PORTLAND, Maine — Instead of Ash Wednesday, it was more like Hash Thursday as Maine’s high priest of weed, Crash Barry, handed out free pot, along with copies of his new book “ Marijuana Valley,” in Monument Square at high noon. An orderly line of hundreds stretched out from his small table under the Civil War victory statue.

To get the free sample, all you had to do was prove you were over 21 and say the magic, not-so-secret password “cannabis liberation.”

The date was, of course, 4/20.

“I’m giving everybody a present of a book and one gram of cannabis in celebration of Maine’s first, legal 4/20, which is kind of like Christmas, Easter, New Year’s and St. Patrick’s Day all rolled together for the cannabis community,” said Barry.

Maine’s new marijuana law took effect in January. Broadly, it allows adults to possess and use the drug as long as they are not in public or operating a vehicle. Also, it’s not yet legal to sell it, hence Barry’s gift-giving.

Karen McGuire of Portland was near the head of the line.

“It helps me with depression, pain, keeps me off the dope — heroin,” said McGuire, after getting her envelope of weed from Barry.

Jason Boucher of Portland dumped his green buds into his hand, sniffing them with relish and declaring them a good score.

“I was going to get lunch and then somebody said there was free pot here,” said Boucher.

When Barry ran out of the 225 individually packaged samples, he began giving out loose buds from his own stash. The remaining line of about 50 people cheered this move. When that was gone, Barry gave the throng a foot-long joint to share amongst themselves.

Barry smiled as a man in a red hat fired it up while a woman chanted, “Suck, suck, suck.”

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.