FARMINGDALE — Caregivers had something to say about the town’s proposed medical marijuana ordinance Tuesday night, and their input will factor into changes coming to the final version.

Discussion at the Planning Board meeting centered on a draft of an ordinance that seeks to license, tax and limit locally unregistered medical marijuana caregivers. The town’s medical marijuana ordinance changed in June 2018 to limit new dispensaries and production facilities to one, but the new draft changes limits all “facilities” to one. The change also grandfathered all current operations in Farmingdale, contingent on them obtaining a Planning Board license within one year.

The town has struggled to identify its local caregivers. David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said there are currently 16 state-registered caregivers with a grow site or home address in Farmingdale. But Deputy Town Clerk Cindy Burnham said earlier this month only two marijuana businesses had registered with the town: Bigfoot Medical, on Sheldon Street, and Tru Blooms Wellness, on Maine Avenue.

Sheldon Street was anecdotally known to have more caregivers, and a handful of caregivers who grow in separate units at the former Sheldon Street school attended Tuesday’s meeting.

News of the proposed changes prompted about 10 caregivers to attend Tuesday’s meeting, at which they shared some concerns with the ordinance as proposed.

One issue raised by caregivers in attendance was a definition of a facility. Generally, the town aimed to use “facility” to mean any marijuana establishment. At the meeting, caregivers were told that each individual’s operation would have to apply for a license as a “facility.”

But that definition was problematic for Sheldon Street growers, as their “facilities” would be in violation of the ordinance’s density limits. The ordinance states that no “facility shall be closer than 500 linear feet … to … any property which is occupied by an existing medical cannabis facility.”

Planning Board member Mark Lutte said a term change would be made to encompass the growing operation at Sheldon Street.

Eric MacMaster, co-owner of Tru Blooms Wellness, also took issue with the town’s outside appearance standards, which bar the use of signs containing certain words and symbols associated with marijuana. His company’s logo uses the green cross indicative of marijuana caregivers — something that is expressly prohibited in the ordinance language. Lutte offered to omit the portion of the ordinance mentioning the green cross.

Planning Board Chairman Frank Pecor said the ordinance was not designed to put caregivers out of business, but to give the town an idea of how many caregivers there are and where they are located. He added that having information on chemicals being used in the growing operations would alert firefighters to risks if there was a fire at one of those locations.

“We know there’s lots of electricity going in there with the lighting,” he said. “They need to know what kind of chemicals they are dealing with.”

“Our purpose here isn’t to put you out of business,” he added, “but we’re trying to get our arms around this so its not the Wild West.”

Selectman Jim Grant said earlier this month registering caregivers as businesses could get their properties and equipment on the tax rolls.

“Some of these grows have (hundreds of thousands of dollars) of equipment,” he said. “That kind of money means we could bring down our mil rate.”

In order to obtain a license, caregivers would have to submit a description of their project, copies of their deed or lease, their name and address, a sketch of the property and plans for improvements. Further, there are a number of performance standards they would need to maintain, including proximity limits, density limits and odor limits. Pecor said the application probably will be available to Farmingdale’s caregivers within a couple weeks.

Caregivers also expressed interest in transitioning their medical businesses into adult-use marijuana growing operations, once state rule-making has been undertaken. That, however, does not appear to be possible.

In June 2017, Farmingdale voters approved a moratorium on all adult-use establishments; and under the current ordinance, caregivers would not be permitted to make that transition.

The Planning Board has scheduled a brief workshop for 7 p.m. Thursday to finalize any changes to the ordinance, Burnham said. It will then be forwarded to selectmen for consideration at their Feb. 6 meeting. A public hearing on the ordinance is expected to take place in March, with an eye on putting it on the June Town Meeting warrant for final voter approval.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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