Are New Restrictions Coming for Medical Marijuana Caregivers in Maine?

There are 2,800 medical marijuana caregivers in Maine, and about 2,500 of them grow marijuana for patients who are not family members. Today, Maine caregivers can grow marijuana in their own homes for patients, but that might be changing in some cities.

For example, the city of Saco is looking at zoning ordinance changes that would not only prohibit caregivers from growing marijuana in their homes but would also require them to grow only in the city’s industrial business district. City officials claim that the new rules are needed due to public safety concerns.

As Gillian Graham of the Portland Press Herald explains, there are concerns among city officials about the amount of electricity caregivers use for cultivation and with the amount of cash they have on hand since marijuana-related businesses usually can’t access traditional banking services.

Saco’s new rules would be targeted at caregivers with multiple customers, not caregivers that are already in operation. The new rules would add these restrictions to caregivers in the city:

  • Caregiver facilities must not have more than three separate caregivers.
  • Caregiver facilities must be in a separate location from the caregiver’s primary residence.
  • Caregiver facilities must be locked and secured.
  • Caregiver facilities must be located in a specific industrial business district within the city (called the I-2 zone).

Saco isn’t the only city in Maine that is looking at making zoning changes to regulate where caregivers can grow marijuana for their patients. Officials in Biddeford, Maine are considering whether or not to require caregivers to obtain a conditional use permit for their facilities. The city also wants to require that those facilities are at least 250 feet from schools, churches, and playgrounds. The cities of Sanford, Maine and Waterville, Maine have already enacted zoning rules that require caregivers growing in commercial spaces to be located in specific parts of each city only.

It’s important to note that these rules differ from the state’s laws, which simply require that caregivers grow plants in secure areas that are not visible to the public or accessible to patients. Caregivers are also not allowed to form collectives under Maine state law where they would grow marijuana plants together.

Furthermore, the Maine medical marijuana law states that cities can limit the number of marijuana dispensaries and their locations, but cities cannot enact rules that duplicate the state’s act or are more restrictive than the state’s act. With that said, it’s possible that these local rules won’t hold up for long.

However, considering that most caregivers in Maine are operating small or micro-businesses (i.e., mom and pop operations), forcing them to grow in specific commercial areas rather than their own homes could negatively impact their ability to continue operating and caring for patients. Commercial property requires additional rent and utilities that many of these caregivers haven’t had to pay yet.

Medical Marijuana Caregiver Cultivation Across the United States

Caregiver cultivation is one of the topics researched as part of Cannabiz Media’s upcoming state-by-state report on the marijuana economy. The research found that Maine is one of only 15 states that allow caregivers to grow marijuana for their patients.

In other words, approximately one out of three states that have legalized medical marijuana allow caregivers to also be cultivators. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, California (up to 500 square feet growing area only), Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts (in hardship cases only), Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Cannabiz Media will be releasing the 2016 marijuana economy research report in the near future. Subscribe to the Cannabiz Media Newsletter so you don’t miss it!

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