HALLOWELL — Two weeks after the City Council adopted a temporary ban on marijuana businesses, a task force is starting to shape the long-term future of how Hallowell will address pot-related establishments, retail stores and social clubs.

The city’s Marijuana Task Force on Monday focused on questions surrounding zoning within the city limits. City Manager Nate Rudy and Chairwoman Lynn Irish, an at-large councilor, led a discussion about classifying recreational marijuana as an either agricultural, farming or manufacturing zoning use. The committee, however, couldn’t come to a consensus agreement.

Rudy and Brett Shain, a longtime medical marijuana caregiver, said marijuana cultivation wasn’t just “backyard gardening,” but it is the beginning of the recreational marijuana retail chain. Rudy said he thinks the state is leaning toward classifying it as manufacturing.

“The state is going to make some determinations about how you’re going to classify it, but you’ll probably have some leeway with it,” Rudy said.

Now, no manufacturing is permitted in rural Hallowell, which is generally defined as the area on the west side of Interstate 95, but commercial and retail uses are allowed.

“The facilities I’ve seen are more rural, away from everybody, because it’s more secure and a lot of people I know like the privacy,” Shain said.

Irish said she wants to keep this local and not attract big businesses to Hallowell. The task force agreed to limiting the size of any structure built for recreational marijuana use to 3,000-square-feet or less, which is the state’s guidelines.

Shain said he isn’t interested in his own manufacturing operation, but he did say he wants to open a social club. And he said he has the perfect location “off the beaten path.”

The task force met several times since January and unanimously voted to recommend a temporary moratorium late last month. The council voted 6-1, with Ward 1 Councilor Maureen Aucoin-Giroux the only one voting against the ban; her wife, Shelley Aucoin-Giroux, is on the task force and works for Wellness Connection of Maine, a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary.

Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide told the task force that Hallowell was “very ripe for retail establishments and social clubs that would change the character” of the city. He said the city should address zoning and ordinances related to signage and where retail cultivation and manufacturing establishments might be located.

But Maureen Aucoin-Giroux, who spent six years as the city’s code enforcement officer, said she didn’t understand the need for the moratorium, in part because she thinks existing Hallowell zoning ordinances would cover many issues that may arise.

The city’s Ordinance Rewrite Committee is scheduled to meet next week. An agenda posted on the city’s website states the members will discuss “recreational marijuana-related ordinance changes.”

Rudy said earlier this month that he doesn’t think the 180-day moratorium will be sufficient and told the council to expect him to ask for at least one renewal.

“I fully expect that the state will still be rule making or law making and still be discussing this matter into the fall and winter months,” Rudy said. “I don’t think the council should expect to vote on this moratorium only once.”

A citizen referendum during the Nov. 8 election will allow the creation of retail marijuana stores and social clubs where the substance can be bought and used on site, among other provisions. Lawmakers are working on creating recreational marijuana rules, and Rudy said Hallowell’s moratorium will allow officials to have a parallel conversation.

“If we have that time, we can develop a very thoughtful approach to this that will be mutually beneficial,” Rudy said. “It will foster the industry in a way that aligns with Hallowell’s values and goals for future economic develop.”

The city already has one Water Street business selling marijuana, albeit the medicinal kind. The Cannabis Healing Center opened in January to serve those who are permitted to buy and use medical marijuana.

Irish wants the next meeting to focus on how many recreational marijuana operations the city will allow. The task force expects to meet again May 22.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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