South Portland officials are working on rules that would limit potential locations for a medical marijuana dispensary to just a few neighborhoods in the western part of the city.

The proposed zoning amendments would allow only one dispensary in the city. Potential locations would be around the Maine Mall, zoned central and regional commercial; the Rumery Industrial Park, zoned non-residential industrial; and on South Portland property near the U.S. Postal Service mail processing and distribution center in Scarborough, zoned general commercial.

Within those areas, potential locations would be prohibited from 1,000-foot zones around houses of worship, schools, recreational areas and parks, child care facilities, substance abuse rehabilitation centers and lots zoned for residential use.

Mayor Tom Coward said South Portland needs the location restrictions because of the traffic a dispensary could generate. During the first year that Maine law will allow medical marijuana dispensaries, only eight will be allowed to open statewide, and only one of those will be allowed in Cumberland County.

“If we get one, it will be the only one in the county. Potentially thousands of people would be coming to that,” Coward said. “We’ve put it in, essentially, zones that can support heavy traffic — commercial and industrial areas. That’s the logic behind that.”

Councilor Tom Blake said he would support the rules in their current form but he remains concerned that they are too restrictive.

Blake said the limitations stigmatize dispensaries. He agrees that they should be barred from residential areas but thinks they should be allowed anywhere else that medical offices and pharmacies can be located.

“I think that by putting them in commercial and industrial zones, it devalues dispensaries. I look at them as pain medication dispensaries prescribed by doctors, passed by state law,” he said.

It’s not yet clear whether anyone plans to try to open a dispensary in South Portland. Prospective operators must apply by June 25 to the state Department of Health and Human Services, which plans to announce successful applicants July 9.

The new South Portland rules could go into effect by the time the city’s moratorium on dispensaries expires Aug. 20. The proposal goes next to the Planning Board, which will recommend to the City Council whether to adopt the proposal.

The proposed South Portland rules would require dispensaries to undergo Planning Board review. In addition to the location restrictions, the rules would limit operating hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and also address security requirements and the need to keep marijuana and paraphernalia out of sight of those outside the premises.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be

contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]