AUGUSTA — The first-ever retail stores to sell medical marijuana in Augusta could open as soon as Oct. 1 with unanimous City Council votes to grant licenses to three new businesses.

The three medical marijuana retail stores are the first to be approved under the city’s new marijuana business rules, three years after Maine residents legalized the use of marijuana by adults. The city’s rules cap the number of medical marijuana retail stores at 15, while not allowing recreational marijuana to be sold.

The businesses, each of which also had their locations approved by the Planning Board and have been vetted by the city’s police and fire departments, code enforcement officer and health officer, can open as soon as Oct. 1 under the terms of the ordinance.

One of them, Homegrown of Augusta New England Cannabis Consulting, has already been operating at its 393 Western Ave. site, albeit only selling CBD items and other wellness-related products rather than any cannabis containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that provides users with a high.

The other two would be entirely new businesses in Augusta, Greenport Cannabis Co. at 87 Western Ave. and Cannamax at 102 Bangor St.

Homegrown of Augusta has already been operating as a business but has been closed for three weeks due to what owner Shanna Souza, of Winthrop, described as “an employee issue” and also because they decided to wait to reopen until they were approved for medical marijuana retail sales and they complete renovations to their building, a former gas station.

Souza, a board member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said she has worked for the past several years for Homegrown Healthcare in Winthrop which she said has a focus on helping very sick patients in Maine, a focus that will continue at the new Augusta shop.

“We’ve been dealing with a lot of cancer patients, that has kind of been our specialty, so we’re going to stick to the same type of model,” Souza told city councilors Thursday. “We’re going to be dealing directly to, you know, make sure people have a better quality of life. So we’re not just going to be dealing with cannabis and CBD, but we’re also going to be dealing with other herbal therapeutic remedies, massage therapy, we’re focusing on health and wellness. And we also want to clean up the outside of the building as well, so it’s nice and presentable.”

City councilors approved the licenses for the three businesses in separate, 5-0 votes Thursday night, with little discussion and no public comments offered other than from the owners of the businesses.

“That will close the public hearings for the first-issued cannabis licensing in the history of Augusta, Maine,” Mayor David Rollins said following the hearings. “Welcome to the business community in the city of Augusta. I wish you all well and I look forward to seeing you throughout the evolutions of this. Your input is going to be valuable.”

Councilors have previously declined to adopt rules allowing any adult-use recreational retail stores, effectively banning them from Augusta and leaving medical marijuana as the only type of retail marijuana sales that may take place legally within city limits.

Eric Maxim, of China, owner of the proposed new medical marijuana retailer Cannamax that will be located in a Queens Court Plaza storefront, said he hopes his site will meet the guidelines established by city ordinance. To being operations, the new businesses still need to be inspected by police, fire and code enforcement officials.

“I plan to implement my business and hopefully meet all the guidelines that have been set forth by the city,” Maxim said. “I think we’re prepared, so we’re targeting Oct. 1st.”

Part of the city licensing process included criminal background checks. Those checks apparently only looked at the owners’ criminal records in Maine, as Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, asked each of the owners Thursday whether any of them had been convicted of a felony or drug-related crime outside the state of Maine, to which they each answered no, they had not.

“Just so you understand, in the event that anybody has misrepresented that information tonight, and it turns out there is information that you were convicted of a crime outside of the jurisdiction of Maine, that could be grounds for revocation of the license,” Langsdorf warned.

Ryan Ellis, of Freeport, owner of Greenport Cannabis and director of Compassionate Caregivers of Maine, started a medical marijuana store in Damariscotta with a friend but said he plans to leave that to open his new business in Augusta. He also said he plans to work hard to help patients understand medical marijuana and how to use it in a way to help them.

“I’m looking to step it up to a bigger space and serve more people,” Ellis said of the move to Augusta. “There’s a big disconnect between a doctor giving (a patient a medical marijuana) certification and what the heck to do with it. And it’s pretty important to be able to be sort of a liaison for those people. So that’s probably the most important part of my job, to make sure that people are served.”

Development Director Matt Nazar said recently the three license applicants which won their approval Thursday were so far the only ones to seek marijuana business licenses from the city. He’s sure there must be more medical marijuana businesses operating, or planning to operate, in the city than those three.

The city’s new medical marijuana rules require any medical marijuana businesses — including caregivers growing for anyone other than themselves — to obtain a license from the city.

There are multiple types of medical marijuana business license categories in the city, ranging from caregiver as a home occupation business, with a fee of $200, to medical marijuana caregiver retail store, with a fee of $1,400.

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