Medical marijuana center planned for Rockland

Westervelt describes plans for Main Street building
By Louis Bettcher | Apr 03, 2018
Photo by: Louis Bettcher On April 2, Nick Westervelt stands in front of the building at 500 Main St. where he will open a medical marijuana center.

Rockland — A large, long-dormant building in downtown Rockland may soon be re-purposed by local entrepreneur Nick Westervelt as a medical marijuana facility at 500 Main St.

With a tentative opening date of July, the center will accommodate patients who have medical marijuana cards, with the plant as an alternative pain relief treatment. The space will also feature a glass studio. Situated on the corners of Main and Lindsey streets near the Rockland Ferry Terminal, Westervelt plans to name the business “Scrimshaw” -- the term for the intricate technique of carving the bones of marine mammals developed by sailors centuries ago.

The 14,000-square-foot building has a brick-and-glass facade, but has gone through a number of permutations over the years, including serving as a Baptist church and a woodworking factory. Parts of the original chapel date back to 1830 – decades before Rockland was incorporated. But in recent years, the massive building has been vacant, and has primarily served as a storage space for antiques and furniture.

“This building has been a bit of an eyesore in the heart of downtown Rockland for years, and it's exciting to rejuvenate something so historic. I'm hoping the community will welcome a thriving business there that will revitalize the building and give Rockland another boost,” Westervelt said March 29, adding that the Scrimshaw medical marijuana center will likely only encompass a third of the massive building's space.

Westervelt, who lives in Lincolnville, filed paperwork March 14 with the city of Rockland to open the center. The Rockland Planning Board was scheduled to review the application at its Tuesday evening, April 3, meeting, with a formal public hearing and final vote set for May.

In February, the Rockland City Council approved an ordinance that would allow medical marijuana production facilities in Rockland, and last month Westervelt signed a 10-year lease on the property. He said when some people hear of a marijuana business opening, their initial reaction is to panic, but he points to towns such as Waldoboro, Unity, Gardiner and Belfast – all of which have similar facilities.

“I hope to gracefully enter this community without making a big stink, and I can guarantee that I will do that. People worry that things will get out of control, but that hasn't happened: the sky does not fall," said Westervelt, whose goal is to destigmatize medical marijuana and provide a dialog and a service through which patients feel comfortable seeking it out.

Born and raised in Maine, after college Westervelt spent much of the last decade building a farming business in upstate New York, and becoming a major supplier of quality meats to New York City restaurants. Westervelt said he made the decision to return to Maine to apply his entrepreneurial savvy to the growing marijuana industry, and received his certification as a marijuana caregiver four years ago.

As a caregiver, Westervelt can accommodate five patients with medical marijuana cards at a time. He currently employs five individuals part-time to help with his growing operations, and he counts his mother as one of his best employees. Westervelt said he hopes that in the future, as new marijuana laws make their way onto the books, he will be able to significantly increase the number of people he employs.

“The [marijuana] industry is great for Maine, because it is drawing a lot of young entrepreneurs back to the area. A lot of people in their 20s and 30s are working multiple jobs,” said Westervelt, who believes businesses such as his own will amplify the younger workforce and have a positive effect not only in Rockland, but throughout a state known to have a predominantly older population.

“I am someone who is willing to sit down and talk about these issues, and speak about removing guilt and shame from something that's become a major part of health care in Maine; a lot of people are using marijuana as a natural solution to pain management that wasn't available before,” Westervelt said.

Over the coming months, Westervelt will be working to renovate the space at 500 Main St., and the plethora of antiques and objects that now covers the floors will soon be sold in a public sale. One design aspect he is exploring that would set Scrimshaw apart from other medical marijuana centers in the state would be an indoor, glass-paneled growing room, which would allow visitors and patients to see the plants bearing their future treatment supply upon entering the facility.

The overarching theme of Westervelt's project, however, is to provide pain relief to people in the community, and move forward with the city and the state as legislation legalizing uses of marijuana evolves.

“I hope to be an easy conduit for people to find some more natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals, and I hope to educate. I hope that everybody emerges a little more knowledgable and tolerant of this issue,” Westervelt said.

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