AUGUSTA — City councilors are considering allowing adult use recreational marijuana sales, cultivation and manufacturing but might ban a manufacturing process they fear could be dangerous.

Councilors on Thursday again expressed interest in allowing adult use marijuana businesses in Augusta but agreed to send a proposal back to the Planning Board, which had previously reviewed and recommended it. They want the board to consider banning or regulating the allowed locations for an extraction processes that uses butane, propane or other explosive substances to extract THC from cannabis.

Augusta City Councilor Kevin Judkins of Ward 2 speaks during a council session on Jan. 21, 2023. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Judkins recommended the city create separate rules for manufacturing processes that use inherently hazardous substances, due to the public safety risk. He said the process requires a special state license.

“This is an extreme public safety issue — they’re supposed to do it in an actual blast room at a factory, but a lot of them aren’t,” Judkins said. “I don’t want to see that kind of accident in our community.”

At-Large Councilor Courtney Gary-Allen asked if the city could ban that type of manufacturing and Cameron Ferrante, the city’s attorney, said it could.

“This sounds really dangerous, and I don’t know if I want this in my community, and I’m an avid supporter of cannabis,” Gary-Allen said.


Councilors have said previously that allowing recreational marijuana businesses can bring the city new 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.

Augusta has allowed medical marijuana businesses in the city since 2019 but councilors at the time opted out of allowing recreational adult use marijuana businesses.

Last year a majority of city councilors spoke in favor of allowing recreational, or adult use, sales, cultivation, manufacturing and testing of marijuana in Augusta where, currently, only medical marijuana businesses are allowed. The proposal under consideration would allow adult use marijuana sales, cultivation, manufacturing and testing anywhere in the city where such medical marijuana businesses are permitted now.

Abigail St. Valle, an at-large Augusta city councilor, speaks during a council session Jan. 21, 2023. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Some councilors asked if the city should regulate how many marijuana shops can be located in close proximity together, to avoid having a row of marijuana shops in the same area.

“I think when I drive through some of our neighboring communities and there’s a ton of these stores, it’s not super-appealing,” At-Large Councilor Abigail St. Valle said. “When there’s one every 100 feet, that’s weird.”

Ward 3 Councilor Mike Michaud said he favors free enterprise and said the market will determine how many marijuana-related businesses will remain open, and where, so the city shouldn’t regulate how many there should be.

“At one time, there was a neighborhood in Augusta where there was a grocery store every 500 feet,” Michaud said. “I’m not thinking if we open the door here that every entrepreneur in the industry would want to open a store right next to each other, up and down Western Avenue. But if they do, they do. Supply and demand will catch up to them.”

Gary-Allen said that issue — whether the city should regulate how closely marijuana stores could locate to other stores — should also be discussed by the Planning Board.

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