SOMERVILLE — Town residents will soon get their first look at a draft adult-use and medical marijuana business ordinance that gives preference to locals for new business licenses.

A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Somerville Town Office to discuss the 28-page draft ordinance that details the application process, the fee schedule for licenses and a merit-based scoring rubric that applications may be subject to. Town Treasurer Maria Greeley said the ordinance may be enacted at a special town meeting on March 7.

Work on the ordinance began in February 2019, when the town’s Cannabis Committee formed. The committee chairperson, Jackson McLeod, said at the time that the town could benefit from grow operations and product manufacturing businesses, particularly with property and equipment taxes. McLeod was not available for comment on Wednesday.

Residents’ opinion on adult-use marijuana has been lukewarm in the past. In February 2019, former Selectwoman Darlene Landry said the town surveyed residents in 2016 on their interest in having adult-use marijuana establishments, and the town was overwhelmingly against them. That outcome was unsurprising, as residents voted 137-207 against the 2016 referendum question on legalizing marijuana.

Select Board Chairman Chris Johnson said he didn’t have a read on what the town’s response will be to the ordinance, but he hoped there would be a good discussion about it Thursday.

A total of four retail marijuana businesses will be allowed in Somerville, two adult-use and two medical. According to the ordinance, town residents will be given preference on the licenses then, if two candidates are vying for one license, a merit-based scoring guide will be used to rank the applications.


The same process will apply to out-of-town applicants. In the event of a tie, a lottery drawing would be held. The merit-based scoring guide awards points based on nine criteria, including being a Somerville resident, being a member of a Native American tribe or having prior experience in the cannabis industry.

Licenses for other marijuana businesses, including cultivation and manufacturing facilities, would be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

All applications carry a nonrefundable $500 fee. Annual retail store license fees, adult-use or medical, are listed at $2,500. Annual manufacturing and testing facilities license fees are $1,500 plus any fire and code enforcement inspection fees. Annual licensing fees for adult-use cultivation facilities range from $1,000 to $3,000 based on how many square feet of plant canopy is being grown, while medical marijuana cultivation carries a $250 fee plus inspection fees.

Johnson said one resident has already commented to town officials about fees, saying the cost may be too high for someone to enter the industry. Those fees are higher than nearby municipalities in central Maine. In Hallowell, marijuana business licenses carry an annual fee of $250. Across the Kennebec River in Chelsea, medical marijuana retail stores carry a $1,000 licensing fee.

Home-based medical marijuana cultivation facilities are not required to pay any license application fee, per the ordinance, but a home-based mercantile permit must be obtained from the town. The fee for every six plants is $50, capped at 30 plants for $250.

The draft ordinance states that no marijuana businesses would be 1,000 feet from the property line of any school or other marijuana business. Also, all businesses must be operated from permanent locations and may not have drive-through windows.

All businesses must have an odor control plan and local law and code enforcement may conduct on-site inspections at “any reasonable time.”

Town Clerk Erica Tompkins said the town’s lawyer and Planning Board have looked through the ordinance ahead of the town meeting. Any changes that may come through the Thursday public hearing will be made to the draft ahead of the March 7 special town meeting.

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