Members of the Vassalboro select board are discussing making changes to the town’s marijuana sales prohibition amid concerns of unlicensed growing operations in the town.

Although no action was taken, discussion at a board meeting Thursday night revolved around closing what selectman Chris French described as a “500-foot loophole” that allows small-scale medical cannabis growing operations to operate without oversight from the town government.

“The ordinance only covers those grow operations that were approved before this amendment was done in 2021,” he said. “That doesn’t capture any of the caregivers that are allowed to grow 500 feet of grow space with 1,000 feet of immature plants. Those we don’t have any say over. They get licenses, they can set up shop in town, and they also can sell their product to folks that are licensed.”

The town’s current ordinance prohibits the cultivation, packaging and sale of both recreational and medical marijuana, and was approved by Vassalboro voters in 2021 with the intent “to protect public health, safety and welfare” of town residents. Personal and medical growing operations using less than 1,000 square feet, however, are exempt from the rules.

Although Vassalboro currently prohibits both new medical and marijuana cultivation within town limits, French said the town has previously issued eight cannabis growing licenses.

“We can stop people from growing more than 1,000 square feet, per the ordinance,” French said. “If everybody in the community wants to get licensed at 500 square feet, there’s nothing we can do about it.”


Maine’s current regulations require medical marijuana caregivers with over 500 square feet of growing space to register with the state.

Regulating cannabis grows in Vassalboro has become difficult in large part due to the discrepancy between town and state policy, board member Rick Denico said at the meeting.

“When we went to get a list (of grows) from the state, they would not give us names or addresses,” Denico said. “They would just tell us account and town. They held it as confidential information… Does it smell because we’ve got a big family growing it? Or is it somebody that’s growing it illegally? The bottom line is that it’s legal and you don’t have the right to go in and look unless you get information otherwise.”

After one licensed and one unlicensed cannabis grow in Vassalboro in 2022, administrators said they felt the need to strengthen the town’s regulations. Reducing requirements for grows to be licensed would allow the town to better regulate its own businesses and collect much more in licensing fees, French said at the meeting.

“In the last two years, we’ve had two major grow operations go up in smoke,” French said. “There’s a ban on retail, on personal use, on sales. We’re not allowing store fronts, we’re not allowing any of that. But we don’t have anything that reviews that 500-square-foot loophole.”

The select board also considered revisiting its agreement with Delta Ambulance and discussed making repairs to the town’s Public Works Department garage, among other business Thursday night. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25.

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