SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough Ordinance Committee is drafting an ordinance that will allow the town to opt-in to certain types of marijuana facilities. Presently, the committee is planning to opt-in to all types of medical marijuana facilities, as well as some recreational adult-use facilities.

The committee is not formally considering an ordinance that would allow the town to opt-in to retail storefronts for recreational adult-use marijuana.

“The committee has asked to see ordinance language that would allow the town to opt-in to adult-use cultivation, adult-use manufacture, and adult-use testing,” Assistant Town Manager Larissa Crockett said. “They’ve asked to see language that would allow the town to opt-in to all types of commercial medical marijuana facilities.”

Maine law recognizes eight types of commercial marijuana facilities.

Under adult use: cultivation facilities, testing facilities, manufacturing facilities, and retail stores. Under medical use: caregiver retail stores, registered dispensaries, testing facilities, and manufacturing facilities.

Both adult-use and medical marijuana are legal in the state of Maine. Legislation passed in April/May 2018 structured the law so that individual municipalities decide whether to opt-in to marijuana facilities in their communities.

“They’re now only allowed in if the community wants them,” Phil Saucier, an attorney with the law firm Bernstein Shur, said.

The town hired Saucier to draft the municipality’s marijuana ordinance.

“If you allow them, you have almost unfettered authority over regulating them,” Saucier said.

A municipality cannot prohibit the use of marijuana, medical or personal. It also cannot prohibit caregivers from operating in the state of Maine. Towns can regulate marijuana facilities through land-use zoning and licensing requirements, for example. The town could cap the number of marijuana facilities allowed to operate. It could also restrict operations in residential zones.

“I’ve had about six emails, most of them having to do with locations of dispensaries near schools, or places where young people are,” Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, chair of the Ordinance Committee, said. “I’ve also had a couple people asking, ‘Can’t we stop this entirely? Why are we doing this?’”

Community members came to the meeting to address the council on marijuana ordinance.

“I took a building that was dilapidated and abandoned,” Scarborough landlord Henry Pelletier said. “Today, there are over 100 people working there. I’m at 100 percent capacity.”

Among his tenants are 14 marijuana growers.

Pelletier expressed opposition to enacting an ordinance that would regulate distances between commercial facilities. “I’ve got them door-to-door in a zone where it’s legal. I’ve never had any complaints,” he said. “It’s kind of late in the game to say, ‘Well, you’ve got to be 200 feet apart, you can’t be door-to-door, you can’t do this or that.’ You’d be stopping people from having a livelihood.”

Shelley Pelletier asked the committee not to enact caps on marijuana facilities, stating that the decision to rent to a tenant should be up the landlord. “All I expect is a level playing field,” she said. “I’m the owner of a legal business that wishes to keep operating like any other business.”

Scarborough resident Denise Hamilton urged the committee to consider keeping marijuana cultivation facilities out of residential areas.

“I’m not against a legal business. I’d just like to see the town regulate where they can be,” Hamilton said. “We’re in a predominantly residential area with lots of children, and we have a commercial grow house right across the street. Our problem is the smell. We can’t open our windows, we can’t sit out on our porch or in our backyard because we’re inundated by skunk weed.”

Nick Messer is the owner of Port City Relief, a medical dispensary operating in Scarborough since 2014. “I think you guys should consider the adult-use market,” he said. “There’s been a lot of good actors here doing this in a respectful way. I have 22,000 square feet, and I’ve never had any odor complaints, noise complaints, police violations, or anything like that. We’ve done things the right way.”

Caterina said her philosophy is to not rush ordinances because the lives of those living in the community. “We’re taking our time, and there’s a whole process after us. We’re just the beginning.”

Several municipalities have opted in or are in the process of drafting ordinance to opt-in to marijuana facilities in their communities, including Auburn, Bangor, Bath, Bowdoinham, Eustis, Farmington, Hallowell, Paris, Poland, Saco, South Portland, and Waterville.

The committee is gathering information on how neighboring communities are regulating marijuana facilities.

“I reached out to all the town managers in our surrounding communities,” Crockett said. “Old Orchard Beach, so far, is not considering opting in, and Gorham is being cautious.”

The committee ultimately chose not to explore language for capping the number of marijuana entities in the community.

“We don’t put a limit on massage therapists or chiropractors,” Caterina said.

They chose language for regulating distance between commercial marijuana entities.

“The argument for that would be to prevent a row,” Crockett said. The regulation would be comparable to the Old Port’s required distance between bars.

A first draft of the ordinance will come to the committee Aug. 29.

The committee will host public information sessions on the proposed draft between late September and mid-October. They will release the drafts to the public ahead of time, and the sessions will allow for public discussions and questions.

After the committee decides on a proposed ordinance, the planning board will hold a public hearing. Then it will go to a first reading by town council, a public hearing, and a second town council reading.

Crockett estimated that the earliest the council would vote on the second reading is January 2020.

Evelyn Waugh can be reached at [email protected].

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