LINCOLN, Maine — Maine needs more legal marijuana growers, Paul McCarrier says, and that’s why his organization will offer the Lincoln Lakes region’s 200 recently laid-off millworkers a chance to learn the job for free.
Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine estimates that despite the state having about 1,300 licensed growers, the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of maladies doctors treat with marijuana greatly increases an already pronounced need for growers, said McCarrier, the organization’s legislative liaison.
“Right now there is definitely a need for caregivers to support patients,” McCarrier said Thursday. “It is kind of tough to give any numbers regarding the kind of concrete need there is because there is no mandatory patient registration, but we still get requests.”
Estimates have placed the number of unregistered but legal patients and registered patients at about 13,000. Growers typically make $30,000 to $50,000 annually, according to McCarrier. Many of the patient requests for marijuana come from rural Penobscot, Washington and Aroostook counties, McCarrier said.
“We easily have had over a dozen in the past month alone,” he said.
Normally, the caregivers group charges $30 for its classes, but the informational session in Lincoln will be free to millworkers, with priority given to area residents, officials said. The session will be held 6-8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, at Lakeside Art Gallery, 9 Main St.
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 were not available on Thursday.
The law limits growers to five patients or clients each.
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.
The 2012 report lists eight registered dispensaries in Maine. The locations nearest to Lincoln include Brewer, Ellsworth and Frenchville. McCarrier said there is one grower in the Lincoln Lakes region and that the group hoped to develop more there through the free seminar.
Lincoln Paper and Tissue officials announced in early December that an explosion of a recovery boiler at the mill on Nov. 2 forced the indefinite but not permanent layoffs. The company will not seek to replace the boiler, a key element to the papermaking components of its mill, until market conditions improve. Such boilers can cost as much as $100 million to replace.
The mill’s three tissue machines continue to run, company workers have said.
In a petition the company filed on Dec. 16 with the U.S. Department of Labor seeking job retraining and employment services for the 200 affected workers, company officials also disclosed that the loss of a tissue contract to an Indonesian firm caused the job loss. The last of the layoffs was due to occur by Dec. 19.
The federal government approved retraining program funding for Lincoln on Jan. 17.
Maine has allowed the use of medical marijuana since 1999 on a grow-your-own basis. It established the current nonprofit dispensary system with a second statewide referendum in 2009.