The Portland City Council voted 5-4 on Monday against granting a permit to a group that wanted to hold a marijuana farmers market in Deering Oaks next month.

Councilors previously granted the Belfast-based New World Organics permission to hold the New England Cannabis Farmers Market, but revisited the issue after hearing advertising for the event which they said suggested marijuana would be available for use there.

Councilor Nicholas Mavodones was concerned that the event had changed from what was originally promised when it was initially approved.

“I can’t in good conscience vote for this,” said Mavodones, who was joined Monday by Councilors Jill Duson, Jon Hinck, David Brenerman and Edward Suslovic.

The original application said the Aug. 9 event would be free, but then organizers wanted to charge a $10 admission fee. City staff was also concerned about event advertising suggesting that marijuana products would be available for sale and consumption.

City Manager Jon Jennings said the new permit would have allowed the group to charge admission and explicitly prohibited marijuana use on site.


Event organizer Justin Olsen said the New England Cannabis Farmers Market was designed to connect medical marijuana caregivers and patients, but would also include food, vendors and live music.

“It’s not a place for people to smoke,” Olsen said. “It’s a place for people to meet each other and network.”

Olsen said he originally wanted caregivers to be able to provide their product to registered patients, but dropped the plan after hearing staff concerns.

Meanwhile, radio ads suggested that doctors would be available at the event to consult with people who were not registered patients. And a poster advertising the event said there would be “hundreds of strains, buds, tinctures, ointments, concentrates, edibles, clones, live glass blowing, music, cannabis testing and more!”

Olsen said the testing was a scientific lab test to determine the safety of marijuana, in terms of THC content, but it wasn’t enough to allay council concerns.

The event would have been the second pro-marijuana rally in Deering Oaks in recent years, but the first since residents passed an ordinance in 2013 making Portland the first East Coast city to vote in support of legalizing marijuana.


In 2012, the city park hosted the Atlantic CannaFEST, which drew about 200 people and was meant to promote medical marijuana and protest the prices being charged at state-sanctioned dispensaries. During that four-hour event, marijuana was given away to low-income patients. Police reported no problems with that event.

Maine voters first legalized marijuana for medical use in 1999, and significantly expanded the law a decade later by adding a system of drug dispensaries and medical marijuana caregivers.

Maine now has a two-tiered system for supplying marijuana. There are eight state-sanctioned dispensaries, which can grow for an unlimited number of patients, and an estimated 1,700 caregivers, who can each grow for five patients at a time. They supply an estimated 70 percent of Maine’s medical marijuana.

There is also a push to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Although Maine lawmakers voted in committee against bills to legalize marijuana, two groups are collecting signatures for a statewide referendum seeking to make Maine the fifth state to legalize the drug.

Both medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal under federal law.

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