Brunswick councilors set rules for medical marijuana businesses

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BRUNSWICK — Town councilors approved licensing requirements for medical marijuana establishments that include background and criminal history checks and an assurance that odors would not be detected beyond a certain distance. 

The new guidelines will take effect Jan. 1, following a unanimous Town Council vote Nov. 5 to extend a moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts until then so, as Town Manager John Eldridge said, “everything and all the uses of medical marijuana businesses will line up.”

Also at the meeting on Monday, residents near the intersection of Baribeau Drive and Pleasant Hill also asked to bypass the council and go straight to the Planning Board to have the area zoned strictly residential.

According to Police Cmdr. Mark Waltz, not many local regulations are being implemented when it comes to medical marijuana; that’s being left up to the state. But, the licensing ordinance does allow the town to require that marijuana businesses go through a rigorous process to get a license for a medical marijuana facility.

“What this does, (the licensing ordinance) gives us an option to make sure people are following state regulations and it gives certain town officials, such as the fire chief, the police chief, the health inspector and the code inspector, along with the Planning Board, to review applications and conduct visits to facilities to make sure business is being conducted legally and properly,” Waltz said.

The marijuana licensing ordinance passed 5-3, with Councilors Stephen Walker, Suzane Wilson, James Mason, Alison Harris and Kathy Wilson supporting the measure. Councilors Christopher Watkinson, David Watson and Jane Millett were opposed. Councilor John Perrault was absent.

“This ordinance was drafted by attorney Collins and then reviewed by staff members and the marijuana implementation committee that has periodically been meeting since 2016,” Waltz explained.

Not anyone can just apply and obtain a medical marijuana business license. There are various requirements to operate a medical marijuana facility and maintain that license with strict rules from the state.

In investigating the qualifications of an applicant the state licensing authority and municipality may have access to criminal history record information furnished by a law enforcement agency.

Those applying for a license must be at least 21 years old, and anyone convicted of “disqualifying” drug convictions will be barred from obtaining a license. These include convictions for a violation of a state or federal law that is punishable by five or more years in prison within the last 10 years. 

Municipal officials will also consider information provided by the applicant regarding criminal history, evidence of rehabilitation, character references and educational achievements.

It will also be taken into consideration how long it has been since the applicant’s last criminal conviction and consideration of the application for a license.

The requirements include the provision that the odor cannot be detected outside any facility that cultivates, manufactures, grows, or sells marijuana. 

According to Waltz, the draft list for the cost of licenses for cultivation facilities is $600, products manufacturing facilities are $300 and retail stores and medical storefronts are $1,400. Licenses will be renewed annually and reviewed by the police chief, fire chief, code enforcement officer and health inspector.

That could change however, as the state is still finalizing medical marijuana licensing requirements.

As allowed by state law, Brunswick already passed a zoning ordinance Oct. 17 to allow medical marijuana facilities.

Councilor Millett asked Waltz if there were any marijuana businesses currently in town, to which Waltz answered in the affirmative.

“We have one in town that is very public,” Eldridge said.

Stone Coast Cannabis has been operating in Brunswick since 2017. It was the first cannabis retailer to receive a permit in Brunswick.

Councilors also discussed the Baribeau-Pleasant Hill neighborhood, which is now zoned as a mixed-use area that could allow some single-family homes to be converted into commercial businesses.

Wilson requested that members of her district and the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Coalition be able to take residents’ requests about zoning in the GM 8 zone directly to the Planning Board.

The proposal passed 7-1, with Millett opposed.

In other business, Chief Richard Rizzo explained why the Police Department would benefit from additional surplus equipment it could possibly obtain from the Department of Defense.

The additional equipment being requested includes advanced target pointers and illuminators. These attachments attach to the rifle, creating a green dot at night, visible only by night vision and not the naked eye, making it more accurate for the Special Reaction Team to locate targets.

Councilors approved the action 7-1, with Mason opposed.

Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo speaks to the Town Council Nov. 5.

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