Owners Andy Pettingill and Devon Galvan of Evergreen Cannabis Company, a medical marijuana caregiver, said they want to provide as much information as possible to residents who have questions about their operation. Kristen McNerney / The Forecaster

The Cumberland Town Council will hold a public hearing next week on a proposed six-month moratorium on the licensing of new medical marijuana caregiver operations.

The temporary ban has been proposed to give town officials time to determine the actual number and locations of medical marijuana caregivers in town and to review its ordinances governing them in accordance with state law.  The council is expected to vote on the moratorium after the hearing at the July 26 meeting.

“We need to do a more thorough examination of our ordinances,” Councilor Shirley Storey-King said, noting that the town hasn’t been able to keep track of all its caregiver operations because not all are in commercial districts.

State data on the number of caregivers is not definitive. David Heidrich of the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy said there are four active caregiver addresses in Cumberland, which could pertain to just a mailing address. Another caveat with the data, Heidrich said, is that a caregiver is only counted once regardless of how many locations it might have.

From July 2020 to June 2021, Heidrich said, 23,484 medical marijuana patient certifications were issued in Cumberland County, which does not necessarily mean all certifications were issued to county residents, he said. Patient certification numbers are not available by town or city.

A medical marijuana caregiver is defined by Maine law as someone who may “assist a qualifying patient with the patient’s use of medical marijuana.” Caregivers can operate as businesses and are limited to growing 30 mature and 60 immature marijuana plants.

Until 2018, municipalities had no authority to regulate caregiver operations, leaving Cumberland and other towns to grapple with incomplete data on how many caregiver storefronts operate within their boundaries and where they are located. The town hasn’t yet revised its ordinances to regulate caregivers in accordance with the 2018 changes to state law and hopes to explore some regulations during the moratorium period, Storey-King said.

Current town ordinances about the caregivers need to be changed, some residents told the council.

Rick Doane, who lives across from Cumberland Town Hall on Tuttle Road and within 200 feet of a medical marijuana growing operation, he said, wants the town to require them to be farther away from their neighbors.

“The odor associated with a mature marijuana plant is like what a skunk smells like when it sprays a dog,” Doane said. “This has been a huge imposition on our family for quite an extended period of time.” 

The town doesn’t know how many other caregivers are located in residential areas but is aware of those in more concentrated areas, including three on Gray Road in West Cumberland within a commercial zone, Storey-King said.

Andy Pettingill and Devon Galvan opened Evergreen Cannabis Company last week on Gray Road, along with another storefront two weeks ago in Portland. Pettingill, who previously operated from his home in Cumberland,  said the medical marijuana caregiver sites would better serve his patients of more than five years, of which about 20 are Cumberland residents.

“We have a lot of cancer patients, people who can’t sleep, people with late-life anxiety,” Galvan said.

Pettingill and Galvan said they would be available to talk with anyone who has questions about their operation.

“The more information people have and the more people we speak to the less anxiety they’ll have” about caregivers, Pettingill said.

Resident Teri Maloney-Kellyy said the caregiver businesses in the Gray Road commercial zone are “contrary to attracting new business.”

“I am not opposed to medical marijuana,” Maloney-Kelly said. “I think it’s an important new tool in health care. I have family members who use it.”

However, the Gray Road businesses are “a hindrance to development,” she said.

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