The Saco City Council gave initial approval Monday to code changes that would require medical marijuana caregivers to grow their product in industrial zoned areas unless they were cultivating the plants in their primary residence.

The zoning changes, if approved with a second and final vote, would for the first time set restrictions on caregivers who are growing medical marijuana in commercial spaces.

As the number of medical marijuana patients and caregivers has grown in recent years, it has become more common for caregivers – growers licensed by the state to cultivate marijuana for patients – to grow in larger commercial spaces instead of their homes.

Saco in June enacted a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana caregivers setting up new growing operations in commercial spaces to give the city time to decide which areas of the city would be appropriate for them.

The council voted 5-1 in favor of the proposed changes and set a public hearing date of Sept. 6. Councilor David Precourt voted against the order.

A final City Council vote is required following the public hearing.

The proposed changes would define “growing facilities” as spaces other than a primary residence used by caregivers to grow medical marijuana and require that these growing operations be located in the city’s industrial park district or industrial business district.

City staff had recommended the growing facilities only be allowed in the I-2 industrial business district, but councilors approved an amendment adding the I-1 industrial park district.

The changes also would require owners of buildings leased to caregivers to apply for and receive a business license from the city clerk’s office.

There are nearly 3,000 caregivers in business across Maine, up from around 750 in 2011.

The state cannot provide an exact number of patients because it does not have a registry, but around 48,000 patient certifications have been printed by doctors and nurse practitioners in the past year.

Caregivers, who are licensed by the state and can have one employee, can grow up to six plants for each of their five patients.

Also on Monday, the City Council approved a first reading of a ban on polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam. In approved, the city would join Portland, Brunswick and Freeport in banning the use of polystyrene in food packaging and retail sales.

The ban would not include packaging for raw seafood. The city is pursuing the ban to promote the use of reusable, recyclable and compostable alternatives to polystyrene.

A public hearing on the proposed polystyrene ban will be held Sept. 6.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]