Medical marijuana goes mainstream with Portland trade show

Gary Catalano stood beside his booth Saturday, pitching the benefits of his aeroponic marijuana growing system at the Home Grown Maine 2012 medical marijuana trade show.

Catalano, who runs Catalano Caregivers and Northern Aeroponics, said being able to grow marijuana legally is a dream come true. He said for years he grew the plant illegally, even though his parents urged him to stop.

“Now I am actually teaching my father how to grow it,” said Catalano, a registered caregiver who under state law may grow medical marijuana for up to five patients.

Catalano was one of dozens of vendors at the trade show, sponsored by the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine statewide trade association.

Held at The Holiday Inn-by-the-Bay, one of the state’s busiest convention venues, the show highlighted just how mainstream medical marijuana has become.

The show featured workshops and forums on such topics as tax preparation for startup small businesses and the latest on efforts to add post traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Certified medical marijuana patients were able to test out vaporizers firsthand, the odor of weed wafting through the connecting corridors.

Billed as the largest medical marijuana trade show in New England, the show came just days after voters in California and Washington became the first states in the nation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. In Washington, people 21 and older will be able to buy up to 1 ounce from a licensed retailer.

In Colorado, people will be able to buy up to 1 ounce and grow up to six plants in a secure area.

Last week Massachusetts joined the list of 18 states and the District of Columbia to enact laws that allow the use of medical marijuana.

Since Maine voters approved the creation of marijuana dispensaries and the cultivation of cannabis for medical use three years ago, a whole industry has emerged.

G.W. Martin, a third-generation farmer whose booth drew crowds of attendees, said medical marijuana has created a whole new sideline at Hogback Mountain Farm in Montville. Martin is turning out Medicinal Mix, an organic compost mix highly prized by marijuana growers, and a water-soluble fertilizer made from baby quail manure.

“I can’t make it fast enough,” Martin said.

Martin also builds and installs $999 marijuana greenhouses. Martin said he has hired two helpers to keep up with the demand for his marijuana-related products. He said at first his parents were worried about the new ventures.

“But now they are into it because it pays the taxes,” Martin said.

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