AUGUSTA — Registered medical marijuana caregivers would have to obtain licenses from the city, have their indoor grow areas inspected by an electrician and, if they live in a zoning district that is primarily residential, move out and relocate to a nonresidential zone or stop growing for their patients within two years, under proposed local medical marijuana rules discussed by city councilors Thursday.

The rules include no provisions for adult use recreational marijuana sales, processing or growing, which means no sales of recreational marijuana would be allowed anywhere in Augusta.

City officials said a majority of councilors already made it clear, including in an informal straw poll in January, they do not want to allow any sales of marijuana in Augusta other than medical marijuana.

State law allows municipalities that don’t want to allow recreational marijuana sales simply not to adopt any rules allowing it.

“You guys don’t have to do anything and you simply won’t be opted in” Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, told councilors Thursday.

The rules discussed by councilors thus would apply to registered medical marijuana caregivers and dispensaries.

Nazar, who drafted proposed medical marijuana regulations that councilors discussed Thursday, said the land use ordinance changes were meant to address the goals councilors expressed, which include allowing medical marijuana registered caregivers to operate in the same zoning districts as other retail, industrial, medical and agricultural businesses are allowed to operate; prohibiting medical marijuana registered caregivers from operating in residential zoning districts, with a two-year “sunset” period to allow such caregivers operating in residential zones to relocate; allowing medical marijuana registered dispensaries in the same locations as registered caregivers; creating a set of standards to address local concerns such as odor management, distance from “sensitive” uses such as churches or schools; providing evidence from a licensed master electrician that grow areas used by caregivers or dispensaries comply with electrical codes; and creating a licensing system for caregivers and dispensaries.

Nazar said the proposed rules would allow medical marijuana caregivers to operate in rural parts of the city and commercial areas of the city, but not in residential neighborhoods.

“In any zoning districts that are primarily residential, they’re not allowed at all,” Nazar said.

China resident Eric Maxim, one of only two members of the public who spoke on the issue Thursday, said he grew up in Augusta, where he owns land, and wants to open a medical marijuana retail store in Augusta. He expressed no concerns about the proposed rules.

“I’m here to do it right,” he said. “I’m willing to follow any and all laws. I feel as though the time is right and this is a good first step. It doesn’t bother me you’re not allowing recreational sales.”

He suggested the city could start by allowing medical marijuana sales and, when ready to take the next step, allow recreational sales later, with prioritization given to medical marijuana businesses already operating at that time.

Mayor David Rollins said the proposed rules would be sent to the Planning Board for review, then come back to councilors for consideration.

He said, however, the idea of being able, as an adult, to purchase recreational marijuana in one municipality where it is allowed but, in an adjoining municipality where it is not allowed, be able to purchase marijuana only if you have a medical marijuana card, seems silly.

“Does that seem crazy to anyone else?” he asked, rhetorically. “It seems a little archaic to me.”

The rules would require registered caregivers to have the electrical system where they would grow inspected by a licensed master electrician.

“One of the biggest concerns that has arisen has been when code enforcement officers have gone into properties of caregivers or individuals growing marijuana for themselves, they’re often doing it in spaces where the electrical system is an antiquated system and not capable of handling the load this type of use requires,” Nazar said. “Growing plants under lights take a lot of electricity”

A majority of Augusta residents voted against the 2016 state referendum legalizing adult use of marijuana in Maine, 4,740-4,194.

Under Maine law, municipalities may not ban medical marijuana caregivers from providing marijuana to authorized medical marijuana patients. Municipalities may regulate how and where such businesses operate, however.

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]
Twitter: @kedwardskj


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