SANFORD — Tuesday night’s City Council item about medical marijuana was supposed to be about moving inspection dates and requiring licensees to reimburse the city for costs associated with notification of public hearings, as other businesses do.

But it turned into a conversation about the odor that can emanate from a medical marijuana grow — even though the grow itself is happening inside a building.

The odor issue was introduced by Councilor Fred Smith, whose cleaning business is near a mill where several medical marijuana growers lease space.

Smith said the odor doesn’t linger outside every single day, but it does on many days, and most times, he gets a headache.

He said the odor smells like skunk.

He said he is working for one individual who plans to sell his house in another area of town because of the marijuana smell.

Mayor Tom Cote said the city has made many accommodations for medical marijuana industry growers, “yet there continues to be an odor problem.” 

He urged residents to report if they have marijuana odor issues in their neighborhoods.

“We don’t want to drive out existing people because the neighborhood reeks of weed,” said Cote.

Grower Isaac Ellowitz said he wants to comply, but said he’s had no luck with the Sanford requirement that speaks to having a Maine certified mechanical engineer sign off on an odor management plan. Ellowitz said he can have an odor management company design a system for him, but that in itself won’t meet the requirement without an engineer’s stamp.

Following the meeting, Ellowitz said engineers he’s talked to primarily do work in the federal sector — where marijuana remains illegal — or their speciality isn’t in odor abatement.

City Manager Steve Buck said the city was working with folks in the industry to bring forward a solution, which he said will come at the Dec. 5 meeting. 

Smith, for his part, said he believes marijuana is a product that should be grown “in the middle of the woods.”

“When there are multiple growers in a building, how do you know which one it is,” producing the odor, he wondered.

Ellowitz said he has designs from three odor abatement companies, but the engineers he’s talked to won’t sign off on a system they haven’t designed, nor, he said, do they feel they have the expertise to design one. Others are wary of jeopardizing their federal contract work.

“If I can hire an odor management company, I can buy (the system) tomorrow,” Ellowitz said. “I want to move the ball forward, hire a company and let them solve the problem.”

The City Council’s zoning subcommittee will take up the issue when they meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.

As to the inspection date change, the council held a reading of the plan and are expected to hold a second reading and vote on that issue Dec. 5.

 — Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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