MDEA Photo

A man who told police he was a licensed medical marijuana caregiver is facing charges after drug agents seized 450 mature plants from his residence. Police say his registration card had expired and he had over 400 more plants than he'd be licensed to grow.

Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said in a press release that Lewiston Police responded to a disturbance at 16/18 Park Street in Lewiston, at the former Club Rendezvous, and found several men in a fight. While mediating the incident, officers began to suspect the presence of a large marijuana cultivation operation inside the four story building.

Police questioned the sole tenant of the building, John Katula, age 39, about the pot. He told them that he is a licensed Medical Marijuana Caregiver under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana program. Katula produced a Medical Marijuana Caregiver registration card, but it expired in June of 2013.

DEA agents were called in from the Western District Task Force to assist police in a search of the building. What they found was that three of the four floors of the building were being used as grow rooms. 450 mature, flowering plants were found along with an extensive lighting an ventilation system. Police said there were serious electrical issues involving the wiring of the growing equipment. Lewiston's Code Enforcement Officer also responded and has been in contact with the building's owner. Street value of the marijuana was estimated to be in excess of $100,000.

Katula was taken to the Androscoggin County Jail where bail was set at $5,000. He's charged with Aggravated Cultivating of Marijuana, a class B felony.

MDEA Commander Scott Pelletier said agents are seeing an increase in people taking advantage of the demand for marijuana who are registered Medical Marijuana Caregivers. In many cases, these growers are growing and selling much larger amounts of marijuana than they are authorized to grow. A caregiver is limited to growing for five patients and each patient can only have six marijuana plants. 

Anyone with information concerning this investigation or other suspected drug trafficking should contact the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency or call the MDEA drug tip hotline at 800-452-6457.