South Portland adopts rules for marijuana businesses

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday unanimously approved marijuana zoning and licensing ordinances and set future fees for marijuana businesses.

“We are the community that really led in the state of Maine,” Councilor Claude Morgan said at the Nov. 6 meeting.

The council also moved the Portland Street Pier master plan process forward, and a city official presented results from a food-waste diversion pilot program.

The marijuana zoning and licensing ordinances are set to go into effect in 20 days. But because decisions at the state level have not been made, the sale of recreational marijuana is still prohibited.

Also on Monday, the Maine House of Representatives sustained Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would have regulated the retail sale of recreational marijuana statewide. The state’s current moratorium on recreational sales expires Feb. 1, 2018.

As a result of the council’s action, the city expects to be ready when the state finally approves regulations.

Councilor Linda Cohen said, “It goes to show if you want to get something done, do it locally.”

Maine voters last year at the polls narrowly approved the recreational use of marijuana in a referendum question.

Current state law allows adults 21 years and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana that can be consumed or smoked in private places.

Adults over 21 can grow up to six flowering mature marijuana plants and 12 nonflowering, immature plants. The plants can only be grown where they are not visible to the public right of way, and reasonable precautions must be taken to make them inaccessible to minors under 21. The plants must be properly tagged.

The council adopted licensing fees based on alcohol licensing fees. The fees are set at $1,400 for marijuana stores (Class II), $600 for marijuana cultivation facilities (Class II), and $300 for marijuana products manufacturing facilities (Class I).

The zoning ordinance establishes land-use regulations. Both the zoning and licensing ordinances passed by council prohibit social clubs from opening in South Portland for now.

The licensing ordinance also requires manufacturing facilities to obtain a license from the city.

It does not address the home occupation marijuana cultivation use yet, as the amendments rely somewhat on decisions that are being made at the state level.

Councilors also passed an order to review the zoning and licensing ordinances within six months, or before May 6, 2018.

The ordinances passed first reading on Oct. 2.

Portland Street pier

Councilors approved a nearly $47,000 bid from Consulting Engineers and Scientists, of Portland, one of four companies to submit a bid to develop a plan for the Portland Street Pier in Ferry Village.

The city-owned pier is off Front Street, between Sunset Marina and a Portland Pipe Line Corp. pier. It offers 15 boat slips for small commercial fishing vessels.

The plan will examine whether to expand the pier for aquaculture and fishing industries.

Aquaculture is the cultivation of fish, seafood or plants in an environmentally controlled and sustainable setting, and can be land-based or ocean-based.

The city will use the $30,000 Shore and Harbor Planning Grant awarded in August from the Maine Coastal Program of the Maine Department of Natural Resources. The rest of the funds will come from a grant from the Greater Portland Public Development Commission awarded last year for economic development.

Food waste

Sustainability Coordinator Julie Rosenbach on Monday presented preliminary results of the one-year food waste collection pilot program that launched in early May.

Rosenbach said 603 residences in the Knightville and Meetinghouse Hill neighborhoods are participating in the pilot program, which separates food waste from trash and recycling. Bins are available at the transfer station on Highland Avenue for residents who do not live in the pilot program zones, but want to participate.

Rosenbach said 21.79 tons of food waste was diverted at the curbside from May to September, while 2.52 tons were collected at the transfer station. More than 37 percent of households in the pilot area participated, she said, which pushed the recycling rate up 9 percent to 38 percent.

Residents in the pilot program place a 6-gallon bin for food waste at the curbside for pick-up by Garbage to Garden. The food scraps are transported to ecomaine, where it is weighed for both tipping fees and study purposes.

The waste is then delivered to Exeter Agri-Energy in Exeter and combined with cow manure in an anaerobic digester. The machine converts the matter into electricity, a liquid by-product for fertilizer, and a solid material for animal bedding or compost.

Rosenbach said the city’s goal is to divert 40 percent of food waste by 2020.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

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