FARMINGDALE — Town officials are looking to limit, license and tax locally unregistered medical marijuana caregivers.
As part of an ongoing effort to legislate marijuana businesses in Farmingdale, selectmen are considering proposing further changes to their medical cannabis ordinance.
In June 2017, the town established a moratorium on adult-use marijuana, followed by an ordinance change in June 2018 that limited dispensaries to one.
Until now, no limit has been placed on the number of marijuana growing operations.
The latest proposed ordinance change would define permitted “facilities” broadly to mean all medical marijuana establishments, both growing and dispensing.
The June 2018 change grandfathered all current facilities, giving them a year to obtain a Planning Board permit to operate permanently.
The town, by registering caregivers as businesses, could get their properties and equipment on the tax roll. Selectman Jim Grant said on Dec. 31, 2018, that he doesn’t opposed medical marijuana; he just wants to make sure the businesses are licensed.
“Some of these grows have (hundreds of thousands of dollars) of equipment,” he said. “That kind of money means we could bring down our mil rate.”
Town Clerk Rose Webster said the town is struggling to identify active caregivers, which makes it difficult to enforce ordinances.
“We have to find out who they are, and they need to (register),” Webster said. “We should be able to at least know who we’re dealing with. You’ve got to have a way to quantify.”
While Maine law only allows law enforcement officials to have access to caregiver information from the state licensing process, municipalities can create regulations that make that information public as part of “home rule.”
Deputy Town Clerk Cindy Burnham said Thursday only two such businesses have registered with the town — Bigfoot Medical, on Sheldon Street; and Tru Blooms Wellness, on Maine Avenue. Anecdotally, she said, the town believes there are more growers on Sheldon Street and in a building on Maple Street.
According to David Heidrich, spokesman for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, there are currently 16 state-registered caregivers with a grow site or home address in Farmingdale. He added that the state does not have a central registry of storefront locations.
During the Dec. 26, 2018, Selectboard meeting, Selectwoman Nancy Frost said limiting establishments to one would “make sure nobody else comes in” if currently operating establishments move out of town.
In June 2018, town voters approved a new ordinance that limited registered “dispensaries” to one and operators in a “single medical cannabis production facility” — or a grow operation — to four. Further, the June 2018 change also grandfathered “any medical cannabis production facility or dispensary” lawfully existing at the time of the ordinance’s adoption for a year. Those operators must obtain a Planning Board license in that time period, or else they would be in violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance allows growing operations at “primary year-round residences” of registered caregivers and patients. One production facility is permitted per lot of land.
The proposed ordinance changes were discussed at Selectboard meetings on Dec. 26, 2018, and on Jan. 9. Town Clerk Rose Webster said the town’s legal counsel has aproved the ordinance ahead of Planning Board and Selectboard approval to send the proposal to a Town Meeting vote.
Eric McMaster, co-owner of caregiver storefront Tru Blooms Wellness, said he supports the draft changes, adding that registering locally could help legitimize medical marijuana as a reputable field.
“We made sure to go through all the proper steps and understanding that ordinance before we started our business,” he said. “It works in my favor to operate for as much time as you can to show good standing; we’ve been inspected, do our compliance checks and pay our taxes.
“If this is an industry that we want to see grow and flourish, we should (register as businesses),” McMaster added. “If we’re providing medicine for someone, we should be held to a (high) standard.”
Heidrich said the state can give caregiver registration information only to select law enforcement entities. However, municipalities are allowed to make stricter rules, even though it may make some information in the state’s possession available to the public as a town document. He said caregivers have to abide by town law, or they can operate elsewhere.
Sam Shepherd — 621-5666