Interior of the Beach Boys Cannabis Company in South Portland. Most people aren’t seeing the interior of this or many other businesses, even those that remain open. Courtesy / Tom Mourmouras

More than 50 companies have applied for local and state licenses since local communities began regulating marijuana-related businesses, prompting at least one South Portland city councilor to consider establishing a local license cap.

“We have to make a conscious decision,” City Councilor April Caricchio said. “Where do we want to say, ‘OK, that’s enough?’”

Caricchio said she does not have a number in mind, but has called for a workshop during the council’s Oct. 13 meeting for the council and residents to openly discuss the issue.

“I think it’s really important to allow the public to weigh in on it,” she said.

Southern Maine communities report no shortage of interested entrepreneurs. In South Portland alone, City Clerk Emily Scully said 27 companies have applied for licenses in the city, 12 classifying themselves as medical, 13 as recreational and two listed as both recreational and medical. In total, according to city records, 16 have received local license approval.

In Scarborough, Assistant Town Manager Liam Gallagher said 25 different businesses are applying for licenses, with 80% of those classifying themselves as “medical cultivation.” Gallagher said local laws forbid retail shops. Any applicants, he said, that are not planning to cultivate for medical purposes are either recreational-use cultivators or processing companies for both medical and recreational use, but none of them have walk-in service. Only businesses producing medical products may provide goods directly to their patients, he said.

Gallagher said the businesses currently applying for local licenses were already operating prior to the town requiring licenses starting on Jan. 22, 2020, which suggests the market for their products remains strong.

“I think they have grown as their market or patient level has allowed,” he said.

Cape Elizabeth does not allow marijuana businesses, but in nearby Portland 43 applicants are trying to secure licenses, 38 of those for recreational marijuana stores. In that city, officials have already set a cap of 20 licenses.

Caricchio said her principle concern in suggesting a citywide cap on licensing in South Portland was the concentration of businesses in South Portland’s West End, which she called “a little lopsided.” Existing marijuana business regulations focus on location, making sure similar businesses are not too close together and not too close to locations such as schools, day care centers and playgrounds. The workshop, Caricchio said, is to decide if those rules need to go further to include a cap.

“It’s really just to look at where we are,” she said.

Tom Mourmouras, majority owner of Beach Boys Cannabis Co., operates a medical marijuana dispensary at 818 Main St. in South Portland and is considering a recreational retail license. Right now, he said, state and local regulations forbid a business from selling both medical and recreational products, but even if the law changed, he said he isn’t worried about too much competition.

“I think it’s going to take a little bit to get to the saturation point on retail,” he said.

Even if the city institutes a cap, Mourmouras said his company is already licensed by the city and state to dispense medical marijuana products, so a cap shouldn’t impact his business.

“Obviously we’re already operating a store,” he said.

Matthew Bayliss, owner of Gele, operates a legal-grow operation in South Portland. He has been working in Maine and California in legalized medicinal marijuana cultivation businesses for 12 years. He said the idea of a cap concerned him.

“It could artificially inflate the value of those licenses,” he said.

Bayliss said free markets will, sooner or later, act as a natural control on the number of businesses in an area, making a cap unnecessary.

“I think they should just let it rip and let the markets sort it out,” he said.

Comments are not available on this story.