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Topsham Planning Board backs marijuana dispensary limits

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Topsham Planning Board backs marijuana dispensary limits

TOPSHAM — The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously recommended zoning changes that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries as a conditional use in two parts of town.

The amendments, which now go to the Board of Selectmen, define a dispensary and dictate where and when it can operate.

Maine limits the number of dispensaries to one in each of eight districts. The dispensary for District 4 – Sagadahoc, Waldo, Lincoln and Knox counties – has been awarded to Northeast Patients Group, which plans to open its dispensary in Thomaston.

But Planning Director Rich Roedner said the state could expand the number of authorized facilities and that it is important to have local rules in place.

Under the board's recommendations, dispensaries could not be within 500 feet of the nearest boundary line of a lot that is used as a residence, playground, school, nursery school, park, day-care center or church, and would have to be at least 1,000 feet away from the boundary line of other dispensaries.

They could be open at most 12 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., excluding hours for medical marijuana cultivation.

Dispensaries would be allowed as conditional uses in Topsham's Mixed Use Commercial and Business Park districts, essentially confining them to the Topsham Fair Mall and an undeveloped area on the northwest side of the interchange of Interstate 295 and Route 196.

"Under the state law, towns are allowed to pass reasonable regulations governing the number of facilities and the location of facilities," Roedner said. "The number of facilities can't be zero. You have to allow them in town."

Residents at Town Meeting in May approved a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, giving the town time to develop a local ordinance.

The Board of Selectmen could vote next month on whether to extend that moratorium, and on whether to send the ordinance to a special Town Meeting vote in January.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.