2014-07-17 / Front Page

OOB cautious about facility

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – The town council was scheduled to consider an emergency ordinance at its Tuesday, June 15 meeting, after the Courier’s deadline, to place a moratorium on the cultivation of medical marijuana in non-residential locations.

The measure is in response to a presentation given to the planning board last week by resident Pierre Bouthiller, who wants to create a state-of-the-art facility for cultivation and research and development of marijuana and edible cannabis products.

Bouthiller hopes to repurpose a building at 60 Saco Ave. that has been vacant for seven years and was once a post office. The facility could house four separate units for use by caregivers and would include security, climate control and lighting. Additionally, Bouthiller said he is working with state officials to incorporate a laboratory component to the facility, to better research the qualities of the plant.

“The goal is to increase the overall scientific body of knowledge about cannabis,” Bouthiller said, “to have peer-reviewable protocols that physicians could rely on for alternative medicine for people that are suffering.”

The research aspect of the center, he said, could be a groundbreaking endeavor for the medical marijuana industry nationally.

“We need to create real science instead of anecdotal,” Bouthiller said. “Not ‘I think,’ but we need to have ‘I know.’”

Bouthiller said he does not use cannabis products, but believes in using them as alternative medicine after seeing his friend struggle with esophageal cancer and using doctorprescribed opiate-based drugs.

“He had no appetite and acute anxiety, and (marijuana) was the only thing that would make a difference,” Bouthiller said.

The Medical Marijuana Act, initially approved by voters in a 1999 statewide referendum, allows for people with certain illnesses to get permission from a doctor to use marijuana for medical purposes. Each medical marijuana patient may cultivate his or her own plants or designate a caregiver to grow the plants.

While the law allows for a patient or caregiver to cultivate in their primary residence, municipalities may regulate cultivation in nonresidential locations.

Bouthiller said he doesn’t understand why the council considers a moratorium an emergency.

“It’s not a good tactic, making an emergency moratorium to stop research,” Bouthiller said. “I’m concerned that there is some kind of misunderstanding that has been propagated in the community such as there being a dispensary here or trafficking.”

Bouthiller said the building would not house a dispensary and no one, not even patients, would be allowed to enter the building except the caregivers who work there, or staff for the research lab.

According to the resolution for the moratorium ordinance, drafted by Town Manager Larry Mead, “Operations related to the cultivation and production of medical marijuana outside of an authorized primary residence raise a number of concerns related to the public safety and welfare, including, but not limited to, potential adverse effects on neighborhoods, and potential adverse effects on the town’s tourism industry.”

Bouthiller said the town should be more concerned about grow operations that occur in people’s homes because they lack security, are prone to break-ins and can subject properties to a greater risk of fire because of the use of highpowered lights.

Bouthiller said the 60 Saco Ave. property is near the town’s public safety building and law enforcement officials have assured him the Saco Avenue facility would be “easy to protect.”

If passed, the moratorium would be in effect for 60 days and give the town time to “study the land use implications … and to develop reasonable regulations governing their location and operation” and “work on developing appropriate land use regulations,” according to the resolution.

Regardless of the council’s decision, Bouthiller is optimistic he can work with the town to resolve concerns because the public is supportive of medical marijuana.

“Society as a whole has decided that this was the way to go,” Bouthiller said. “Take a look at what’s happened in the most conservative Congress in nearly 100 years – Republicans decided to de-fund the (Drug Enforcement Agency) and not spend one cent prosecuting medical marijuana (users).”

Return to top