YORK, Maine — Four abutters of a medical marijuana facility in York have filed a court appeal attempting to shut it down until the town grants permission for its operation.
Plaintiff Michael Briggs of Emus Way originally filed an appeal to the York Board of Appeals and lost in a decision by that board on Aug. 13.
He wanted the board to deny the appeal of 17 White Birch Lane warehouse owner Robert Grant over a town notice of violation for allowing medical pot to be grown there prior to getting planning board approval for a change of use. The board ruled marijuana production was manufacturing, and therefore it did not represent a change of use for the warehouse.
Briggs and neighbors Sarah Sanford, Steve Rowley and Charles Spear have filed an appeal in York County Superior Court seeking to remand the matter back to the town and the York Board of Appeals and to direct the board to deny Grant’s appeal, according to paperwork filed in York County Superior Court on Aug. 21.
“It’s on behalf of the entire neighborhood,” Briggs said Tuesday.
“I really truly honestly hope that the state of Maine actually sees what’s going on and puts some oversight or enforcement action in place, to put the same amount of oversight into these facilities as facilities that are very well regulated,” Briggs continued, naming the medical marijuana dispensary in Biddeford as an example. “Unfortunately the state of Maine have left these facilities to go unchecked which allows them to operate around the law, or [in a] borderline legal-illegal atmosphere.”
Briggs and neighbors have complained of increased traffic on the dirt road, particularly during the night and early morning hours.
“We want the people who are justly providing for Maine citizens to provide for Maine citizens,” he said. “What we need is oversight; we need enforcement.”
The York Police Department is “hamstrung” by state law that allows for little oversight, and the Department of Health and Human Services has not responded to neighbor complaints, Briggs said.
Grant’s attorney Durward Parkinson said his client doesn’t want to argue the case in the press, but he said he expects oral arguments to be heard in the case by the end of the year.
Joshua Hadiaris, attorney for the plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment.
Growing medical marijuana in Maine became legal in 1999. State law allows licensed caregivers to grow up to six blooming plants for personal use and up to that same number of blooming plants each for up to five patients.
State law bans caregivers from forming collectives but does not prohibit from them operating within the same facility.
York officials have proposed an ordinance amendment for the November ballot that would disallow caregivers from operating within 250 feet of each other in a commercial operation.
The ordinance would limit commercial medical marijuana operations to a zoned section of Route 1, roughly between the York Corner Inn, the former Mic Mac Motel located south of the Route 91 intersection, north to Wild Willy’s Burgers, according to Community Development Director Steve Burns.
The town law also would establish a business licensing requirement and the building owner would need to go before the planning board for land-use approval.
Caregivers growing at home would not be included in the ordinance.
The warehouse at 17 White Birch Lane would be grandfathered from such regulations.