When he's teaching pot-growing classes at places like the Ramada convention center in Saco, Ray Logan doesn't use actual marijuana plants for demonstration — he substitutes basil or pepper plants, whatever's available that day from High Tech Garden Supply, the hydroponics store on Portland's Rand Road that provides the equipment for the class. After all, while the former magician-turned-skydiving instructor-cum-marijuana maestro isn't too concerned about ruffling law-enforcement feathers ("I'm sure my name's up on a list somewhere," he said during a recent interview in Portland), he does wants his institution to be taken seriously.
The 56-year-old medical-marijuana patient, who lives in Gorham and has been growing weed (illegally at first, now legally) for more than 30 years, is the headmaster (and currently the only employee) of Marijuana State University: An Institute for Cannabis Growing Knowledge. He's hosted two local seminars so far, and there are more planned for the summer. His class in early June, which had 22 attendees, was streamed live online to nine additional students. As the medical-marijuana industry expands and evolves in Maine (there are more than 1400 card-carrying patients and 260 registered caregivers, according to John Thiele, the state's medical marijuana program manager), what is now the equivalent of a one-room schoolhouse could become an educational enterprise in just a few years.
"It's fun," the salt-and-pepper-haired teacher admits. But it's not all Half Baked hilarity. "It's a pretty diverse group. You can tell there are no kids there 'just to grow dope'" — he uses finger-quotes here, for emphasis — "I've had cancer patients, I have AIDS patients. It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile."
The three-hour workshops consist of a PowerPoint presentation taking beginner and intermediate pot-growers through the process from seed to cultivation, from soil to hydroponics (growing with water and nutrients, without soil), from techniques to troubleshooting. Then Logan, who loves talking about pH levels and humidity, but not so much about pot politics, opens up for questions. Participants (who pay $59-79 per class) leave with a reference CD that could help identify and fix problems (such as bugs, fungus, or brown spots) down the line, as well as a one-time discount from HTG Supply, to help them set up their own systems.
"This class will be loaded with more useful information than you may care to know but it truly will bring your growing skills to a high level," Logan says on his website. "Every aspect of growing marijuana will be examined and you will be taught the hows and whys of the necessary skills it takes to grow a trouble free crop that will reward you with the quality and quantity of marijuana that is only limited by your space and equipment.
"We have over 30 years' growing experience," he adds. "Not corn, not peas, just growing excellent marijuana."
Logan's Marijuana State University isn't the only educational institution of its type. The first "cannabis college" in the United States was founded in 2007: Oaksterdam University, in Oakland, California, which offers everything from a 13-hour weekend seminar program to a 13-week semester program, covering horticulture, legal and political issues, ingestion methods, economics and "cannabusiness," and patient relations. It's kind of like the Harvard of herb.