Rockland’s marijuana talks begins with caregivers, then dispensary discussion

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:45am

ROCKLAND – The medical marijuana caregiver has until the end of January to move his Rockland operation out of a residential-only zone. The kicker is, had the zoning issue not come to light, the City of Rockland would not – and should not – have known of his existence.

“I am not supposed to know anything about caregivers,” Code Enforcement Officer John Root told council during the Monday, Nov. 6 agenda-setting meeting. “I’m not supposed to know where they are. I’m not supposed to know what they’re doing.”

In preparation to next Monday’s City Council meeting, members of council discussed the proposed marijuana dispensary ordinances sponsored by Councilor Amelia Majgik.

For many months, Rocklanders have surveyed each others’ support for marijuana use and sales. Several people in support of medical use spoke from the public podium. However, councilors continue to struggle with drafting municipal regulations, especially since the state and federal levels also continue to debate their regulations.

According to Root, it was the department of Maine Revenue Services that tracked down caregivers, not the local planning offices that would have had inklings, had the caregivers applied for the requisite electrical licenses.

One of those people, however, is Larry Reeves, who must move his two-year, five-patient operation out of the house he rents. His building, according to Root, shows no immediate sign, or odor, of the product he grows. Yet, because of the city zoning, Root had to question the city attorney in order to obtain a local interpretation.

Reeves told the council that he farms his crop from a secure facility, and delivers it to his clients as dictated by the statutes he follows. Most of the clients have cancer. Some he’s given the product to, and some have been weened off of harder drugs because of his intervention.

“If you read the statute, it’s against the law for us to sell out of a retail operation. We have to deliver to our clients,” Reeves said.

“My business doesn’t make money. My business supports itself. If I was making a bunch of money, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you. I’d just be out finding another spot.”

Dispensaries, though not yet permitted in Rockland, can sell to people who drive to their locations.

“We need to look at this situation from more of a humanistic populous view and understand that a great deal of our society – and even in Rockland – is for cannibis. And they use it for medical purposes,” Reeves said.

Council members Ed Glaser and Valli Geiger questioned why the city is looking at the marijuana issue at this time.

Glaser, who is in favor of a recreational marijuana law, believed the entire evening’s discussion to be a waste of time.

“There isn’t a medical dispensary that wants to come here,” he said. “We already have medical marijuana caregivers who are doing this in Rockland. We don’t know how many. Even if we pass this, we won’t know how many.”

Root said he’s received several inquiries about starting dispensaries here, but Glaser chalked that down to people wanting to get “a leg up” when the recreational-use law, bill LR-25, passes at the state level.

Geiger also referenced the state’s attempt to settle the recreational marijuana use bill.

That bill, according to Geiger, is being vetoed by the governor so that he can incorporate a 10 percent excise tax on all marijuana production. Five percent of that 10 percent would then return to the municipality of the sale.

“So if it’s a million dollar business, the state would get $100,000, and Rockland would receive $5,000,” she said. “This is not going to be a game changer for Rockland. It is certainly not going to pay for the other things we’re going to have to put in place for this.”

As Majgik said, her ordinance allows the City to start somewhere. She paraphrased to council a letter from Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher.

“In the specifics of that bill, it does give municipalities full control of marijuana facilities within their respective towns. And it continues to point out that whether or not this bill passes, this gives us the opportunity to regulate and create an infrastructure for an otherwise black market, for lack of a better term.”

City councilors will continue the discussion at the regular monthly council meeting, Monday, Nov. 13.

Ordinances in First Reading:
#26 Ch. 19, Sec. 19-313 Medical Marijuana Dispensary/Production Facility
#27 Ch. 11, Arts. I & II Medical Marijuana Dispensary/Production Licensing
#28 Ch. 19, Sec. 19-302 Words & Phrases Defined; Marijuana Production/Dispensary
#29 Ch. 19, Sec. 19-304 Zone Regs; Marijuana Production/Dispensary

 

Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com