AUGUSTA — A majority of councilors want the city to allow recreational marijuana sales and other recreational cannabis-related businesses to operate in Augusta, where currently only medical marijuana can be sold.

Six of eight city councilors spoke in favor of allowing recreational, or adult-use, sales of marijuana in Augusta on Thursday, and city staff anticipate having a proposal prepared for a vote at the council’s Dec. 7 business meeting.

Councilors said opting to allow recreational marijuana businesses would bring new tax revenues, provide access to a product residents already can purchase legally in several surrounding municipalities, and help ensure that marijuana sold in the city is safe because the product is tested when sold through legitimate businesses.

Most councilors said they favor opening up the city to all forms of state-licensed recreational marijuana businesses, including retail sales, manufacturing, cultivation and testing.

Some councilors said the city should set a limit on the number of such businesses that can open, while others said free enterprise will sort that out and the city should not regulate how many can open.

“I believe in free enterprise and I think Augusta should open its doors to all forms of manufacturing, testing, selling, everything, and come up with a fair fee, not $100, not $40,000, a fair fee,” said Ward 3 City Councilor Michael Michaud. “If 10 different people want to come in and open up 10 different recreational stores, it’s their buck they’re risking to come in. And I just don’t think we should regulate how many stores there are. We don’t regulate how many gas stations there are in Augusta. We don’t regulate how many restaurants are in Augusta. And we don’t regulate how many department stores are in Augusta. So why regulate how many facilities we should have?”


Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Judkins, who said the city’s planning board should set a limit on the number of recreational marijuana businesses to be allowed, and regulate where they could be located, favors Augusta opening up to all forms of state-licensed recreational marijuana businesses. He said the change would increase tax revenue coming to the city, especially from manufacturing, cultivation and testing facilities.

He said retail storefronts, such as those that have opened in Augusta selling medical marijuana, generally open in existing buildings in commercial areas and thus don’t provide much of a boost in property taxes paid to the city.

But he said manufacturing, cultivation and testing operations generally would be in new buildings, with expensive equipment needed, and would thus increase property and personal property tax revenue.

“I think we’re missing the boat,” Judkins said of adult-use marijuana sales. “We’ve got to think about doing a little bit for what works for the people of Augusta and that’d be bringing in more tax revenue on an ongoing basis, from opting in to these other aspects of it.”

Matt Nazar, development director for the city, said Kennebec County municipalities that already allow all forms of state-licensed recreational marijuana businesses include Chelsea, Fairfield, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester and Waterville. Readfield allows cultivation only, while Rome allows cultivation and sales but not testing or manufacturing.

One recreational marijuana store in Manchester, AAA Pharms on Western Avenue, is so close to Augusta its parking lot exit is actually in Augusta, Nazar said.


In April, some city councilors, after hearing a presentation from state officials, expressed interest in allowing recreational marijuana sales in Augusta.

David Vickers who, with his wife, operates Origins medical marijuana shops in Augusta and a recreational shop in Manchester, said cultivation and manufacturing facilities can be very expensive and involve equipment that provides significant tax revenues for municipalities. Their retail operations are supplied from a warehouse where the business grows both medical and recreational marijuana, in separate rooms, on Whitten Road in Hallowell. He said their grow building has an “insane” amount of odor-mitigation equipment, meant to prevent odors from the marijuana growing inside from bothering neighbors.

Vickers urged city officials to not limit the number of licenses it issues for recreational businesses, and to keep licensing fees reasonable. He said limiting the number of licenses and charging high fees for them could exclude local business owners who have put years of their lives into their business, and would favor larger, out-of-state, well-funded businesses.

He said he welcomes head-to-head competition and said the market would sort out which businesses survive.

City Manager Susan Robertson said the city’s attorney has warned that fees charged for marijuana-related businesses, like those charged to other businesses, cannot be too high and must be related to the city’s expense in administering them. She said there have been cases where companies successfully sued municipalities for charging too high a fee for marijuana business licenses.

Nazar noted that fees charged by Maine municipalities range widely, from $100 in neighboring Manchester to up to $40,000 elsewhere in the state.

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