Bath City Planner Ben Averill uses maps to show where recreational marijuana storefronts will be permitted. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — Bath will allow recreational marijuana storefronts in a wide swath through the center of the city along the north of the Route 1 corridor, but not in the downtown, city councilors decided unanimously Wednesday. 

In August, councilors gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would have allowed recreational marijuana storefronts in Bath’s downtown as well as along Route 1. At the time, Julie Ambrosino and Aaron Park were the two dissenting councilors. Last week Ambrosino said she still wasn’t keen on the idea of allowing recreational marijuana storefronts to open downtown, despite the proposed buffer zones.

“People want to see more of the establishments they want downtown, they want something everyone can make use of,” said Ambrosino. “This isn’t going away, and we’re trying to appease the voters who want it, but we want to keep the town as safe as possible.”

Councilor Raye Leonard said she had conversations with residents who said they didn’t want recreational marijuana storefronts downtown.

“I don’t have strong feelings either way, but this is our downtown area, it’s the face of Bath, and I want to respect that that’s the feedback I’ve gotten,” said Leonard.

Irene Drago, a retired high school teacher, urged the council to keep recreational marijuana out of downtown because she doesn’t want recreational marijuana stores near minors and next to establishments like bookstores and bakeries.

“As a high school teacher I have seen some really good fake IDs. You’ll have young people not only for marijuana but for their fake IDs,” said Drago. “The (Route 1 area), I understand, people voted a different way than I did and I respect that … but be careful what you sell and do to make money.”

Wednesday’s action comes nearly three years after the passage of a statewide referendum in November 2016 to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product. Municipalities must decide individually whether to allow retail sales. 

Maine voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2009, and dispensaries opened to provide medical-grade cannabis to people with chronic and debilitating illnesses to patients who have a prescribed medical marijuana card. Bath has one medical marijuana dispensary downtown, located at 67 Centre St. The Wellness Connection of Maine opened its Bath location in 2016, the same year Maine voted to legalize recreational marijuana. 

According to Bath’s retail rules, recreational and medical marijuana stores will be required to be licensed by the state and city and install security measures, including 24-hour surveillance. In addition, passers-by shouldn’t be able to smell marijuana from outside the building.

The rules also set a 500-foot buffer around schools, licensed childcare facilities, public parks, substance abuse rehabilitation or treatment centers and halfway houses. No two retail stores and dispensaries can open within 300 feet of each other.

Because the council decided not to allow recreational marijuana downtown, medical marijuana dispensary Wellness Connection of Maine loses the potential to expand into selling recreational marijuana at its Centre Street location.

“As a medical establishment, (Wellness Connection) is likely to lose money if they are unable to sell recreational marijuana, but that’s just the way the market works and it’s the way people spend their dollars,” said Mari Eosco, Bath city council chairwoman.

[email protected] 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: