LINCOLN, Maine — Andrew Libbey likes the idea of growing marijuana legally.
The Hannaford Supermarkets butcher and Mattawamkeag resident was among 75 people who attended a free Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine seminar at Lakeside Art Gallery on Main Street on Monday night.
“You could work at home and not necessarily have a boss,” Libbey said. “It [marijuana] is out there. It’s always been available [illegally] and it’s not like it’s a huge thing.”
Libbey’s biggest fear with his potential new line of work: being arrested by police, he said.
Medical Marijuana Caregivers held the nearly three-hour session to help laid-off Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC workers find a new line of work in what promises to be a growth industry, said Paul McCarrier, the group’s legislative liaison.
Northern Penobscot County has one grower between Bangor and the upper reaches of Aroostook County selling marijuana legally for $175 to $250 an ounce, McCarrier said. That’s enough, within the state limit of as many as five patients per grower, to make $30,000 to $50,000 annually, he said.
The price was $250 to $300 per ounce in 2010, he said.
“I am really impressed by the turnout,” McCarrier said. “It shows me that there are a lot of people here interested in finding a new career.”
He called medical marijuana “Maine’s largest new growth industry.”
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services issued 1,311 caregiver cards to treat 1,455 voluntarily registered patients in calendar year 2012, a department report states. More recent numbers are not available.
Legally treatable conditions include cancer, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, and Nail-patella syndrome, Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine’s website states.
A man who identified himself as an experienced legal marijuana grower said the business is just like any other small enterprise or farm. All of the hazards a business and a farm would face, and all the guile good business requires, must be part of the mix for a grower, said the man, who declined to identify himself because he feared his crop would be targeted by thieves.
“Success depends on how hard you work, how smart you are,” the man said.
Prospective growers who pass muster can expect to get their permits, which cost $300 per patient, from the state DHHS in four to six weeks, McCarrier said. The law allows six mature plants and 12 immature or growing plants per-patient on hand at any one time.
Outdoor growers must have a 6-foot fence surrounding their crops. By law, they and their employees can be the only people allowed to access the plants, McCarrier said.