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Augusta city council approves pot rules | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME

Augusta city council approves pot rules | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME.

Augusta city council approves pot rules

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — City councilors unanimously approved medical marijuana dispensary rules Thursday that limit such state-approved facilities to the city’s medical district.

Councilors adopted the new rules as an emergency measure, which puts them in place immediately, rather than in 30 days as would normally take place. The new rules also apply to methadone clinics.

Previous zoning rules would have effectively allowed a medical marijuana dispensary in several areas of the city.

The medical district surrounds the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care and the site of the proposed new MaineGeneral Medical Center hospital. It is 200 to 250 acres in size, according to Matt Nazar, deputy development director.

Nazar said the city’s land use ordinance does not specifically address medical marijuana dispensaries or methadone clinics. Both likely would have fit into the city’s definition of medical clinics, which are allowed in several zones in the city, he said.

“I had a couple of people ask me if (a dispensary) could end up in their neighborhood,” Councilor Cecil Munson said. “They were very concerned about it.”

The new rules also allow medical marijuana grow facilities, which would grow the drug for a designated dispensary, to be located in both the medical district and in the city’s industrial district.

Nazar said such facilities would resemble a warehouse, would not have users coming and going, and would not be conspicuous.

In a November 2009 referendum, state voters approved allowing nonprofit dispensaries to open across Maine.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is in the process of selecting eight dispensaries, one in each of the state’s eight public health districts. Augusta is in a region that includes all of Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Municipalities cannot ban dispensaries but can regulate where they locate.

Councilor William Stokes said the deadline for the state to designate dispensaries for each district is June 25.

In a brief “pre-meeting” of councilors before Thursday’s regular meeting, Councilor Patrick Paradis suggested tabling the new rules out of concern the Planning Board may expand the city’s medical district, to the opposite side of Old Belgrade Road across from the proposed hospital site, in preparation for MaineGeneral’s possible expansion there.

That move would also have the effect of expanding the zone where a dispensary is allowed.

But Paradis decided against proposing to table the issue after Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, warned rules that allow dispensaries in more parts of the city would then be left in place.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

kedwards@centralmaine.com

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