The Saco City Council took the first step Monday night toward enacting a six-month moratorium on new permits for medical marijuana facilities that will give officials time to determine where in the city such businesses should be allowed.

City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said the council voted 6-1 to move to a second and final reading on the moratorium June 6.

Over the past few months, Saco has seen greater interest from small-scale medical marijuana suppliers, known as caregivers, who want to grow cannabis plants in commercial facilities rather than their homes, city officials said. Saco now has several facilities where caregivers grow medical marijuana, primarily in business and industrial zones.

Saco is joining a growing number of communities across southern and central Maine that are seeking ways to zone medical marijuana growing facilities. Last month, Biddeford enacted a six-month moratorium on new permits.

State-licensed caregivers are allowed to grow as many as six mature plants to supply five patients. However, some caregivers supply larger numbers of patients by rotating their customers and keeping only five active customers at a time. Caregiver applications and patient records are confidential under state law, so municipal employees often don’t know how many caregivers are operating in their communities. There are about 2,225 caregivers in Maine.

Towns and cities are free to adopt zoning rules for where caregivers can grow and sell marijuana, but they have to be careful not to conflict with state law.

In a memo to Saco city councilors, Sutherland said a legal opinion from a city attorney said state statutes do not explicitly forbid regulation of caregivers through zoning.

“The city cannot regulate a caregiver’s business or licensure more than the state can, but the city does have the power, from statute, to regulate where these facilities are located in the municipality,” he said. “The location of these facilities is a pressing issue for the city, due to a lack of regulation for the previous three years.”

Caregivers are different from larger-scale medical marijuana dispensaries, eight of which have been licensed by the state to serve various regions of the state.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian


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