SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a 180-day moratorium on retail medical marijuana businesses to allow the ordinance committee time to draft rules.

Assistant Town Manager Larissa Crockett told councilors that on July 9, the Legislature voted to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of two bills regulating medical marijuana and medical marijuana caregivers.

The town was advised by attorney Philip Saucier that those laws could create a potential loophole and incentive for caregivers to easily open retail stores in the next 90 days.

LD 238 takes effect immediately. It allows caregivers to operate retail stores separately from their marijuana-growing facilities by simply obtaining a permit from a town’s zoning office, Crockett said in a memo to councilors. 

The second law, LD 1539, would not take effect for another 90 days. It will extinguish the right to obtain a permit and allow the town to regulate medical marijuana caregiver operations. 

Scarborough zoning districts governing retail sales do not exclude medical marijuana. Anyone applying for a permit for the retail sale of medical marijuana would therefore be entitled to receive a permit.

Crockett said Saucier told her it could create a flood of applicants in the next three months if a moratorium were not adopted. 

The ordinance committee will meet Sept. 20 to discuss medical marijuana laws and craft potential local law based on state law, including whether the town wants to allow such operations, where they could be located, and how many would be allowed. 

Committee member Jean Marie Caterina said she supports the moratorium because it gives the committee time to craft laws correctly. 

There are 11 medical marijuana caregivers now registered in town. The moratorium does not affect them because they are already allowed to sell marijuana from their facilities or through home delivery, council Chairman William Donovan said. 

“We have had several current growers express interest in retail storefronts both at their current grow locations and in other areas of town zoned for retail,” Crockett, the assistant town manager, said. “The attached proposed moratorium would avoid the risks and allow for a thoughtful discourse about this topic.”

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.