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City enacts marijuana reform

By Ellen W. Todd

SANFORD - Anyone planning to go into the medical marijuana growing business who has not yet applied for a permit of any kind is out of luck, at least for the next six months.

City councilors have approved a temporary moratorium prohibiting the acceptance or approval of any new applications for medical marijuana production facilities in the city for the next 180 days. The council approved the moratorium Tuesday night with an amendment that exempts projects that are already in the process of obtaining approvals or permits.

The council's vote on the moratorium came after a lengthy discussion at the Sept. 8 meeting over which projects should be exempt and which should be allowed to proceed. Initially, proposed new businesses that had filed for occupancy permits were considered "in the process." That apparently led to a flurry of last-minute applications for occupancy permits for proposed facilities that were not yet fully built out, said City Manager Steven Buck.

It also would have excluded five tenants in the mill owned by Eric Stone at 72 Emery Street. The five proposed projects have building permits and are being developed, but do not yet have certificates of occupancy, according to Stone's attorney, Brad Warren. He asked that tenants who have started the build-out process but do not yet have occupancy permits also be exempted from the moratorium. He pointed out that some of the tenants had already spent thousands of dollars preparing their space for the new businesses.

"It's a matter of honor," said Councilor Fred Smith. "I think that any building permit that has been taken out and is still in effect should be honored."

Members of the city council and the planning board met July 28 to discuss issues surrounding the commercial cultivation of medical marijuana and its impacts.

Cultivation of medical marijuana is legal in Maine and the state has established laws regulating the cultivation and use of medicinal marijuana. However, state law authorizes cities and towns to regulate the cultivation and production of medical marijuana outside of a primary caregiver's or registered patient's residence.

The consensus at the July 28 meeting was that further additions to Sanford's City Codes and Land Use Tables are needed to fully address the impacts of commercial cultivation of medicinal marijuana.

Among the impacts cited in the proposed moratorium are "potential adverse effects on neighborhoods, security of the facilities and odors that may create a public nuisance or hazard."

The 180-day moratorium was approved Tuesday with an amendment that allows all proposed facilities currently in the process, at any stage, to go forward.

The council's zoning and public safety subcommittees will begin discussing local regulations for marijuana production facilities next week.

This blog is published by Tim Zerillo, who is an attorney and marijuana business consultant. Attorney Zerillo is a Shareholder in the firm of Hallett, Zerillo & Whipple, P.A. The blog discusses the intersection of this interesting area of the law, where business consultation, privacy, criminal defense and intellectual property laws often intersect. Thanks for reading. For more information on Hallett, Zerillo & Whipple, visit www.HZWlaw.com.

The law firm of Hallett, Zerillo, and Whipple, P.A. are Maine attorneys representing clients who have been seriously injured, accused of crimes in state and federal court, have business litigation needs or family law and divorce cases. Various attorneys in the firm have been locally and nationally recognized for their achievements, including admission into New England Super Lawyers, the Client's Choice Award from AVVO.com, and the President's Award from the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. For more information on the firm, please visit www.HZWlaw.com

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