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BRUNSWICK — The public and the Planning Board had few questions before the board unanimously approved a special permit application for the town’s first medical marijuana storefront.
The Town Council has 30 days to review and potentially take action on the permit granted to Stone Coast Cannabis for 220 Bath Road. The proposal is expected to be discussed at the council’s Sept. 18 meeting.
The application has standing despite a moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts passed by councilors Sept. 5, because it was submitted before notice was posted of a public hearing about the ban. The ban overlaps with another that temporarily bars newly legal retail marijuana establishments while town staff considers local rules.
A medical cannabis store is an omitted use that is neither prohibited nor permitted within the town’s zoning code, and therefore requires a special permit review.
The applicants, certified Maine medical marijuana caregivers Melissa Roberts and Michael Goldstein, said the brick-and-mortar location would provide them with a more professional place to do business for an expanded pool of clientele.
The goal is “to offer patients a more secure and professional retail experience,” Roberts told the board. “Currently, caregivers don’t personally know our patients. We tend to meet in public places. It’s a little odd.”
As caregivers, Roberts and Goldstein, who live in Freeport, are legally allowed to grow marijuana for residents with a prescription. By law, they are each allowed to have five patients and six plants, or a combined total of 60 plants.
The pair hope their storefront will reduce the stigma, and increase their overall number of patients and the area’s access to medical marijuana.
To do that, they plan to take advantage of a part of the law that allows one of those patient slots to “rotate,” Goldstein said.
“If we have four of our five slots filled that are permanent, we’re allowed to take the fifth slot and keep it as a rotating slot, where someone who isn’t a long-term patient can sign up for the duration of their consultation, and unsign … when they’re done,” Goldstein explained to the board.
Consultations would take place at the 500-square-foot storefront in a multi-tenant commercial building.
It would function much like a pharmacy, Roberts explained, and a majority of the space would be devoted to offices. The couple said the landlord has already approved their lease.
Patients would not be allowed to ingest their prescribed products on site, Goldstein noted.
He and Roberts anticipate about 20 patients per day – although Goldstein called that an estimate, or “wishful thinking.”
What the pair is proposing is different from a marijuana dispensary – the nearest of which is in Bath – for reasons of scale and setting.
Unlike a dispensary’s more casual, impersonal setting, Roberts said Stone Coast wants to provide a more customized experience for patients, similar to a medical office.
She also said their products – the core of which will be marijuana flowers, edibles, and extracts – will be cheaper, and carry a higher guarantee of quality.
The business can also grow less than a dispensary, according to legal regulations.
Only one member of the public spoke in favor of the proposal Tuesday.
Carrie Clark, a registered nurse and president-elect of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, praised the couple for creating a “safe way (for patients) to access their medicine” in Mid-Coast.
Clark urged the board to imagine the insecure feeling experienced by patients – many of whom are elderly and ailing – who are prescribed a medical marijuana prescription, only to face a stigmatized, shadowy path toward accessing it.
The board seemed to understand.
Vice Chairwoman Margaret Wilson said she “appreciate(s) that meeting people in the parking lot of the supermarket is …”
“… Awkward?” Goldstein finished.
“Awkward,” Wilson said.
The Brunswick Planning Board approved a special permit Sept. 12 for Stone Coast Cannabis so the medical marijuana store can move into a 500-square-foot commercial space at Cooks Corner. The Town Council has 30 days to review and take action on the proposal, which it is expected to happen Sept. 18.