RICHMOND — A bill sitting on the desk of Gov. Paul LePage would allow cities and towns to establish limits on how close to schools registered caregivers can grow marijuana for the next year.

The legislation, which comes in a year when recreational marijuana has been the center of attention, would close a loophole in existing state law temporarily if the governor signs it into law.

The bill emerged late in this year’s legislative session when concern in Richmond flared up over plans to open a medical marijuana caregiver grow facility in vacant space in an industrial building on Main Street.

The building is at the edge of the village district, but it’s also about 240 feet away from Richmond Middle/High School.

“They had no authority regarding the permitting of a multi-unit caregiver facility,” said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham.

And that frustrated town elected officials.

“I cannot believe that even the state of Maine, in their brilliance, would allow marijuana growing within 500 feet of a school, not 1,000 feet. I don’t want that in Richmond,” David Thompson, who was then the vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said at the board’s meeting at the end of May.

“Nobody wants it there,” Selectman Ryan Chandler said at that same meeting. By not imposing limits on where caregivers can be located, he said, the state has tied the hands of town officials.

150 Main LLC submitted plans to convert 30,000 square feet of vacant space into a secure medical marijuana grow facility that will be sectioned off to be leased to individual caregivers.

Jay Davis, of 150 Main LLC, declined to be interviewed Thursday.

“We did it in a three-week period,” Berry said of the bill. He had help from Rep. Jeff Pierce, R-Dresden, whose district includes part of Richmond, and broad support from the Legislature.

Because the Richmond Planning Board already has approved the application — it had no grounds to deny the grow operation because it met the requirements of the town’s ordinances — the legislation won’t affect its decision.

Catherine Lewis, president and chairwoman of the board for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said most caregivers in Maine operate mom-and-pop-type businesses and grow medical marijuana independently or at their own homes.

Regardless of where they are growing pot, they are required to have secure locked and closed facilities, she said.

At the 150 Main St. site, caregivers will need to have completely independent spaces, with no access to anyone else’s space, she said.

Lewis doesn’t foresee a problem for caregivers under the provisions of the emergency legislation.

Berry said 150 Main LLC is sensitive to the community’s concerns.

“The proposal is for a secure facility. Carbon filters will be installed to address the issues of smell,” he said.

Marijuana plants won’t be visible from outside, he said, and marijuana-derived products will be sold only with a prescription.

The facility will occupy space that has been vacant for about a year, since Hodgdon, the 200-year-old boat building company based in East Boothbay, moved its interiors division from there to its headquarters.

The former Etonic shoe factory is owned by Shuck’s Maine Lobster.

“It’s fair to say policymakers are working hard to adapt and adjust the rules and the laws for both recreational and medical marijuana,” Berry said.

The legislation authorizes local control for a year. By next July, he said, state lawmakers hope to have a broader set of rules regulating recreational marijuana and adjusting the rules on medical marijuana.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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