South Portland moves closer to allowing medicinal pot, tattoos, body piercing

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city may allow tattoo and body-piercing parlors and medical marijuana dispensaries in some neighborhoods, if the consensus reached in June 14 workshop is upheld.

“This is our sin night,” Mayor Thomas Coward quipped during the workshop.

The City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on construction of medical marijuana dispensaries in February.

“We wanted to give some time to see what the state of Maine would do,” City Manager Jim Gailey said.

If the council decides to adopt an ordinance amendment regulating the dispensaries, the moratorium, which expires Aug. 20, would be ended.

The proposed amendment would require at least 1,000 feet between medical marijuana dispensaries and schools, places of worship, athletic fields, trails, day-care facilities, playgrounds and homes.

Councilor Thomas Blake expressed concern that the setbacks are too restrictive.

“Why wouldn’t we allow it in professional office development zones?” he asked. “It’s a controlled pain medication. What better place than where doctors’ offices are.”

Councilor Maxine Bleecher agreed that the proposed ordinance is restrictive.

“I do think we ought to allow it in more zones than what’s in front of us,” she said.

The proposed ordinance would limit the dispensaries to primarily the western parts of the city, and the Maine Mall area.

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis said she would like to see the city set a limit for the number of dispensaries allowed.

“We could have a limit of two, which, to me, is twice as many as we need,” she said.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is regulating the dispensaries, has limited the number allowed to one per county, with a maximum of eight throughout the state. However, City Attorney Sally Daggett explained that DHHS could change its rules at any time.

Three other councilors agreed that a limit should be set, and after some discussion, came to a consensus that one dispensary would be an appropriate limit.

“I would rather start off being too restrictive and loosen it up if it turns out not to be a problem,” said Coward.

Police Chief Edward Googins and police Lt. Frank Clark both attended the workshop.

“We’re trying to look at the overall safety of the community,” Googins said. “You have to consider the residential impact. I don’t think anyone wants to have one near their home.”

Clark commented on the dispensaries’ potential for attracting criminals.

“If you put drugs and money in one place and more than one person knows about it, that’s a recipe for trouble,” he said.

The state has not yet received any applications for medical marijuana dispensaries. The deadline for applications is June 25.

The first public hearing for the ordinance amendment will be held at the council meeting on June 21 at 7 p.m.

Tattoos, piercing

Proposed ordinance amendments would prohibit tattoo and body-piercing parlors in certain zones, including the limited business zone, Spring Point, Village Commercial and Willard zones.

Gailey said the current ordinance is unclear about  the definition of tattoo and body-piercing parlors and that the amendment would define them as a personal service.

“To me, it’s a personal service and can be where any personal service can be,” Councilor Patti Smith said. “It’s a regular business, like any other business.”

Several councilors suggested the tattoo and piercing parlors should be considered the same type of business as hair and nail salons, and thus be treated similarly.

Hair and nail salons are currently granted special exceptions so the businesses can open in residential zones with Planning Board approval.

“I have a hard time making a distinction (between a hair salon and tattoo parlor) as far as the impact to the community is concerned,” Coward said.

The consensus was that the ordinance should be amended to define tattoo and body-piercing parlors as personal services, and that the businesses should be allowed in all the places hair and nail salons are currently allowed.

The ordinance amendment will be sent to the Planning Board for review and a recommendation to the council.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or