WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday will consider taking final votes to amend the city’s marijuana ordinance and the licenses & permits ordinance, proposals that stirred debate at a council meeting  two weeks ago.

The City Council meets at the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons in downtown Waterville. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons in downtown Waterville. It will be preceded by a 6:30 p.m. executive session to discuss a real estate abatement.

The proposed marijuana ordinance amendment would clarify that:

  • The city clerk administers the licensing of all marijuana facilities.
  • Those fees are collected at the time of application.
  • The fees are refunded if a license is not granted.
  • Annual license fees apply to medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

Such an amendment would authorize the city clerk to administer the licensing of all marijuana facilities in the same manner as all other business licenses, and would stipulate that annual license fees apply to medical marijuana facilities.

The proposed amendment to the city’s licenses & permits ordinance would simply add to it a reference to the marijuana ordinance, and authorize the city clerk to administer the licensing of all marijuana facilities in the same manner as all other business licenses.

The council took a first vote Jan. 21 to approve amendments to both ordinances, but voted at the same meeting to table final votes.

At that meeting, Jennifer Bergeron, a marijuana grower, argued that even if the city can license medical marijuana growers, doing so violates confidentiality in the law. But City Manager Michael Roy argued otherwise, citing the opinion of City Solicitor William A. Lee III.

“Our argument is: We are not violating confidentiality because we’re just licensing one person, the grower, who is growing for a profit,” Roy said Monday. “We’re not revealing any name of anyone purchasing or using marijuana.”

Roy said the confidentiality law applies to users.

“Someone who has the medical right to buy marijuana for medical reasons is none of our business — none of anyone’s business,” he said. “They have the right to confidentiality. People who grow medical marijuana for a profit do not have that same right.”

Bergeron previously had argued the city cannot license medical marijuana growers, but later acknowledged the city can do so. She said at the Jan. 21 meeting she would be unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The Marijuana Study Committee was established in September 2018 to study state law on all aspects of marijuana cultivation, distribution, sale, medical uses and other uses to determine if and how the city would add more conditions to the terms of marijuana-related activity.

Bergeron was the committee’s chairwoman. Other members included Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2; Robert Vear; Luc Duplessie; Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4; then-Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6; Tom Ferris; and Anthony George. Roy and Dan Bradstreet, the city’s code enforcement officer, served as ex-officio, or nonvoting, members.

The council approved the marijuana ordinance on April 2, 2019, and amended it Oct. 15. It became effective Nov. 5.

The ordinance says people must obtain a license from the city clerk before establishing, operating or maintaining an adult-use or medical marijuana establishment. The seven-page ordinance, available on the city’s website — waterville-me.gov — spells out licensing requirements and costs, the application process, standards for permits and enforcement and confidentiality.

In other matters Tuesday, the council is expected to consider a recommendation by Mayor Nick Isgro to appoint Tom DePre, a project/property manager, to the Planning Board to fill a vacancy created when Mark Champagne resigned in January. If appointed, DePre would fill the remainder of Champagne’s term, which ends 2023.

The council also will hear a presentation on the auditor’s report and consider taking a first vote on a request by Kingston Properties LLC to rezone 209 College Ave. — from Commercial-C to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A — to allow for four apartments there. A second vote is needed at a future meeting to finalize the matter.

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