HALLOWELL — The City Council on Monday heard the first reading of proposed marijuana-related amendments to the local zoning ordinance. The changes would authorize permitting and licensing for businesses related to legal production and sale of recreational marijuana.

The council also heard the first reading of ordinance language that would create zoning standards for the legal cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail sale of cannabis for adult use, including marijuana social clubs.

Both ordinances “will evolve over several readings at council and with guidance from the Planning Board and Ordinance Rewrite Committee,” City Manager Nate Rudy said.

The ordinances and standards, if approved by council, will only become active in the event that lawmakers approve rules and regulations permitting the sale of recreational marijuana. Gov. Paul LePage last month vetoed a recreational marijuana bill, saying the legislative rewrite of last year’s ballot-box law would put Maine in conflict with federal law, and the Legislature failed to override the veto.

In Hallowell, the measure legalizing recreational marijuana in Maine was supported in the November 2016 statewide referendum by 873 voters and opposed by 755, with 31 blank ballots. There is already at least one business — the Cannabis Healing Center — selling medical marijuana to those permitted to buy and use it.

According to the proposed ordinance amendment, the license fee for a cannabis social club will be $250 per year, and it stipulates a license would be required before establishing and operating a facility for the cultivation or sale of recreational marijuana. It also says municipal officers could issue licenses to people of good moral character.

The council earlier this year adopted a 180-day moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments, retail stores and social clubs, and it approved a second one in September. The moratorium allows the city to change its ordinances and zoning rules before the state finalizes its rules governing recreational marijuana.

The council held a special meeting in September to hear second and third readings of the moratorium, something Councilor Maureen Aucoin did not agree with. She said the councilors didn’t have enough time to prepare and didn’t think there was any reason to approve a second moratorium hastily.

Hallowell proposes to limit the number of active licenses for adult-use cannabis sellers to three, meaning there can’t be more than three individuals licensed to sell recreational marijuana in Hallowell at any one time.

Rudy said the city wants business owners to invest in Hallowell, but there should be a limit on the amount of recreational marijuana shops.

“We want to encourage new investment in the northern and southern gateways on Water Street and minimize any precipitous fluctuations in rental rates or real estate market value in the downtown district that might crowd out other uses,” Rudy said.

The state will receive a certain percentage of tax revenue from recreational marijuana establishments, retail stores and social clubs, and so will cities and towns; so the longer Maine is without legislation and rules, the longer the municipalities and state go without additional revenue.

Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide said earlier this year that Hallowell would be “very ripe” for retail establishments and social clubs, so he has been looking at proposed zoning and ordinance changes with the city’s Marijuana Task Force and Ordinance Rewrite Committee. He said it’s important to figure out where retail, cultivation and manufacturing establishments might be located.

Municipalities in central Maine have been debating how to deal with recreational marijuana since the citizen referendum passed during the November 2016 election. Augusta’s council approved a 180-day moratorium in last December, and a 180-day ban in Gardiner was extended in May and again last week.

Whitefield held a special town meeting last week to approve a 180-day ban on recreational marijuana uses in town. The moratorium was enacted immediately and expires June 4. It temporarily prohibits anyone from establishing recreational marijuana-related businesses, including retail stores, social clubs and manufacturing and cultivation operations.

Rudy said the Hallowell council will hear the second reading of its proposed ordinance changes at its first meeting of 2018, currently scheduled for Jan. 8.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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