Committee Mulls Commercial Marijuana Growing Guidelines

By Lura Jackson

 

Navigating the waters of establishing guidelines for commercial marijuana growing operations has not been proven to be an easy task at the state or municipal levels. In Calais, the Economic and Community Development committee met on October 6th to discuss what kind of guidelines and potential fees could and should be assessed. The city determined at a previous council meeting that it would allow commercial marijuana growing operations in residential, commercial, and industrial zones. 

City Manager Jim Porter opened the discussion by presenting the committee with a potential odor ordinance that has been used by other municipalities. The ordinance provides guidelines for addressing complaints centered around undesirable smells. 

“From what I understand, [the smell] can be pretty bad sometimes,” Mayor Billy Howard provided. He elaborated that the smell can be more intense at different times of the growing operation. “There will be an odor. You can’t control it,” Howard said. 

City Manager Porter said that the sample ordinance does not seek to overly penalize those who are affected by complaints, but rather to work with such individuals to help them mitigate the offending odor. If no efforts are made to mitigate the odor, then fines may be assessed.

To address odor concerns before any operation is established, Porter said that any submission of a site plan would require a simultaneously submission of an odor mitigation plan. With that said, however, Porter clarified that the type of mitigation necessary would vary depending on where the site is located. He provided Taylor’s Furniture Store as an example, and said in that case there are neighbors to consider and a mitigation plan would be needed.

The odor could lead to limitations on where permissible sites are located, the committee suggested. While no outright limitation on how far grow operations could be from churches, Councilor Mike Sherrard said, “You don't want somebody sitting there in the summer in a church smelling marijuana.” Sherrard also emphasized that the operations should not take place within 1,000 feet of a school, referencing the state law that distinguishes what determines aggravated drug trafficking.

Aside from concerns related to odor and distance from a school, the committee also discussed how much the city should charge for licensing fees. While suggestions ranged from $1,000 to $250, Porter said that the goal of the city is to obtain $250 from every operation. He said that the city may acquire that amount from whatever the state will be charging in a similar fashion to how victualer’s licensing works.  

Keeping the fees lower is desirable for not discouraging potential investors. “[$500] is as high as I’d be willing to go,” Mayor Howard said. “I want to fill these empty buildings.” To provide a comparison, City Code Enforcement Officer Tim Krug shared that in Lewiston the five commercial growing operations are each charged $599. 

When a community member asked why potential investors would consider Calais as a location for commercial growing operations instead of a more remote location such as Charlotte, committee members replied that Calais is desirable for a number of reasons. The city already has multiple empty buildings that could suffice for the task, and it has a robust safety infrastructure to cover any concerns related to policing or fire issues. 

 

Prior to recommending any firm guidelines or fees, the committee agreed that it would wait to see what the state regulations will be. Porter and Krug said that they would be working to obtain a copy of the regulations to share with the committee and the council at a later date.