacKenzie said. “This guy is giving out marijuana, and the police aren’t doing a damn thing about it.”
Barry handed out envelopes from a gray briefcase decorated with glittery blue letters that read “Sex, Drugs and Blueberries.” After about 45 minutes, he ran out of packages. When he saw more than 70 people still in line, he dipped into what he said was his personal stash. He plucked buds out of an extra jar and a plastic bag, placing them in outstretched hands.
“Happy holidays,” Barry said. “Happy 4/20.”
When even those ran out, he produced a joint that he said contained 8 grams of weed and told the remaining crowd to share it. They lit up and passed the large joint around.
“After 70 years of prohibition, it’s pretty amazing that I can come downtown and hand out a bunch of joints,” Barry said. “It’s a lot, a lot of weed.”
Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: