Shelley Pelletier, left, and Marc Hill stand outside a Scarborough industrial facility on Monday that houses more than a dozen cannabis businesses, including their own, Coastal Maine Cannabis. Pelletier says a proposed odor-control ordinance would set their business up for failure. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Some days, when the wind blows a certain way, the pungent smell of marijuana wafts through the windows of David and Darlene Rabideau’s home in Scarborough. 

Outside, the earthy odor permeates the neighborhood around Bickford Road and Holly Street, but the scent isn’t coming from there. 

The neighborhood is near 10 Snow Canning Road, a 94,000-square-foot industrial facility that’s home to more than a dozen cannabis cultivators. 

Shelley Pelletier and Marc Hill, who purchased the building in 2020, readily acknowledge the smell. Since 2012, they’ve run their own cultivation business, Coastal Maine Cannabis, in the building. Now a proposed town ordinance could change the way they and the other cultivators operate.

Odor is par for the course in cannabis cultivation, and Pelletier and Hill have made efforts to lessen the impact. But the scent persists.

Cultivators, neighbors and the town of Scarborough have been grappling with the issue for years. In 2021, the town instituted a cannabis odor control law.


But according to David Rabideau, the smell has if anything gotten worse as more cultivators have moved into the space. Of the 22 units in the building, 15 are leased by cannabis-related businesses. 

“I am not interested at all in harming somebody’s livelihood,” Rabideau said. “Never in a million years. But when it is affecting your life, in somewhat of a negative way, that’s when you want to speak out.”

So town officials are considering a set of stricter measures, which if enacted would likely be the strictest in Maine. The ordinance would require businesses to have circulation systems that refresh air at the building more frequently, and also would create exacting rules for reporting violations and enforcing the ordinance. The Town Council’s Ordinance Committee will discuss and potentially take action on the proposal Thursday. If passed, it would go to the full council for a vote. 

Scarborough officials hope the new requirements will nip the problem in the bud, but Pelletier says the proposal is only setting cultivators up for failure. The draft ordinance is not strict enough, she said, particularly where it applies to air circulation requirements. The problem will only persist, Pelletier believes, subjecting the businesses to fines and potentially even closure. 

Liam Gallagher, assistant town manager, hopes it won’t come to that.

“I would love to see (an outcome) where businesses can continue to operate and the residents can enjoy their home without odors coming in,” he said. “The question is, can those two visions coexist? We don’t know at this point.” 



Scarborough’s marijuana ordinance permits cannabis cultivating, product manufacturing and testing, but does not allow adult-use retail stores. 

Initially, the town’s odor control stipulations were modeled after those in surrounding towns, requiring a plan to ensure that the smell of marijuana is not detectable at the property boundary. Businesses were left to determine how that would happen. 

But then the complaints started rolling in. 

Scarborough officials responded by implementing an online geo-tracking form that people could use to indicate where odor was an issue. The officials contracted with an odor control consultant. The town even erected a weather station on top of the Canning Road facility to track conditions that exist when the smell is strongest.

In August 2021, the town passed an ordinance that placed the responsibility for keeping the smell in check on the building owners, rather than the tenants. The new rules required special activated-carbon circulation systems that exchange the air at least 10 times per hour.


Pelletier and her tenants installed the necessary equipment, and as far as she knew, the problem was solved.

But behind the scenes, the complaints were still coming.

The town has received 100 odor complaints in the two years since the new ordinance was adopted, Gallagher said. Of those, 75 concerned a marijuana smell in the vicinity of Snow Canning Road. The complaints were all from the same six to 10 households, Gallagher said. But nobody told Pelletier.

“All of a sudden there’s a meeting and the neighbors are saying ‘We’ve been complaining for two years,'” she said. “If (the town) had told us two years ago that there was a problem, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.”

In the last few months, Pelletier has been upgrading the odor mitigation systems for her businesses, which operate out of two of the building’s 22 units.

Rabideau said he has recently noticed a decrease in the smell. A week or more might pass before it becomes a problem.


The draft ordinance being considered by the committee would require 15 air exchanges per hour and includes a complicated system for enforcement. Under the proposed rules, after a specific number of complaints from a specific area and a specific period of time, the building could be shut down.

Pelletier, however, said she has told the Town Council that addressing the problem will take 20 to 25 air exchanges per hour. She also feels her concerns are being overlooked and isn’t sure what her options are as a landlord. Can she require tenants to install ventilation systems that perform 20 to 25 air exchanges per hour, or will the cultivators merely have to follow town requirements?

It feels as if she’s being set up to fail, Pelletier said.

“My whole conclusion for this is that (they) want me to close down.”


But Gallagher insists that’s not the case. Snow Canning Road just presents a unique set of challenges, he said.


The building is a former seafood plant and is made of porous materials, so the area is no stranger to stink. It’s situated between Scarborough Marsh and the shoreline of Pine Point, where the wind patterns are more dynamic than in other parts of town, according to Gallagher. Because of previous zoning, the building is less than 100 feet from homes.

And with so many cannabis businesses in the space, Gallagher explained, it’s been difficult to pinpoint who, exactly, is causing the smell.

“These are standards intended to apply across the whole town of Scarborough,” he said. Experts have been divided on how many air exchanges per hour would be sufficient. Some said eight to 10, while others said 20 to 30. The town hopes 15 will be a good compromise.

“There is some expense associated with making that update … We’re trying to be mindful. These are townwide standards for an area that is pretty unique.”

Still, Gallagher is optimistic that some improvements can be made. For example, the town can revise some of the notification rules so Pelletier can know when there are problems, suss out the cause and address it.

He also thinks that a townwide enforcement plan will help, just maybe not the way it’s currently drafted.


The proposed ordinance may too cumbersome, he admitted. But its intent is good and attempts to address a difficult question: Is there a really noxious odor?

According to Rabideau, the answer is clear – if an odor exists, it exists. Whether the odor is offensive is another question.

That also makes odor difficult to regulate, Gallagher feels.

“We need to have a plan in place that’s defensible and actionable,” he said. “We’re trying to look at a process that will have more than a single nose involved and more than a single complaint.”

Despite the lengthy disagreements about the problem, they’ve been amicable ones, both sides agree. Pelletier doesn’t blame the residents for complaining about the smell, and the residents don’t want to see the businesses close down.

“We’ve been working at this for a long time, and everybody … the proprietors, the town, (our) neighbors, they’re all good people. I’m confident we’ll get there,” Rabideau said.

The Ordinance Committee will discuss the issue in a hybrid meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday.

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