The town council held a workshop about marijuana and addressed concerns regarding marijuana odor complaints. An area where the majority of odor complaints are filed is located on Snow Canning Road. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — The town of Scarborough’s marijuana establishment licensing ordinance could see changes, but the conversation about specifics is ongoing.

The Town Council held a workshop regarding marijuana on Jan. 20. Representatives from marijuana businesses and neighbors of marijuana facilities were present.

An overwhelming concern voiced by neighbors and abutters of marijuana facilities in Scarborough was about odor, predominantly around a facility on Snow Canning Road with multiple tenants, said Liam Gallagher, assistant town manager.

“None of the cultivation suites exhaust to the outside directly,” he said. “The issue is how to track and treat odor within the suites and possibly the conversation will move to common areas as those suites exhaust to those common areas. Each one of the license holders is responsible for their own independent system.”

Scarborough’s marijuana ordinance, allowing for adult-use and medical cultivation, manufacturing and testing, went into effect in February of 2020, he said. Because the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, there was a six-month delay in effective implementation of licensing.

The ordinance permits marijuana cultivation facilities in the Pine Point Overlay District, Industrial Districts and Light Industrial Districts, Gallagher said.

The town has started a few initiatives to address odor concerns, he said. One includes a geo-tracking odor reporting form, where one can use a cell phone and have the specific location pinned.

Scarborough has hired a contracted odor control specialist who has drafted a report for review and comment, Gallagher said.

“I think it will be a really helpful tool to understand this issue, which is, I think, new to a lot of us around what leads to odors and how to mitigate those,” he said.

Councilor Betsy Gleysteen asked whether or not the landlord of a property should be held accountable for an odor complaint, ensuring that every tenant mitigates odor effectively. She also brought forward an idea of appointing a panel of residents who would determine the legitimacy of odor complaints.

If the landlord were made accountable, finding a specific tenant causing an odor problem may be more difficult, said Darlene Rabideau, resident of Bickford Street.

The marijuana ordinance would need amending to make the landlord accountable, said Town Manager Thomas Hall.

“I think that is a very challenging enforcement for us as it is currently configured,” he said. “It will be very hard for us to discern exactly where the odor is coming from and that will be challenging in the enforcement environment.”

A “gap in the ordinance” seems apparent, said Councilor John Cloutier.

“It appears there’s a gap in the ordinance, where’s there’s no clear accountability in the tenant lease situation,” he said. “The tenants don’t have control over what happens outside of their little spaces, and the owner doesn’t have accountability to the town to have to do anything about it. We’re not licensing the owner of the building. We’re licensing the growers.”

The town will schedule a follow-up meeting on the subject, said Council Chair Paul Johnson.

“I think it’s absolutely an avenue of possibility to amend the ordinance,” he said.

David Ribodeau, a resident of Bickford Street, is willing to work with the town on a solution, he said.

“Odor is subjective, and it’s going to take more than one person to get a grip on this,” he said. “Collecting data is the way to do this. With odor it’s going to require many people’s sense of smell … Darlene and I aren’t looking to put anyone out of business.”

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