Officials in Augusta and Hallowell are preparing to roll out new policies to accommodate medical marijuana sales.

Augusta officials are drafting language to add medical marijuana dispensaries to the city’s land-use ordinance, probably allowing them to operate in a medical district near the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in north Augusta.

In Hallowell, city councilors recently decided against enacting a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. Instead, councilors directed City Manager Todd Shea to handle permit applications for a dispensary as he would an application to open any new business.

“The general feeling was, it’s a business, not unlike a pharmacy or any other business we’d have in the city,” Shea said. “If that’s how the state wants to treat it, that’s how the city wants to treat it.”

In a November 2009 state referendum, voters approved allowing nonprofit dispensaries to open across the state. While regulators worked to craft rules implementing the law, several Maine municipalities worked to establish their own rules to regulate dispensaries within their borders.

The Augusta Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday that drew comment from a number of interested parties, including health care professionals and people who previously worked in dispensaries elsewhere and have moved to Maine, according to Planning Board Chairman Corey Vose.

Vose said no board vote was taken on a proposal to add language regulating medical marijuana dispensaries to the city’s land-use ordinance. Another public hearing on the topic is planned April 27.

Planners asked Matt Nazar, the city’s deputy development director, to keep working on the proposal, which would add medical marijuana dispensaries to the types of businesses regulated by city code.

Dispensaries where marijuana is grown or sold to registered users — or both — probably would be allowed only in the Augusta’s medical district, which includes the proposed future site of a new MaineGeneral Medical Center.

However, Nazar said, planners asked him to look into allowing medical marijuana growing facilities in other city zones, such as the industrial district and the regional commerce district.

He said such grow-only operations essentially would function as warehouses.

Shea said Hallowell Planning Board members have told him some property owners in Hallowell have been approached by people interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary.

On Monday, the Hallowell City Council decided against enacting a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. They asked Shea to review the city’s ordinances, determine what zoning classification dispensaries might qualify as and, if he thinks the city’s existing rules are inadequate to address a dispensary, submit a proposal to fill the gaps in city rules to the Ordinance Review Committee.


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