The Saco City Council has directed the Planning Board to develop an ordinance regarding adult use marijuana businesses in the city. Here, infused gummies are shown on curing racks at River Driver Cannabis in Brunswick, a Maine community where adult use cannabis has been approved by city leaders. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald Photo

SACO — The City Council in Saco, in a tie vote broken by Mayor William Doyle, has elected to ask the Planning Board to develop an ordinance that could, pending future votes, see the city opt in to allowing adult use recreational marijuana businesses in the community.

Saco, like other municipalities, has made provision for medical marijuana. Currently, the city permits caregiver facilities and dispensaries for medical marijuana, which is regulated locally through zoning which spells out where they may be situated, along with rules for licensing and inspection.

In September, the Planning Board expressed support for allowing adult use marijuana businesses to operate in the city and later asked for guidance from the City Council.

Neighboring Biddeford does not allow retail shops for adult use recreational cannabis, but has opted in to permit growing, manufacturing, and testing, according to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

Some councilors against allowing adult use recreational marijuana businesses said the city already allows for medical marijuana and opting in would not benefit the community.

“We have much more pressing land use issues before this council and the Planning Board … that go back years, we haven’t addressed,” said Councilor Nathan Johnston, in part. Johnston, who voted against development of an opt-in ordinance, said marijuana is readily available in the city.


Councilor Jodi MacPhail said adult use recreational marijuana does not benefit the city.

“The city gets nothing; we provide medical (marijuana) for those who need it, it’s there for them,” MacPhail said. “The adult use will create traffic flow in areas we don’t need it. We have more pressing issues we need to address. This is not a benefit to the city financially, or as a community.”

Another councilor said he thought legal businesses should be allowed in Saco.

“Adult use is legal in Maine and I don’t have a problem with legal businesses operating in the city,” said Councilor Jim Purdy. “The ordinances drafted by the Planning Board can decide on location and how many, and council can tweak it.”

Councilor Joseph Gunn said the Planning Board has a lot on its agenda but pointed out that the board had requested guidance.

There was discussion about whether adopting the resolve means the city has “opted in” to allow adult use recreational marijuana businesses.


City Planner Jason Gareham said it does not.

“The state statute says opting in requires an ordinance, and this is clearly not an ordinance but a resolution,” Gareham said, adding he prepared it with input from the city solicitor.

Purdy said no opt in vote would come until a zoning ordinance had passed.

A proposed ordinance would be developed by the Planning Board, which would hold a public hearing and a vote. The matter would then move to the City Council, which would also hold a public hearing and a vote.

“There would be plenty of time for public input in the Planning Board process and then the City Council process,” said Purdy.

A vote to table the matter until Councilor Michael Burman could be present resulted in a tie, with Councilors Archer, Gunn, and Purdy in favor and Johnston, Hatch, and MacPhail against. Mayor Doyle broke the tie voting against waiting.

Then came the vote on the motion to approve the resolve, which again resulted in a tie, with Archer, Gunn, and Purdy voting in favor, and Johnston, Hatch, and MacPhail against the proposal. Doyle voted yes, which means the Planning Board will develop an ordinance.

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