AUBURN — A draft marijuana ordinance would allow recreational marijuana stores and other related businesses in the city, but would set caps on how many could be operating at a time.

The ordinance sets a proposed cap on businesses at 10 — five for recreational or adult-use shops, and five for medical marijuana retail stores.

It also proposes a cap in Auburn of 30 cultivation facilities and five manufacturing facilities.

If adopted this spring, the city’s marijuana ordinance would make Auburn among the first handful of municipalities to opt in on allowing adult-use retail stores.

Under new state laws, municipalities must opt in on allowing adult-use marijuana and medical marijuana retail stores, but cannot restrict medical marijuana caregivers.

Medical marijuana storefronts, popping up throughout the state over the past year, are businesses not anticipated under the initial state law but that ahve since flourished. The model allows licensed caregivers to sell to patients from a retail location.

Many municipalities, including Auburn and Lewiston, passed moratoriums on caregiver storefronts while coming up with updated regulations. In November, the city extended a moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts that will run until May, arguing it needed more time to flesh out the details.

The most recent version of the ordinance put together by city staff and a separate marijuana ordinance committee was in front of the Auburn Planning Board for the first time Tuesday.

However, Eric Cousens, deputy director of economic and community development, said the official adoption process has not begun yet. He said the Tuesday meeting, attended by at least 20 members of the public, was a work session for the board.

“Everyone wants to get it right,” he said. “This is new territory, and no one here has had the years of experience on this like other issues.”

Cousens said he believes the city is “well on schedule” to have an ordinance in place before the moratorium expires.

On Jan. 15, the marijuana ordinance committee is scheduled to make final edits, which would be passed back to the Planning Board for a public hearing Feb. 12. It would then be followed by a City Council workshop and two subsequent council hearings before adoption.

Cousens said a number of people spoke during Tuesday’s work session, some asking questions board members and staff could not answer. He said that means there will likely be edits made to the ordinance stemming from the meeting, particularly in how the ordinance would apply in certain situations.

He said it was clear the main concerns from the public focused on proposed license fees, caps on the number of businesses allowed and proposed setbacks between marijuana facilities and schools, parks and other community land.

The draft ordinance proposes an annual operation permit and license fee of $7,500 for retail stores, $2,500 for manufacturing facilities, $2,500 for testing facilities and a fee scale for cultivation depending on the operation size. The largest tier, a facility between 7,001 and 20,000 square feet, would have a $7,500 fee.

Cousens said the proposed setback between marijuana businesses and a school building is 750 feet. He said state law allows municipalities to reduce the setback to 500 feet.

“The committee worked to create an ordinance that minimizes and addresses impacts of the industry on the community, and a fee structure that attempts to cover the costs of implementation,” Cousens said in an email prior to the Planning Board session.

Cousens said Wednesday if the ordinance committee does not reach a consensus Jan. 15, the process might be delayed for a few weeks. Either way, he said, he believes Auburn is in a good position.

“We tried to start the discussion early once we had the (regulatory) framework,” he said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of it.”

In Lewiston, officials have not yet decided whether to opt in to the adult-use and medical marijuana law. A moratorium on caregiver storefronts is also in effect, with a number of businesses grandfathered and more in limbo.

Cousens said Auburn’s ordinance committee looked at models for medical marijuana and adult-use regulations from multiple states, including Colorado. Auburn contracted with a Colorado lawyer who met with the committee, laying out “what worked and what didn’t” in Colorado.

State regulators passed sweeping changes to Maine’s medical marijuana caregiver system in July.

The revised state laws on medical and recreational operations went into effect Dec. 13.

When extending the moratorium in November, Auburn officials agreed that they did not want to opt out of the new system, considering the amount of business activity the city had already experienced.

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