SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council is due to take a final vote Monday on proposed zoning and licensing regulations that would make this among the first municipalities in Maine to welcome so-called adult-use marijuana businesses.

City officials have been working on the proposed ordinance amendments for nearly a year, after a majority of Maine voters approved recreational marijuana use by a slim margin last November.

Most councilors have acknowledged the potential benefits of a “green economy” and the challenges of regulating a new market. The ordinance amendments are designed to both allow and control marijuana businesses in the city’s commercial and industrial districts.

The regulations would prohibit marijuana social clubs and wouldn’t address marijuana cultivation as a home occupation – two businesses that some councilors wanted to allow. The council agreed to set those issues aside for now and revisit them in six months, said City Manager Scott Morelli.

The council’s vote follows Gov. Paul LePage’s veto Friday of the adult-use cannabis bill that would launch the state’s recreational marijuana market. LePage said he couldn’t support expansion of legal marijuana use in Maine while its federal future remains uncertain.

He also said the bill failed to address shortcomings of the state’s medical marijuana program; would set up a confusing and costly dual-agency regulatory system; and might not collect enough taxes to cover the cost of implementing and regulating the new market.

The bill returns to the Legislature on Monday, when supporters will try to get enough votes to override LePage’s veto.


In Aroostook County, Houlton selectmen approved an ordinance in July that would allow marijuana growing and retail operations in an industrial district on the outskirts of town. However, on Tuesday, voters there are about to consider separate referendum questions that would repeal the ordinance and ban retail marijuana businesses.

South Portland voters decided in 2014 that it was legal for adults in the city to possess small amounts of marijuana. A year ago, they voted 8,565 to 6,226 to legalize marijuana production, sales and use by adults statewide.

Last month, the Planning Board voted 4-2 to recommend the proposed zoning amendments which outline where marijuana growing, testing, processing and selling operations would be permitted or allowed by special exception. Marijuana businesses would be excluded from most residential districts; indoor growing operations would be allowed by special exception in the village residential and rural residential districts.

The proposed amendments would prohibit marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of schools or within 300 feet of places of worship, measured from property lines. To prevent clusters of marijuana stores that have occurred in other states, they also would be banned from operating within 300 feet of each other, said Planning Director Tex Haeuser.

Under the proposed regulations, adult-use marijuana “customers” in the city would be required “to purchase and obtain adult-use marijuana products from within a marijuana store.” Marijuana stores would be “prohibited from having drive-through pick-up facilities and from providing home delivery services,” which a majority of councilors opposed, Haeuser said.


Marijuana stores would be limited to the same hours of operation as businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages. The “plant canopy” of marijuana growing facilities couldn’t exceed 10,000 square feet to prevent them from taking over available industrial spaces, Haeuser said.

Marijuana operations also would be required to control odors, have locking dumpsters and follow state and local rules regarding food preparation and sales of edible marijuana products.

Marijuana product manufacturing facilities would require a Class I license, to be issued and renewed annually by the city clerk for a $300 fee. Marijuana growing facilities and stores would require Class II licenses that would sell for $600 and $1,400, respectively. They would be reviewed by the council the first year and renewed by the city clerk subsequently if no violations have occurred.

The proposed fees would be subject to change depending on the fee structure adopted at the state level, Morelli said.

If the council approves the zoning and licensing regulations Monday night, they would go into effect in 20 days, said Assistant City Manager Josh Reny.

People could begin developing businesses here, he said, but the city would be unable to process license applications until the state begins issuing licenses.


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