The South Portland City Council on Monday night adopted a temporary ban on all recreational marijuana businesses.

The city joins close to two dozen other Maine communities that have considered or approved moratoriums on marijuana shops, social clubs and cultivation businesses as they develop local zoning and regulations following the Nov. 8 statewide vote to legalize marijuana.

South Portland Mayor Patricia Smith said the city will use the six-month moratorium – which has a retroactive start date of Nov. 21, when the ordinance passed its first reading – to determine zoning rules, licensing and permitting procedures for the new businesses.

“Because this is uncharted territory for us as a community, we wanted to take our time and make sure that we use the time wisely to construct the necessary specific language we need,” Smith said. “We fully well understand that this has been voted on by our community and we just want to get it right.”

Meanwhile, the Biddeford City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a 180-day moratorium on all recreational marijuana businesses. City Manager Jim Bennett said the council indicated before Election Day that it would like to consider a moratorium if the measure was approved. The moratorium will give the city time to develop local rules before receiving applications from prospective marijuana businesses, he said.

“Given that everything is up in the air until the Legislature figures out what is going on, our sense is we want to make sure we know what the (state) rules are before adopting our own rules,” Bennett said.


In neighboring Saco, city officials are moving forward with developing local zoning and regulations without a moratorium in place. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has nine months to develop rules and regulations for the program, and licenses for businesses likely won’t be issued until early 2018.

The marijuana law, which passed by a margin of about 4,000 votes, includes provisions that the bill’s authors say are intended to allow strong local control.

Towns can regulate the number, location and operation of retail marijuana stores, cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities and social clubs, and can impose a local licensing requirement. They can also become dry towns by implementing an outright ban on all marijuana business. Private marijuana possession and growing will still be allowed even in towns that ban retail businesses.

The Maine Municipal Association is advising municipalities to adopt 180-day moratoriums to prevent “unwanted developments” with new marijuana businesses until local regulations are approved, according to spokesman Eric Conrad.

The Biddeford City Council also is scheduled to vote on a 90-day extension of a nine-month moratorium on new commercial medical marijuana facilities.

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