November 5, 2019 election ballot issues regarding
the zoning and licensing of medical and adult use marijuana establishments.
On November 5, 2019, Damariscotta voters will have the opportunity to decide on two important matters that are addressed in five articles on a Special Town Meeting Warrant:
The first two articles on this topic (articles 2 and 3) address the licensing and zoning of medical marijuana commercial establishments including retail sale, manufacturing and testing businesses.
The next three articles (articles 4, 5 &6), if approved, would provide for the licensing and zoning of Adult Use (recreational) commercial establishments including cultivation, retail sales, manufacturing and testing businesses.
If approved, the new ordinances and ordinance amendments will become effective on January 6. 2020.
The cultivation, use, and sale of marijuana for medical purposes has been legal under Maine law since 1999. With the adoption of amendments to the State law in 2018, any new medical marijuana retail establishments and any manufacturing and testing facilities can only be located in municipalities that have approved local legislation allowing these businesses. Medical retail establishments that were in business prior to December 13, 2018 are “grandfathered” as far as local zoning is concerned. State Statutes do not allow municipalities to regulate the licensing of medical marijuana registered caregivers and provide very limited authority over medical marijuana cultivation. The sale of edible medical marijuana products is permitted under State law and will be permitted by local ordinance if the November 5 medical marijuana ordinances are approved.
In a November 2016 state-wide referendum, voters approved State legalization of Adult Use (recreational) marijuana. As a result of this referendum, recreational use and home cultivation of marijuana immediately became legal under State law. With State legislation that was approved in 2018 and 2019, commercial Adult Use establishments would be allowed only if the local jurisdiction “opted in”. Damariscotta citizens voted to opt in to allow both medical and adult use establishments in November, 2018. The approvals were contingent on the State adopting rules and regulations and the Town’s approval of the required licensing and zoning ordinances.
The November 5, 2019 election, (technically a secret ballot special town meeting) represents the culmination of this state-wide vote, a citizen survey, the receipt of dozens of citizen emails, a series of four informal community conversations, the opt-in votes in Damariscotta, and two public hearings. The various updates to the draft ordinances and all other documents related to this ongoing dialogue were posted on the Town’s website as changes to the draft ordinances were made.
The following is the link to the Warrant for the Special Town Meeting that the Board of Selectmen approved on September 18, and links to the five articles that voters will be asked to consider: STM Warrant . Voters are encouraged to read the two proposed new licensing ordinances (Medical Marijuana Licensing, Adult-Use Marijuana Licensing and Adult-Use edible Amendment) and the proposed amendments to the Land Use, Site Plan Review and Sign Ordinances: Medical Marijuana-related revisions and Adult-Use Marijuana-related revisions. To view the land-use related amendments as they would appear in the ordinances, click on: Land Use Ordinance with Medical Marijuana Amendments, Land Use Ordinance with Adult-Use Marijuana Amendments; Site Plan Review Ordinance with Medical Marijuana Amendments, Site Plan Review with Adult-Use Amendments; Sign Ordinance with Medical Marijuana Amendments, Sign Ordinance with Adult-Use Marijuana Amendments.
It is important to note that, if approved, these local ordinances will allow marijuana commercial establishments in Damariscotta, however, prospective businesses will be required to fully comply with the very detailed regulations on each type of marijuana commercial establishment included in the State statutes. This link is to a summary prepared by the Maine Municipal Association that shows the extent to which local governments have regulatory authority over commercial marijuana activities: MMA Summary.
The following is a summary of the ordinances and ordinance amendments that voters will be asked to consider:
Medical Marijuana Commercial Establishments:
The Medical Marijuana licensing ordinance provides for a maximum of two medical retail stores (one of which is the grandfathered store already located downtown), three manufacturing facilities and unlimited testing facilities. Per the proposed amendments to the zoning ordinances, applications for all of these businesses would be subject to the performance standards in the ordinances as administered by the Planning Board and Code Enforcement Officer. A license to sell medical marijuana products includes permission to sell edible medical marijuana products.
The proposed amendments to the land use ordinances would allow medical marijuana manufacturing establishments, testing establishments and new retail establishments in the C2 and Rural zones. For reference purposes, the C2 zone is the area along Main Street north of downtown, Center Street and Midcoast Road, and a section of Biscay Road. (see zoning map for detail).
Adult Use Marijuana Commercial Establishments:
The proposed Adult Use licensing ordinance provides for a maximum of two Adult Use marijuana stores, up to nine Adult Use cultivation facilities, and three manufacturing facilities and no limit on the number of testing facilities. As is the case with the medical marijuana establishments, applications for all of these businesses would be subject to the performance standards in the ordinances as administered by the Planning Board and Code Enforcement Officer.
The proposed amendments to the land use ordinances would allow Adult Use marijuana manufacturing and testing establishments in the in the C2 and Rural zones while Adult Use retail establishments would be allowed only in the C2 zone. Article 5 would provide for the manufacturing, testing, cultivation of Adult Use marijuana and the sale of non-edible Adult Use marijuana products. If the article (#5) allowing Adult Use commercial establishments is approved, a subsequent article (Article 6) on the same ballot would, if approved, amend this article to allow the sale of edible Adult Use products.