HALLOWELL — The city’s proposed ordinance for regulating marijuana would limit the number of retail marijuana shops that can operate in the downtown area, likely capping the number at three.

Residents got a first look Wednesday at the proposal that would control where adult-use marijuana businesses could sprout up in Hallowell once the Legislature approves the regulatory structure being laid out by the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

The ordinance, drafted by a Marijuana Task Force appointed by Mayor Mark Walker, is headed to city councilors for their review next month. The planning board issued a recommendation Wednesday night to the City Council based on slight changes to the proposed wording by code enforcement officer Doug Ide.

The proposed revisions include changing the definition of “cannabis” to “all forms of marijuana including so-called adult-use marijuana and medical marijuana.” Other definitions were added for cannabis products, a cannabis products manufacturing facility, a cannabis retail store, a cannabis testing facility, controlled-environment agriculture, and indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation facilities.

As the draft ordinance is written, retail stores are permitted uses in the downtown, Northern Gateway Business A and Stevens School Planned Development districts.

The restriction on allowing only retail shops downtown was made because of the dangers involved in producing marijuana products around a dense number of people and buildings, Ide said.

“Manufacturing of marijuana requires chemicals or lots of pressure,” he said.

Retail stores could be accessory uses to cultivation and manufacturing operations in other districts. In the Rural-Farm District, outdoor cultivation is permitted, but conditional uses include product manufacturing, retail stores, controlled environment agriculture and indoor cultivation.

Walker said the city probably will limit available licenses for the downtown district to three.

Applicants for licenses would have to meet a set of guidelines to be granted a license, he said. If there were more than three qualified applicants, it would result in a lottery-type selection. Limits on other establishments in other districts were not discussed, he said.

Walker said it was unclear at this point whether existing medical marijuana shops – there are currently two in Hallowell – would be given preference over new businesses.

As part of the draft ordinance, setbacks for all marijuana establishments say they “shall be a minimum of 1,000 linear feet from the lot line on which the facility is located to the lot line of a public school, a private school, or a public recreational facility including, but not limited to, public parks, ball fields, playgrounds, or other areas of public active or passive recreation, exclusive of the Kennebec River Rail Trail.”

Walker said the task force was assembled to represent a number of perspectives on retail marijuana. The committee includes downtown business owners, a licensed grower and medical professionals. He was pleased with the task force’s work, which he said was complicated by the lack of a state-level framework for licensing marijuana establishments.

“It’s hard for municipalities to enact ordinances with inaction at the state level,” Walker said Thursday.

Resident Larry Davis, a member of the task force, said he asked Walker to let him be on the committee because he wanted to see retail stores restricted.

“I didn’t want to have 25 pot shops,” he said.

Ide said he, the task force and City Manager Nate Rudy have worked on the ordinance for “many months.”

“Various iterations of these proposed amendments have been modified as the state works through the rules, regulations, and statutes surrounding adult-use and medical marijuana,” Ide said Thursday. “This current proposal reflects our best understanding of the current status of those rules, regulations, and statutes.”

Davis said he was comfortable with the three-store limit and said he thought the ordinance was a “well-balanced document.”

Derek Wilson, owner of The Cannabis Healing Center on Water Street, said he would look to transition from medical marijuana to adult-use once retail licenses are available. He said retail cannabis would create a bigger customer pool and allow him to get products to those who need it and don’t have a medical marijuana card.

“There’s so many people that need it and come in that I have to turn them away,” he said.

On Monday, councilors extended an emergency moratorium on retail marijuana shops by 180 days. Rudy said it probably would be the last moratorium, as this ordinance was being crafted and should be finished and implemented into city code within six months.

The ordinance will undergo three readings by the City Council, as well as a public hearing, as required to change city ordinances.

Ide said the first reading probably will take place at the council’s Sept. 10 meeting, when amendments could be made based on the councilor’s opinions. The ordinance would be final after the public hearing and third reading by the council.

Sam Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5666 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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