2017-07-20 / Front Page

City closer to regulating recreational pot

By Sarah Beth Campisi
Special Contributor

SACO – After enacting an emergency zoning ordinance on May 8 to allow regulated distribution and cultivation of recreational marijuana in Saco, the city council has moved forward in its process to regulate it.

The city council had previously voted in favor of a 61-day emergency ordinance allowing for the activity, however, due to an “oversight,” according to City Administrator Kevin Sutherland, the expiration date of July 7 was missed.

On Monday, the city council voted unanimously in favor for a 61-day extension of the first reading of the ordinance, while a more permanent ordinance is prepared.

“The next step is the reading of what is essentially the same thing, just not as an emergency,” Sutherland said.

Brett Messer, a medical marijuana caregiver in Saco’s Industrial Park at Brigid Farms, fact-checked an anti-marijuana motion by the Saco City Council in May. Messer returned to the council Monday to participate in the public comment portion of the meeting.

“I’m coming here tonight to say I’m here to support the ordinance that is drafted as it is in regards to recreational marijuana,” Messer said. “I think it’s a win-win.”

Within emergency zoning ordinance Chapter 135, the city outlined terms in which marijuana may be grown or distributed for recreational use.

Cultivating will be allowed within single-family structures, but any cannabis or cannabis product produced in this cultivation may not be distributed to a third party, only to another resident of said structure.

The amount of marijuana allowed to be grown will be decided by Maine’s state government.

To grow and distribute marijuana to a third party, the grower would need their operation to be located in either Saco’s I-1 or I-2 zones, the Industrial Park and Industrial Business Districts.

The city council provided a memo from City Solicitor Tim Murphy to Sutherland about drafting the emergency ordinance.

“The goal is to prevent large scale growing in residences to limit fire risk,” according to Murphy. “The idea is to reasonably contain the use so that we can safely monitor it, track it, and also control overall electrical consumption as well.”

Any person who cultivates or exchanges marijuana or marijuana products, either in a single-family residence or in a business within these zones, will have to acquire a license from the city clerk’s office.

The registration fee for a license is $500. Licenses are valid for 365 days before renewal is necessary. Renewing a license will cost $250. The city clerk’s office will also require other information from the person seeking a license, such as estimated yearly production of marijuana.

Though Maine voted to legalize recreational marijuana during the 2016 election, marijuana is still an illegal substance according to federal law.

“Banks will not handle the financial transactions so it’s a cash intensive business. These factors also pose great potential/risk for ‘trafficking’ from Saco by/to criminal elements of material grown here, particularly given our close, easy highway access. So, extra scrutiny/review seems necessary,” according to Murphy.

A retroactivity date of Jan. 1, 2016 is in place. This allows people who began growing after the retroactivity date and before this ordinance was enacted to acquire proper licensing, with the registration fee waived.

These regulations do not affect personal use of marijuana within a home, as long as activities of growth or sale are not present.

The council also voted the second and final reading on a city code amendment to ban marijuana social clubs and other recreational marijuana establishments until the state unveils its own regulations, which are anticipated for February 2018.

“This will also give the city of Saco time to establish its own rules and regulations before this ordinance would be set to expire,” according to the motion.

The ban passed unanimously.

For more information on acquiring proper licensing for cultivation and distribution of recreational marijuana, the agenda for July 17 Saco City Council meeting is available online at sacomaine.org.

Return to top