BIDDEFORD — Biddeford City Council made changes to its existing marijuana ordinance that allow testing, cultivation and growing facilities as conditional uses in more zones, but it prohibits adult use retail stores in the city. The changes, approved Jan. 19, allow the facilities in the Industrial 1 and 2 zones. A proposal to allow such facilities in the I-3 zone was defeated. Only the existing use, allowing marijuana caregiver retail stores — which replaces medical marijuana retail stores — will be allowed as a conditional use in the I-3 zone. These facilities will also be allowed as conditional uses in the I-1 and I-2 zones.

New definitions were added to the ordinance, some were changed and others were eliminated. For instance, the term medical marijuana dispensary was eliminated in the ordinance but the term marijuana caregiver retail store, which allows the sale of marijuana to qualifying patients, was added.

Another change to the ordinance increases the distance that marijuana facilities must be from other buildings to 500 feet, although existing buildings are grandfathered and do not have to adhere to the increased setback.

Initially some on the council wanted the 500 foot setback to apply to a facility if it was sold and changed hands, but others  felt it was unfair to take away the use from businesses that had invested money into such uses.

“It’s just basically, innately unfair,” Councilor Norman Belanger said.

Michael Hunter, who said he owns three marijuana facilities on Hill Street said he was concerned if grandfathering was removed.

“Our tenants have contributed very significantly to this use,” he said.

Other councilors also said they were against removing the grandfathering because it could be illegal.

“I think we’re going to run into legal challenges” if grandfathering was removed, Councilor Amy Clearwater said.

City Attorney Keith Jacques agreed. “Taking away grandfathering could be problematic,” he said.

The biggest concern councilors had was dealing with odor emanating from marijuana facilities.

“My biggest concern is how we’re going to monitor the odor,” Council President John McCurry said.

The order requires odors to not go beyond the property line where a marijuana facility is located, and an odor control is required with the site plan application.

However, if odor goes beyond the property lines there needs to be more enforcement of potential odor violations than can be provided by the Codes Enforcement Office, which currently investigates odor complaints, McCurry said. That office is only open during normal business hours, five days a week, he noted. However, he said, he has called the office prior to its opening with an odor complaint, which he refers from his wife who smells it on her way to work at 5:30 in the morning.

Relying on the Codes Enforcement Office “is not enough,” McCurry said.

City Manager James Bennett said the council could require licensing of marijuana facilities and that odor issues could be dealt with through licensing.

“If they have too many violations they don’t have a license,” he said.

Several councilors noted violations couldn’t just depend on odor complaints that could be subjective.

Establishing odor standards would have to be part of the licensing, Bennett said.

He said he would like to have a licensing order for the council at it’s next meeting on Feb. 2. However, he said if it is not ready,  the council could delay implementation of the amended marijuana ordinance — which is set to become law 30 days from the Jan. 19 final passage —until the council passes a licensing ordinance.

 

 

 

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