So. Portland marijuana ordinance stalls

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council must work through more details before an ordinance on medical marijuana can go forward.

The Council unanimously passed a first reading on regulating medical marijuana retail businesses last month, but before it can advance, the proposed ordinance will have to be considered in a workshop to define setbacks, as well as the definition of “schools.”

The city has worked on crafting a medical marijuana retail ordinance for more than a year. In August, the Planning Board recommended the City Council could finally move ahead with regulations that would welcome medical marijuana growers and retailers in sections of the city.

Matt Dubois, an attorney who works with caregivers hoping to open retail locations in the city, said at Tuesday’s meeting that he’s looked at many zoning ordinances and, in his opinion, South Portland’s is the most comprehensive and “tight” he’s reviewed.

But he cautioned some words, like school, should be better defined, whether it is in line with state law, which means a public or private kindergarten through grade 12 school, or whether the city also means Southern Maine Community College or a daycare. Setbacks from other properties should also be defined, Dubois said, as caregivers do not have setback requirements, but adult use facilities do, according to state law.

Resident Sam Fratoni agreed, saying unclear codes and enforcement have led the city into conflict. “You are creating history. Take time and do it right,” he urged.

The draft zoning and licensing amendments include defining types of medical marijuana businesses and the commercial and industrial zoning districts where the businesses would be allowed.

Cultivation facilities may also be allowed to sell some product.

The ordinance would not affect home-based unregistered caregivers, but would regulate registered caregivers and caregiver storefronts, registered caregiver cultivation facilities, and manufacturing and testing facilities for medical marijuana products, according to city officials.

The ordinance would also update zoning policy related to dispensaries, allowing them in all of the same zones that now allow adult-use marijuana stores and cultivation, and would increase the limit of only one.

Site plan review by the Planning Board would be required to start an adult-use and medical marijuana business, and applicants would also be required to submit a security plan, according to the proposal.

Similar to recreational retail shops, medical marijuana storefronts would be prohibited within 1,000 feet of schools or within 300 feet of places of worship, measured from property lines.

Adult-use marijuana testing facilities do not require a city license, and none would be required of medical marijuana testing facilities unless the council decides otherwise.

The city first began considering how to manage recreational and medical marijuana storefronts in February after it received several inquiries from prospective businesses interested in opening medical marijuana offices and storefronts.

Last November, the council voted on rules for establishing retail cannabis businesses. Most other municipalities in the area, including Scarborough, have enacted moratoriums to give them more time to adopt regulations consistent with state law.

The unanimous Planning Board vote to send the ordinance to the council’s Aug. 21 meeting came after discussions that mostly focused on security and odor. The board decided that the product should be kept secure, within an enclosed area, and also a third party should review odor compliance, whether at the property line or at the door of a facility.

The board also considered the possibility of grower cooperatives, or several individuals growing personal-use marijuana on a single parcel of land, but that provision will not be allowed, according to Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny.

South Portland voted in favor of the statewide initiative to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

State law now allows individuals to cultivate three flowering plants, 12 immature plants, and an unlimited number of seedlings for personal use on their property.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net.

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