HALLOWELL — The Ordinance Rewrite Committee met Monday for a preliminary discussion on how it and the city will address recreational marijuana establishments, retail stores and social clubs, the next step for the city after a citizen referendum that Maine voters approved during the Nov. 8 election.

The six-person committee, chaired by former councilor Kate DuFour, includes councilors Lynn Irish and Michael Frett, City Manager Nate Rudy, Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide and Pamela Perry.

Ide has said Hallowell was “very ripe for retail establishments and social clubs that would change the character” of the city, and he suggested the city address zoning and ordinances related to retail cultivation, manufacturing and signage.

Rudy said the Marijuana Task Force should provide the rewrite committee a framework by which to proceed with crafting language to regulate and govern recreational marijuana within city limits.

“I would ask you to define the roles between the committee and the Marijuana Task Force,” he told the group. “Or else you’ll have a lot of meetings that aren’t going to generate good content.”

The city adopted a temporary six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana-related businesses earlier this month and the task force has met several times this year to discuss how the city’s zoning rules may change as a result of the legalization of the drug.

Irish said every time the task force talks about recreational marijuana, “there’s more and more issues that come up.”

Last week, the task force met and discussed zoning within city limits and whether recreational marijuana cultivation would be considered an agricultural, farming or manufacturing use. Rudy said he thinks the state is leaning toward classifying as manufacturing, and several people on the task force agreed, in part because of the technology and processes involved in growing recreational pot.

Irish, who is the chairperson of the task force, said she thinks they’ll decide to call marijuana cultivation ‘controlled environment agriculture’ if it’s being grown outside. Under the city’s zoning rules, it would be considered light to moderate manufacturing.

Currently, 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. Rural areas are considered ideal spots for the type of facilities used to cultivate marijuana, and the smell the facilities emit would be far enough away from major population centers.

“I think there is some differing opinions on whether the rural districts are the place for any forms of cultivation,” Rudy said. “Does a warehouse-looking building fit the character of rural Hallowell?

“Every time we answered one of those questions, three more came up.”

There appears to be a consensus among the task force members to limit the number of recreational marijuana establishments, retail stores and social clubs within Hallowell, but there was discussion about what that number would be; it’s likely Hallowell won’t allow more than five of these types of businesses.

“All of this is predicated on the state’s rulemaking,” Rudy said. He added that he doesn’t think the 180-day moratorium will be sufficient and expects to ask the council to extend it when it expires in October.

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

Rudy said having the city working on their own regulations at the same time the state continues to craft its rules for recreational marijuana is important.

“The council needs time to study (recreational marijuana’s) impact and enact ordinances that balance the rights of everyone,” he said earlier this month.

The Marijuana Task Force will continue its discussion at 6 p.m. May 22 at City Hall. The rewrite committee will next meet in June before adopting a more consistent monthly schedule.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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