PORTLAND — Ray Logan has been growing marijuana for 30 years.
When he started, it was a purely recreational — and illegal — hobby, and one he naturally kept as quiet as possible.
Now, Logan is turning his experience and knowledge of the plant into a very public business: Marijuana State University.
Logan is offering three-hour workshops for people who want to learn how to grow high-quality marijuana in their homes. It is the latest business to sprout from Maine’s medical marijuana law, which allows registered patients, caregivers and dispensaries to grow the drug to treat specific medical symptoms and conditions, from intractable pain to AIDS.
Although marijuana can grow like a weed under the right conditions, cultivating medicinal-quality plants indoors takes some know-how, Logan said.
“There’s a huge need for (knowledge), and some people aren’t sure where to get it,” he said.
Logan, 56, taught the first Marijuana State University class earlier this month in Portland. About 15 men attended, most of them registered medical marijuana patients who want to grow their own drugs instead of paying hundreds of dollars an ounce to registered caregivers or licensed dispensaries.
“We’d like to double that (class size), but we were very happy. It was our first time out,” he said.
His second workshop is scheduled for May 7 in Auburn, and he plans to hold future classes in Augusta, Biddeford and Portland.
Marijuana State University is mostly a one-man show, although an indoor garden shop — HTG Supply in Portland — provides equipment for the demonstrations.
The class costs $79, or $59 for students, senior citizens and veterans. It will be a while before Marijuana State University becomes a self-supporting business, even if class sizes do double, Logan said.
“For right now, I just enjoy doing it (and) helping people learn how to grow,” he said.
To prevent conflicts with police, he uses basil and other legal household plants to teach the class. State regulators and police took note of his recent class in Portland, but nothing more.
Although medical marijuana does create some gray areas for police, “it is possible, certainly, to grow marijuana legally,” said Portland police Lt. Gary Rogers.
Education itself is not a concern for the state, although there is some concern that marijuana entrepreneurs could push the law’s limits.
“This program was designed to get patients access to quality medical marijuana; it wasn’t intended as a business for people to make money,” said Cathy Cobb, director of the licensing division for the Department of Health and Human Services. “We don’t want to set up a supply network that exceeds the demand of registered patients.”
So far, the state has issued 982 registration cards for medical marijuana patients. Each patient must have a medical condition specified in the state law, and a recommendation from his or her doctor.
Logan is one of the 982.
He has been a legal marijuana user for years under Maine law, he said, because of a skydiving accident in 1996 that nearly paralyzed him and left him needing daily prescription painkillers that have various side effects.
“I still get a small amount of the meds, but I don’t like being on them,” he said. “I usually just use (marijuana) at nighttime. It helps me sleep, takes the pain edge away.”
Rick Adjutant, one of Marijuana State University’s first students, can relate to that.
The 48-year-old Army veteran has been disabled for seven years because of herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. Doctors prescribed a range of prescription painkillers, which he said gave him violent mood swings.
“It didn’t help with the pain, it just messed my head up,” he said.
Two weeks after trying marijuana, he got rid of the addictive painkillers, Adjutant said.
“I haven’t touched the narcotics in almost two years now,” he said.
Adjutant attended Logan’s first workshop because he wants to grow a few of his own plants and save money. The class answered all of his questions, such as how to raise the humidity in his growing room, he said.
“Anybody can grow it, but to grow a good, medical-quality marijuana you’ve got to know the tricks and you’ve really got to do your research,” Adjutant said.
He hopes the school will show people that there is a legitimate use for the drug. “This isn’t just fun and games for a bunch of drug addicts,” he said.
Marijuana State University is based somewhat on Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif., known as America’s first “cannabis college.”
The school, which offers a range of courses for growers, has enrolled more than 17,000 people since 2007. The money it has made for its founder, Richard Lee, helped finance last fall’s unsuccessful referendum campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use in California.
Logan said he doesn’t see himself becoming the Richard Lee of the East Coast, financially or politically.
“My political views are definitely not attached to this class. I don’t talk about the politics of it or the laws or anything,” he said. “Yes, I’d like to see it legal, but that’s not our focus.”
Logan does share Lee’s goal of making medical marijuana more public and more respectable. He recently took a reference to “higher learning” off the Marijuana State University website (http://marijuanastateuniversity.com), saying it didn’t promote the right image.
“Because of things like my school, people will say, ‘Oh, wow, maybe there is something more to this medical marijuana,’ ” he said. “I think folks are going to see what an amazing plant cannabis really is.”
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: