The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to enact a set of zoning regulations for retail marijuana stores. But the rules do not address one significant policy question: whether a marijuana retailer also can sell non-marijuana products.

Councilors had considered allowing marijuana retail stores to sell products such as coffee, tea, brownies and the like that do not contain marijuana in the zoning ordinance. But the council opted to postpone that discussion for when it establishes its licensing rules, saying it did not want to grant a right to a business that it may wish to take away later.

“We want as level a playing fields as possible,” City Councilor Justin Costa said. “The simplest and most flexible way to do that without creating a grandfathered license, which could be a very valuable license, is to deal with it through the licensing scheme.”

Adopting zoning rules was just one step in Portland’s journey in rolling out marijuana retail stores. The city also must adopt an adult-use licensing and permitting process. A City Hall representative said the staff expects to present those recommendations to the Economic Development Committee or the full council in late spring or early summer.

Under the rules adopted Wednesday, retail stores, dispensaries and small-scale marijuana caregivers will be allowed to operate in several business zones, including downtown, West Bayside and along the Forest Avenue corridor, as well as inner Washington Avenue and the St. John-Valley Street area, among other pockets.

Cultivation, manufacturing and testing would be allowed in industrial zones. And all marijuana-related activities would be allowed in the B4 zones, which are along portions of Warren Avenue and Riverside Street.


Adult use retail stores are limited to 2,000 square feet.

The council voted unanimously, with Councilor Nicholas Mavodones absent, to change how setbacks are measured. Staff had recommended a 200-foot setback from a residential property line to a property line with a marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing facility. The council changed that to 300 feet from a residential property line to the actual marijuana facility.

The council, however, could not come to an agreement about whether to allow marijuana retailers to sell non-marijuana goods. Some marijuana entrepreneurs have argued that allowing such sales would allow retailers to be creative and find ways to distinguish themselves in a competitive market, while also guarding against a market full of head shops.

City Councilor Belinda Ray proposed allowing such sales, saying it would be consistent with state law and an ordinance adopted by South Portland. She also proposed restricting access to retail stores to people ages 21 and older to address concerns about minors accessing the drug.

But two caregivers spoke against that age requirement, saying that it would affect their customers who are between the ages of 18 and 21.

“Quite a few of those people are coming through,” said Jackson McLeod, a caregiver and co-owner of Atlantic Farms Gas N’ Grass on Warren Avenue.


City Councilor Brian Batson, a registered nurse shared those concerns. “I think it’s really important that we not exclude those 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds who are getting medicine under a physician’s prescription.”

Others were concerned that prohibiting sales of non-marijuana goods also would prevent marijuana retailers from selling products with CBD, hemp-derived cannabidiol that does not contain the psychoactive chemical THC.

Councilors considered trying to separate medical marijuana caregiver stores from adult use stores during the meeting. But Anne Torregrossa, a city attorney, recommended that the council take up additional restrictions during the licensing process.

Meanwhile, municipalities continue to wait for the state to establish its rules and regulations.

Medical use of marijuana has been allowed in Maine since 2010. Portland became the first city on the East Coast to endorse recreational use of marijuana via a citywide referendum in 2013, though it was a largely symbolic vote since police continued to enforce state law.

In 2016, voters statewide endorsed recreational marijuana and the state has been plodding its way through rulemaking ever since. The state announced on Tuesday that it has signed a three-year contract with Florida-based Franwell Inc. for $150,000 to track the growth and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products in Maine.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

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