TOPSHAM — Topsham selectmen on Thursday will try to decide how to regulate medical marijuana stores and may limit the number of licenses to two.

Selectmen will also consider setting a public hearing on the draft ordinance for April 11.

Businesses may be regulated through the annual licensing reviewed by selectmen. There will also be an annual fee set by selectmen.

“It’s a small first step to allow this in the first place,” Town Planner Rod Melanson said.

The Planning Board tonight will consider amendments to allow medical marijuana retail stores within commercial zones at the Topsham Fair Mall and the Route 196 corridor, as well as product manufacturing and cultivations in areas designated for light manufacturing. Marijuana businesses wouldn’t be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools.

The town already has a medical marijuana store, Highbrow, operating at the Topsham Fair Mall since September 2017. Melanson said the business will need to apply for a business license once the new rules are in place, but would get priority consideration — essentially grandfathering it. A cultivation facility along Route 196 will also have to undergo review to make sure they are meeting license standards.

With no marijuana rules in place yet, Melanson said the town has received many inquiries, but now new applications for marijuana businesses have been submitted.

The proposed medical marijuana licensing rules come from work done by a group of businesses and residents, including Charles Doherty who co-owns Highbrow and is the primary owner of the caregiver portion of the business.

Doherty spoke favorably last week of the proposed rules and said it makes sense to allow marijuana retail in the business district. It’s a business that is becoming more mainstream every day, he said.

“I saw cannabis cookbooks in Bed Bath and Beyond the other day,” he said.

Doherty only expressed disappointment that Topsham isn’t allowing recreational marijuana retail. It’s a use that’s happening, “whether you see it or not but the safe option is to be regulated in a regulated market,” which ensures safer, tested products, he said.

The draft rules propose limiting both cultivation and manufacturing businesses to six total licenses.

In non-binding referendums last November, 60 percent of voters showed support for medical marijuana retail. They also narrowly approved commercial growing too, but a majority of voters were opposed to recreational marijuana, by a 146-vote margin.

Doherty said he sought out Topsham for his business because it was among the towns that voted in favor of legalized recreational marijuana. In November 2016, Topsham voters favored legalization of marijuana by 76 votes.

“I never wanted to leave medical (marijuana) but I was hoping to expand into recreational,” said Doherty, who had about 1,200 individual patients last month. “I help the patients and they help us and I never want to leave the medical side of it but it would be nice to expand into a recreational market.”

Tonight’s Planning Board meeting and the Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday both start at 7 p.m. at the town office.

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