CASCO — A new medical marijuana business is gaining a slightly higher profile in Casco Village after a local TV report on it, but the owner hopes to engage with community members and address any questions.
Ryan Henderson, 41, of Portland, said this week that he signed a one-year lease in February to start his medical marijuana cultivation facility at the site of Casco’s old Grange Hall.
“This is not a retail facility, it will never be a retail facility,” Henderson said outside of the property at 919 Meadow Road. “This will stay medical.”
Maine has allowed medical marijuana since 1999, and medical dispensaries are now licensed through the state.
Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said the town sold the old Grange Hall last fall when it was faced with a choice: spend thousands to tear the building down, spend even more to refurbish it, or sell it for a profit.
The town ended up selling to building to Hurteau Holdings LLC of Gorham for $48,500.
“When we sold the building, we had no idea what it would be used for,” Morton said this week, adding that he has since heard of concerns from two people who had heard about the intended use and that “a lot of people have been surprised” by it.
A building permit application from Hurteau Holdings approved by the Casco Code Enforcement Officer Alex Sirois in February lists “commercial use” as the project conversion and doesn’t specify the type of business.
“We didn’t understand that when the building permits were taken out,” Morton said.
“I don’t know what to think of it other than it’s a business, and if it’s managed properly, I don’t think there will be any problems for the community at all.”
Henderson said his operation will have 30 flowering plants – the state limit – and that “we’re hoping to be able to harvest some in the fall.”
Entrances to the building have been secured, Henderson said, 12 to 18 cameras have been added and electrical fire systems have been installed, Henderson said.
“It’s a secure space,” he said.
Henderson said he’s heard “nothing but support” in person from the people in town, but is aware of two people who have expressed concerns about his business via a recent story by TV station WGME.
“How in the heck could we approve a marijuana growing space right in Casco Village? We didn’t ask question what this building was going to be used for?” a resident asked during a Casco Selectboard meeting in March. “I can’t believe people in Casco Village are not upset about having marijuana growing right in their own town.”
Henderson said he can understand concerns about marijuana, which he said “has been misunderstood for hundreds of years,” but he encourages people to “look at research” and says he is willing to talk to people in town.
“I think our approach from here is to try to get involved in the town meetings,” Henderson said.
Morton said he is aware of two other medical marijuana facilities that already exist in Casco, and hasn’t heard of any issues with them.
“It’s something that’s going on all over the Lakes Region,” Morton said. “Most of the facilities in the area, people have no knowledge of.”
Morton added that someone else had pointed out the irony of the Grange Hall once again being put to agricultural use.
Henderson said he hadn’t had much of a chance to reflect on the Grange’s history, but said’ “our hope is to have that be part of the story.”
For now, he is a “one-man show,” but he said he wouldn’t rule out expanding his staff in the future.
“I think cannabis could be really helpful to stimulate the economy in the Lakes Region,” Henderson said.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Ryan Henderson of Portland is starting a new medical marijuna cultivation facility at the old Grange Hall in Casco.