January 9, 2013

Complaints swirl around Scarborough pot growing business

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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15 Pleasant HIll Rd. in Scarborough Monday, January 7, 2013 where one to the tenants is legally growing marijuana. Some tenants say the smell is bothering them but there is nothing they can do about it legally.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette

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Shawn Swaney of Swaney Lighting Associates in his office at 15 Pleasant HIll Rd. in Scarborough Monday, January 7, 2013. Swaney says the smell of marijuana growing (legally) in the office below his is getting to him and his workers. He wants to do something about it, but legally, he cannot.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette

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If an applicant met local zoning requirements and state regulations, Doucette said, she would have no basis to deny a permit.

Westbrook Code Enforcement Officer Rick Gouzie said he has never issued a permit or gotten inquires about growing in a commercial space.

Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said the staff knows of no caregivers in the city who are growing marijuana at commercial sites.

The state has no authority to monitor sites where patients and caregivers grow marijuana, said John Martins, spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. That means environmental concerns, such as odor complaints, would not fall under the department's purview.

An estimated 800 certified caregivers are registered with the state, but the DHHS does not track whether certified caregivers or growers cultivate in residential or commercial locations.

Outside Pleasant Hill Place, there is virtually no odor. But inside, the smell is unmistakable. It is strongest in the stairway leading to the second-floor offices, where Swaney Lighting operates.

Judi Joy, office manager for Walthan Services, a pest control company that operates next door to the growing operation, said she has smelled marijuana for months.

"I smell it strongest in the morning when I first get in," she said.

Joy said the smell has bothered her on occasion, but she's more curious about the operation than anything else.

"I've never actually seen anyone go in there," she said. "Don't you have to tend to the plants?"

Paul McCarrier of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine said most growers know about odor problems associated with growing and take steps to mitigate them, particularly if neighbors are concerned.

McCarrier doesn't think that Swaney or his employees are feeling any actual effects from prolonged exposure to the smell of marijuana.

"There have been studies of secondhand smoke that showed that someone would have to be inhaling smoke for 48 hours straight to get high," McCarrier said. "The contact high that people talk about is a placebo effect."

And he said people don't get high from the scent of unlit marijuana.

Swaney disagrees, and said at least one of his employees has gone to a doctor for an evaluation.

Swaney threatened to move out of the building, where his business has operated for 18 years, but now says he will stay since the grower is working to mitigate the smell. Swaney said what he really wants is some clarity on the issue.

"I'm not against (medical) marijuana, but I can't believe no one thought that this would be a concern," he said.

Maine laws are subject to change through the legislative process. Bills have been submitted to legalize marijuana outright and expand the list of conditions under which a patient can be certified to use it.

Swaney hopes that a lawmaker might submit a bill to offer some recourse for businesspeople, like him, who have to coexist with a marijuana grower.


Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:


Twitter: @PPHEricRussell


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