Westbrook officials on Monday discussed the municipality’s options for regulating marijuana, with emphasis placed on what would happen if the November statewide referendum to legalize recreational use is approved by voters.

City Council President Brendan Rielly said he would look to ban marijuana in the city if the referendum is approved in November, but city attorney Natalie Burns has said it’s unclear if an outright ban is an option.

“I can’t imagine that we’d want to allow more drug use at the same time that we’re fighting an epidemic of drug abuse,” Rielly said.

The city may look to pass a moratorium in November to give officials time to decide on regulations, but that moratorium would hinge on the referendum results.

Burns said that under the provisions of the initiative, “a municipality could entirely prohibit the operation of retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs for recreational marijuana.”

Much of the conversation also centered on the increased presence of what are known as medical marijuana “caregiver” growing operations, a legal source for medical marijuana patients that is regulated by the state. Caregivers are allowed five patients and can grow up to six plants per patient.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said Westbrook has seen an increase in caregiver growing operations during the last year, including some that the city is aware of that are in industrial buildings. However, due to confidentiality laws, municipalities have limited knowledge on how many caregiver operations exist in their cities.

In the last few months, a number of Maine municipalities have looked at regulating where the growing operations are allowed, including Saco, which gave initial approval to a six-month moratorium just this week. Many municipalities have said they are seeing an increase in growing operations in commercial and industrial areas.

However, due to pending litigation in the town of York over regulations passed there, Burns advised the City Council to wait on any regulations until the York case is decided.


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