CHELSEA — If voters approve the proposed changes to the town’s medical marijuana retail store licensing ordinance Nov. 5, owners of those businesses would have to pay $1,000 to operate in town.

The ordinance is designed to set local licensing requirements for medical marijuana retail stores. The only changes from a September draft are the inclusion of a licensing fee — which other types of businesses in town are not charged — and the removal of a definition for “Medical Marijuana Business.”

The draft ordinance does not limit medical marijuana businesses and does not apply to adult-use marijuana establishments. The town has not opted-in to allowing adult-use marijuana businesses.

A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Chelsea Town Hall.

According to the draft ordinance sent to the Kennebec Journal by Town Manager Scott Tilton, medical marijuana retail stores would have to pay a $1,000 licensing fee. Asked how that amount was determined, Tilton said, “There wasn’t a lot of science to it,” adding the selectboard accepted it when presented with the ordinance.

Across the river in Hallowell, medical marijuana retail store operators must pay a $250 licensing fee.

Selectboard Chairperson Deb Sanderson said the fee will not be finalized until after the ordinance is passed. She said she supported a lower amount of $500 and called the proposed $1,000 fee “a little much.”

Sanderson said she supported a lower fee because she did not want to impose an “extraordinary” fee on a “specialty kind of business.”

“Just because of the nature of the business (is) marijuana, we shouldn’t be extraordinary,” she said, later saying that she did not “know of” any other licensing fees for other types of businesses in Chelsea.

Tilton said he justified the fee to the selectboard by saying there was a high administrative cost to the town to inspect these businesses. The draft ordinance says applicants cannot receive a license unless the town’s fire chief, health inspector and code enforcement officer make “positive recommendations” about the applicant’s ability to adhere to the ordinance.

According to the Office of Marijuana Policy’s caregiver application, application fees for state-licensed caregivers who cultivate marijuana and serve patients range from $240 to $2,400, depending on how many plants the caregiver has, with an additional $31 background check fee. For caregivers who do not  cultivate but still service patients, fees range from $240 to $1,200, plus the $31 background check fee.

Tilton said the town’s three medical marijuana retail stores would all have to obtain licenses to continue operating. Officials from the three stores all declined the Kennebec Journal’s requests for comment.

As proposed in the ordinance, the local license’s term would coincide with the term of the operator’s state license for selling medical marijuana. Sanderson said the license could likely be renewed each year for the same annual fee.

Planning Board member Dick Condon, who said he was against the use of marijuana across the board, said he thought the proposed licensing fee was high but said he was open to adding a new revenue stream for the town through licensing.

Licenses can be revoked or applications denied if the licensee or would-be licensee fails to meet requirements, is younger than 21 years old, is not a Maine resident, has had a previous medical marijuana business license revoked by the town or state, has been convicted of a crime arising out of the operation of a medical marijuana business or has provided false or misleading information during the application process.

The draft ordinance stipulates medical marijuana retail stores have an odor-mitigation system and discourage loitering at the stores.

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