September 20, 2019
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Plan to convert old village Grange Hall into marijuana grow room divides town

A former Grange Hall in the heart of Casco Village is being transformed into a medical marijuana growing facility, which isn’t sitting well with some residents.

The building housed the local head start program until it fell into disrepair. Faced with spending money to demolish it or selling, Town Manager David Morton said they sold to a developer, with no idea what it would become.

“Wouldn’t have been my choice for sure,” said Jackie Cole, who’s lived in the town for more than 40 years.

The location, right across from the community center and library, is proving to be a controversial one.

“It’s right in town and I don’t think we need problems,” said Cole.

Some locals have spoken out in opposition since it came up at a selectboard meeting in March.

“How in the heck could we approve a marijuana growing space right in Casco Village?” questioned resident Phil Shane during the public comment period. “We didn’t ask questions about what this building was gonna be used for?”

Morton said it wasn’t up to the town, since the medical marijuana industry is regulated by the state.

“Without specific legislation that would allow us to say no, I’m not aware of any ability, and not even certain the town can take action against medical facilities like that,” Morton said.

State law is a little unclear.

A bill passed last year allows communities to prohibit medical marijuana caregivers from growing pot within 500 feet of a school property line, but the law expires July 1.

Officials with the Maine Municipal Association said they were looking for more clarification, but didn’t get it this past legislative session. They said whether municipalities can regulate caregivers remains an open question, but their legal staff believes they can, as long as they treat other similarly sized businesses the same way.

Morton said the two medical marijuana facilities already in town haven’t caused any problems.

“(Residents) don’t need to be worried about people pouring in and out and walking down the streets of Casco smoking their marijuana,” said Morton.

But not everyone is worried. Wanda Vaughn-Carr said she’s fine with the Grange Hall being used for growing because she knows the industry is highly regulated.

“You have to go through a lot of red tape just to be a caregiver, just to help a family member,” said Vaughn-Carr.

A man who said he was leasing the building declined to comment on Tuesday.

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