HALLOWELL — The City Council voted Friday to hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. Monday with medical marijuana caregiver storefront owners.

The action followed an hourlong executive session. The final vote was 4-2 in favor of holding the meeting, with the absent Ward 3 Councilor Kara Walker taking part by telephone conference call. Councilors Maureen Aucoin and Kate Dufour cast the dissenting votes. Councilor George Lapointe did not vote because he left about half-hour into the meeting.

The meeting was opened in City Manager Nate Rudy’s office at Hallowell City Hall, but then promptly taken to executive session. A noise machine was turned on to muffle noise in the office to prevent interested parties in the lobby from overhearing. All seven councilors were present, along with Rudy, Mayor Mark Walker and City Solicitor Amy Tchao.

Councilors Dufour, Aucoin, Diano Circo, Patrick Wynne and Michael Frett did not comment on the content of the conversation, nor did Rudy, Walker and Tchao. Walker said the upcoming public hearing was part of trying to find the correct process going forward.

On Monday, councilors denied a license to Derek Wilson, the owner of the Cannabis Healing Center at 184 Water St. Wilson was one of two downtown retail store applicants who won first preference for a license after a December lottery. A background check done on all four applicants for marijuana retail stores was presented at the meeting, revealing one class E misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction from 25 years ago on Wilson’s record.

Wilson did not attend Monday’s meeting, and councilors said they were not able to judge his “moral character” — because of his absence — in accordance with the licensing procedure, ultimately deciding unanimously to deny the license. Councilors voted 6-1 in favor of issuing a license to Allison Michaud, who will operate the Frost Factory at 144 Water St., although her background revealed six prior convictions, including one class D misdemeanor for unlawful trafficking of a scheduled drug. She said at the Monday meeting that it was for cultivating marijuana.

Councilors seemingly were moved by her willingness to discuss those issues at the meeting.

Catherine Lewis, owner of Homegrown The Offering, sits in the lobby Friday while a City Council executive session takes place in the city manager’s office, at top right, on Friday at Hallowell City Hall.

“She was present and was able to explain her charges,” Councilor Patrick Wynne said in a Tuesday interview. “I felt like I was able to judge her moral character, and I couldn’t make a judgment on his.”

Catherine Lewis, who operates Homegrown the Offering at 184 Water St., received the license intended for Wilson minutes after he was denied it. She was the only applicant in the December lottery who was not picked. Lewis waited outside Rudy’s office for the executive session to conclude. She said she had not been issued a license.

Lewis, who is the president of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine Trade Association board of directors, said she was frustrated with the marijuana industry being legislated differently from other businesses.

“It’s being treated like a new industry,” she said. “I’d like to see it treated like any other business.”

The city has not licensed any marijuana establishments and is in the process of drafting the licenses, even though motions to issue licenses were passed on Monday. Lewis said she has tried to obtain a license from the city clerk’s office but has had no luck.

Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker, at top right in the back row, convenes a special City Council meeting that went into executive session Friday so the councilors could confer with the city solicitor at Hallowell City Hall.

“I would like to hear firsthand what’s going on,” she said, adding that she has heard only from third parties and newspapers about licensing matters.

Wilson’s store was closed Tuesday. He said City Manager Nate Rudy had called him and said he would be arrested if he sold medical marijuana from his store. On Thursday, Wilson’s store displayed a sign with a phone number, asking customers to call for deliveries.

Another sticking point was Wilson’s conviction not being included on his application, which required applicants to disclose all convictions. Michaud did not disclose all six charges on her application when prompted, but did disclose some, while Wilson did not disclose his one charge.

Portland attorney Tim Zerillo said Wilson might have a chance to appeal the decision, but he added it could be difficult to prove the council acted in a discriminative way. If the decision were overturned, Zerillo said, it could complicate procedure for Hallowell, as three applicants would have legal rights to two licenses.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME


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