AUGUSTA — Nearly anyone with plans, two years after Maine voters legalized marijuana use by adults, to sell marijuana in Augusta is going to have to wait another 180 days.

City councilors voted Thursday to extend moratoriums already in place temporarily banning all retail stores selling either recreational marijuana to adults or medical marijuana to card-carrying patients, and to add a new moratorium also temporarily banning medical marijuana caregivers from selling to patients in all residential zoning districts in Augusta.

That means the only marijuana sales that could take place in the city legally under state law would be by caregivers to patients in the city’s nonresidential zones.

Officials said the moratoriums are needed to give the city more time to come up with regulations on how such businesses and caregivers operate in Augusta, a process city leaders said was delayed in because the state still has not established regulations for recreational marijuana sales and only recently passed a sweeping medical marijuana reform bill.

City Manager William Bridgeo warned people are eying Augusta as a potential place to set up shop selling marijuana, so the city should act to prevent that from happening before regulations are in place.

“Be aware there are people buying up properties now on Bangor Street and elsewhere,” he said. “We don’t want to have even a day’s time where there isn’t a moratorium in place, or you could end up in a legal battle.”

Councilors unanimously voted to extend the existing moratoriums against medical and recreational marijuana retails sales and 6-1 for the new moratorium against medical marijuana caregivers selling in residential zones.

At-large Councilor Corey Wilson, the lone vote against the new moratorium, didn’t specify why he voted against it but said, at an Oct. 11 council discussion on the issue, he would vote for a proposal to ban medical marijuana caregivers from residential areas of the city only if the city allows medical marijuana storefronts in commercial zones. Councilors have not voted yet on whether the city will allow medical marijuana storefronts anywhere in the city.

The new moratorium banning medical marijuana caregivers, many of whom now grow and sell to patients from their homes, from residential zoning districts is likely a preview of a permanent ban on such sales in residential neighborhoods.

Last week councilors asked city staff members and an attorney to draft proposed zoning ordinance changes to ban medical marijuana caregivers from operating in the city’s residential zoning districts. A majority of councilors indicated they want to ban marijuana sales from residential neighborhoods but allow it in some commercial zones in the city.

Matt Nazar, development director, said the city will need more time to come up with those rules. He suggested the moratorium councilors approved Thursday as a way to prevent the growth of medical marijuana sales by caregivers in residential neighborhoods while work on longer-term rules takes place.

The moratorium applies to the city’s RA, RB1, RB2, RC and RD zoning districts, which are, roughly, residential neighborhoods around the downtown area and include Mount Vernon Avenue, the Mayfair neighborhood and much of Sand Hill and Winthrop Hill.

Nazar said the city can adopt a moratorium banning medical marijuana caregivers, not already operating by Oct. 11, from selling to their patients in residential zoning districts in the city. The new moratorium will give officials 180 days to come up with longer-term rules, though they also could extend the moratorium if they decide they need more time.

For months, councilors and a subcommittee formed after Maine residents voted to legalize marijuana in 2016, have debated how Augusta should regulate both medical and recreational marijuana production and distribution.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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