WATERVILLE — Daniel Hall went to his medical marijuana store last week and walked into what he described as a nightmare.

A back window had been shattered with a rock and jars of marijuana and medical marijuana products — about $10,000 worth — were missing.

“I was doing my thing and I was like, ‘Why is everything messed up?” said Hall, the owner of Green Thumb Organics on Armory Road. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?'”

Waterville police are investigating the alleged break-in in late September, which Hall caught on camera, but he said the incident also points to a larger security issue facing Maine’s growing marijuana industry.

“Everything is so broken,” said Hall, 30. “They’re allowing us to do this, but they’re not allowing us to protect ourselves.”

Maine is in the process of creating rules to govern the recreational marijuana market since voters opted to legalize cannabis in 2016. In many communities, local ordinances and moratoriums have slowed development of the retail marijuana market as municipalities work to develop their own marijuana regulations.

But in the meantime, security for the industry remains largely unregulated .

For the most part, caregivers haven’t seen widespread break-ins or thefts, but the industry does face unique security challenges with the legalization of marijuana and pop-up of more stores, said Catherine Lewis, chairwoman of the board of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine Trade Association.

“That we’re supplying a federally illegal product I suppose would make (theft) attractive to some people, but I think the biggest thing is the banks not taking the cash,” Lewis said. “I can’t imagine people are leaving huge sums of cash around their stores, but you do have to take extra precautions.”

Even in states where marijuana is legal, federal law prohibits marijuana users and caregivers from owning firearms, a move some say stands in the way of caregivers being able to defend themselves.

Likewise, the federally regulated banking industry largely prevents marijuana businesses from having access to traditional banking.

Some caregivers, particularly those who grow crops outside, have been targeted for thefts — a problem Lewis said appears to be getting worse even though people now will be allowed to grow their own marijuana legally under state law.

She also said the state’s opioid crisis has helped fuel break-ins when they do occur, since marijuana, while it can be used to treat opioid addictions, also can be sold for money to buy other drugs.

At Green Thumb Organics, Hall has installed his own cameras and created a “safe room” with keypad entry since the break-in, where he stores his products overnight.

He also doesn’t keep money in the store overnight, but rather at a storage facility.

In a similar case, Jerry Cyr, who owns Norridgewock Springs Medical Marijuana Caregiver Center, said his store in Norridgewock was broken into about two weeks ago and robbed of $25,000 worth of marijuana.

He reported it to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office and installed a security system with motion sensors that will activate an alarm and automatically call his phone in the event of another break-in.

“I’m not upset as far as myself,” Cyr said. “I’m upset for my customers and patients, that they don’t have the medicine they need. I know it will take me a year and a half to get back to where I was.”

Lewis said it’s smart for all caregivers to take precautions, especially given that law enforcement is just catching up to the new rules and regulations around marijuana.

“We need to all work together and make their jobs easier to prevent theft and make sure we’re all safe and secure,” she said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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