SCARBOROUGH — After the Dec. 4 Town Council Meeting, where a proposed commercial marijuana cultivation ordinance was presented, some members of the public have reached out to the council with concerns about odor.

The ordinance, which will be voted on in January, proposes allowance for marijuana cultivation and manufacturing in The Rural Farms District, the Pine Point Industrial Overlay District, the Industrial District and the Light industrial district, said Town Planner Jay Chase at the Long Range Planning Committee on Dec. 6.

Manufacturing would be allowed in Haigis Parkway, Pine Point Industrial Overlay District, the Business District, Office Research, Crossroads, Industrial and Light Industrial districts, said Chase.

Cultivation would have to be done indoors, inside of a covered area, and odor is required to be mitigated, he said.

When it comes to odor, however, residents in and adjacent to the Rural Farms District have been complaining about the potential smell that could come from these farms and manufacturing companies, said Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, especially after the proposal came up at the Dec. 4 meeting.

At the council meeting, Marvin Gates, a resident on Black Point Road, asked if there were a type of device that could detect odor.

“The language can be as strong as you want to make it, but there’s no enforcing mechanism,” he said. “What I’m saying, probably the bottom-line of it, is there needs to be some enforcement mechanism applied to 10.A.7, structurally. Maybe, you need 10 people out there at the same time. There needs to be some definition, it seems to me, above and beyond that its up to the property owner to figure it out. That’s just an argument waiting to happen.”

The Long Range Planning Committee brought up Gates’s point at its meeting, noting that odor is subjective.

“Odor is very difficult to regulate,” said Chase. “It came up at the council meeting that the town will just buy a piece of equipment that can detect odor. From my understanding that doesn’t exist.

“The question is,” he continued, “is that something that this committee, whose charge is to look at land-use regulations, is that something we feel needs further exploration?”

The committee didn’t express much concern, however. The members cited other commercial farms as examples of odor mitigation.

“We want to treat everybody the same,” said committee staff member Karen Marin. “If there’s an odor-regulatory environment for one industry, it should be the same: as chickens, or anything else. We just want to be sensitive. We know this is an emerging industry and we’re going to learn a lot. I just think that people in the industry are incredibly super sensitive about doing things correctly and making the best impression as possible. I just want to make sure we’re doing everything fairly. There are some parts of Scarborough that are rural, and if rural is considered farming, we want to treat everyone equal.”

Caterina said that she thinks many of the complaints come from a perspective of hysteria around marijuana use.

“Personally, I think if we stay with whatever the odor regulations are right now for any business, it will work its way out,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of hysteria about it and they’re blaming it on odor. But that’s just my opinion.”

She continued, “citizens aren’t well-educated on it. They know marijuana smells ‘awful’ because they’ve had experience smelling it. Again, ‘awful’ is a subjective term. And someone was circulating this awful story about some town in California where people just went out and converted their greenhouses into marijuana cultivation, but there wasn’t any odor control and it just overwhelmed the whole town. So a whole group of people just wound right up.”

There is also a distinction between hemp, which is hard to differentiate and is not regulated, said Chase.

“It’s the same plant as far as the eye can see and it smells the same,” he said. “But we can’t regulate hemp. I think that needs to enter in this equation and discussion around the smells. I just want to be sure that the cultivation we’re talking about is in a building and has to have odor mitigation. I’m not trying to sway either way, but I think it needs to be understood that the councilors will be getting lots of calls around the odor issue.”

At the council meeting, Chase said that the manufacturers would need to renew their commercial licenses each year, and part of that renewal would involve a check-in to make sure that everything is up to code, including odor mitigation.

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