HALLOWELL — Two downtown storefronts were awarded preference for marijuana retail stores after a lottery at Monday’s City Council meeting, leaving one existing storefront without a license to sell medical marijuana.

Cannabis Healing Center opened in January 2017 by Derek Wilson, and newcomer Kennebec Cannabis, spearheaded by Allison Michaud, of North Monmouth, and Brian King, of Hallowell, were given licenses subject final approvals by code enforcement and other city officials.

Homegrown the Offering, a store run by Catherine Lewis at 109 Water St., was the odd person out because the ordinance limits downtown retail licenses to two.

All three downtown applications were submitted by parties with existing marijuana storefronts in Central Maine.

No licenses for other uses — indoor or outdoor cultivation, products manufacturing, or product testing facilities — were applied for.

King and Michaud’s corporations, The Frost Factory, LLC, operates a medical marijuana business on 68 Old Lewiston Road in North Monmouth. Their proposed Hallowell location, Kennebec Cannabis, is slated for 144 Water Street.

Lewis’ original corporation, Homegrown Healthcare of Maine, LLC, operates a retail store, education manufacturing facility at 662 Stanley Road in Winthrop.

City Manager Nate Rudy said that three additional applications were rejected because they did not meet guidelines, citing that some were specifically for adult-use establishments.

Previously, The Kennebec Journal reported that these licenses could permit adult-use establishments. However, it would be impossible to open an adult-use establishment since having a state license is a necessary condition for local licensing, and those rules have not been set by the Legislature. The Legislature convenes early next month.

The licenses will be finalized after final inspections by local and State health inspections. If a health inspection is failed or another shortcoming disqualifies a lottery winner from a license, Homegrown the Offering will automatically be reconsidered.

Lewis said she was disappointed by the outcome of the lottery, but remained hopeful that future council action could permit her business to sell medical marijuana.

“I had hoped that licenses would be chosen on a first come, first served and qualification basis,” she said in a Monday email. “Maybe in the future, the council will vote to add additional licensing that will allow our store the ability to serve our patients in town.”

Her business will continue to operate, selling cannabidiol (CBD) and other wellness products.

“I think (our business) is still going to be successful,” she said. “It’s not going to be as successful as it could have been.”

Before the lottery, Hallowell staff vetted the applications to determine if they fit guidelines outlined in the city’s ordinance. Those guidelines included checks of the applicant’s criminal record, assessment of the applicant’s “good moral character” and the applicant’s compliance with local and state laws.

Portland attorney Tom Zerrillo could not speak to Hallowell’s specific regulations but was generally skeptical of a lottery to award licenses. He said that liquor licenses in Portland are awarded after officials judge the merits of businesses competing for the license, ensuring the better candidate gets the license.

“If we’re trying to get the best people in there, then probably the random selection is not the way to go,” he said.

Lewis advocated for a scoring system to determine the best applicant but congratulated the winners of the lottery.

“It was just a bummer that we didn’t get picked,” she said.

The number of available downtown retail store licenses — adult-use or medical caregiver retail spaces — was initially limited to three, but amended to two in October.

City Clerk Diane Polky said the licenses must be renewed yearly and a lottery only will happen in the event of a vacated license.

Councilor Kate Dufour believed holding the lottery prior to having adult-use rules from the Legislature put adult-use proprietors at a disadvantage.

Councilor Lynn Irish said the medical marijuana storefronts were ahead of the curve and earned licensing advantages.

Caregiver storefront Cold Brook Cannabis at 301 Water St. also received a new retail store license for this year, but it was not subject to any limits because the shop is not downtown.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME


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