At a recent workshop, Biddeford city councilors continued their discussion on whether to opt in to allow adult use marijuana facilities in the city. They’re looking for more information before making a decision. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

BIDDEFORD — Regulations that spell out odor control and a process for dealing with violations are among issues some Biddeford city councilors say they want sorted before voting whether to opt into allowing categories of adult use marijuana businesses in the city.

The City Council spent about an hour discussing the matter in a recent workshop.

The state is expected to soon begin issuing licenses for businesses that hope to manufacture, cultivate, sell or test adult use marijuana following a 2016 statewide referendum that legalized it. The state would first issue conditional licenses, businesses would then seek municipal approval and if received, would apply for  an active license from the state, according to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

Communities must opt in to allow adult use businesses; which is otherwise prohibited. Biddeford City Council began talking about the issue in January. Some councilors said they would be willing to consider opting in; others were more reluctant.

At a June 2019 workshop, city councilors indicated they were not interested in taking a stance on the matter at that time.

Biddeford Code Enforcement Director Roby Fecteau told the councilors that under the city’s rules for medical marijuana businesses, there had been one odor violation.


In a staff “white paper” on the adult use issue, Mathew Eddy, director of the city’s planning and development department, said two medical marijuana facilities had upgraded their air treatment systems in response to odor issues.

In Biddeford, medical marijuana businesses are zoned to operate in the city’s industrial parks. Councilor Michael Ready pointed out that each of the city’s industrial parks have residences nearby.

“It’s really important to try and solve the odor issues,” said Ready, in part. “It’s important to have guidelines in place.”

Council President John McCurry reminded the councilor that federally, marijuana remains illegal.

“As far as I am concerned Maine is breaking the law” because of the federal government’s stance on cannabis, McCurry said. “But I can respect everybody’s opinion. I don’t know how many people live around these facilities know what the smell is. There’s a different odor between smoking and growing,”

McCurry said the odor associated with growing marijuana is skunk-like.


“I’d put out a postcard to all those residents and ask them to call if they smelled skunk,” he said.

Councilor Doris Ortiz said she believes the city should move ahead. She said 54 percent of Biddeford residents voted in favor of legalizing adult use marijuana in the 2016 state referendum (called recreational at the time.), 44 percent voted no, and 2 percent left that question blank.

As well, she said she would like to make provisions for medical marijuana businesses already located in the city that are looking to convert to adult use.

“This is a growing industry. Let’s step up and take care of the businesses we have now, “ she said. “I feel like down the line we will regret this if we don’t move forward with it.”

In the white paper, Eddy pointed out the demand for growing facilities is substantial, and said the present medical cannabis growing operations in some of the city’s older manufacturing buildings is an effective reuse of what were empty structures.

Fecteau told the City Council that he gets six to seven inquiries a week on the matter.

As the workshop wound down, City Manager James Bennett said staff would prepare an array of information for councilors to consider next, including information on the current businesses’ personal property taxes; water and sewage use per facility as compared to other types of businesses; would speak with police, fire and emergency medical personnel; and look at odor regulations and other matters. No date for a further discussion was set.

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