Catch-22 for prospective Rockland marijuana facility

Posted:  Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - 1:00pm
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ROCKLAND – The owner of the first medical marijuana production facility to request licensing in Rockland continues to encounter roadblocks.

As of July 2, Nicholas Westervelt’s attempts to fulfill the requirements necessary to start his business, Scrimshaw, have been slow going. And that delay is not due to public complaint.

When the items of a former antique business are gone from 500 Main Street, he will put his construction ideas into action.  

Meanwhile, the Rockland City Council continues to push through the haze of state marijuana regulations that create obstacles to city enforcement. One such example is the background check.

Westervelt told the Council, July 2, that he is in good standing with the state. However, the Rockland Police Department was not able to confirm this standing. Westervelt explained that the state’s refusal to disclose caregiver information protects the caregivers from the federal government, which still views marijuana as illegal.

“Because of the laws that are going around – caregivers and all – it’s all confidential,” City Manager Tom Luttrell said. “So [Police Chief Boucher] could not get any information to say yes, he did his background check, and to be able to sign off on the permit. So it’s kind of caught in a Catch-22 here.”

As Westervelt’s facility is the first marijuana business of its kind in Rockland, the city policies are based on amended liquor and entertainment laws already established.

The building cannot be occupied until all inspections have been completed, including the background check, Code Enforcement Officer John Root said during the meeting. However, Luttrell stated belief that new laws soon to come from the state level will alleviate some of Rockland’s current conflicts.

In relaying a conversation with City Attorney Mary Costigan, Luttrell told Council that State law allows inspections of public areas of marijuana facilities, but not in the rooms where the plants grow.

Root, however, said that a new law allows inspection of all rooms.

Mayor Valli Geiger said: “This is the second sort-of Catch-22 thing that’s come before the City, and I think it’s not fair to people to be told ‘we can’t give you your license until the State does something,’ but the State won’t do it until we do something. And you know what? It will never happen that way. It’s not OK.”

However, in this case, time is available. Construction hasn’t even started yet.

“I’ve been there,” Westervelt said, “trying to motivate everybody as best as I can from every direction.”

Root said that in some circumstances, an organization can build a tavern and be cleared for a permit of occupancy and then a liquor license prior to the building’s completion if Fire and Code Office compliance is met.

In an existing building, there may be issues that aren’t done. In this case, there are many more checks, Root said.

Geiger has requested that Attorney Costigan attend the regular Council meeting, Monday, July 9, in order to answer more marijuana-related questions posed by Council members.

“I’m uncomfortable with the amount of roadblocks we’re putting in to somebody who appears to be following the right process,” Geiger said.

 

Sarah Thompson can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com