BREWER, Maine — City Council members are will hold a special emergency meeting today to discuss imposing a six-month moratorium on marijuana distribution clinics.
The meeting is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. at Brewer City Hall.
Councilors, worried about the prospect of marijuana clinics popping up in the city, first discussed a moratorium on such clinics at their November regular meeting, which was held just days after Maine voters approved expanding access to marijuana for medical reasons and allowing retail pot distribution centers.
“This has been planned and under discussion for some time,” City Manager Steve Bost said Monday. “While municipalities wait for DHHS [the Department of Health and Human Services] to promulgate rules, the Brewer council wanted to be proactive rather than reactive.”
Maine voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999. That law allowed people suffering from certain medical ailments, such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, to use marijuana, to possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug and to grow up to six plants.
The newly passed law, which was endorsed by nearly 60 percent of voters, basically expands that law to allow medical marijuana patients or their caregivers to legally buy marijuana from government-sanctioned dispensaries.
At the November meeting, the city’s code enforcement officer told councilors that under Brewer’s current zoning, retail distribution centers would be able to operate in any business district.
Potential clinic operators have approached city officials in both Bangor and Brewer.
“There was someone who apparently approached the code [enforcement] office and essentially made an inquiry,” Bost said.
The proposed emergency moratorium would go into effect immediately and would allow city officials time to review the newly created state laws and federal laws, Bost said.
City officials may consider overlapping a permitted zone with the new methadone and narcotic treatment facilities zones. However, they first want more information, he said.
“Marijuana remains against federal laws, which is different from how methadone clinics are regulated, and therefore we need to do some additional research,” Bost said.
Drug treatment clinics in Brewer are allowed to open only in the Wilson Street corridor and are barred from being near schools. The city now has no methadone or other drug treatment clinics.
Bangor is considering enacting zoning restrictions similar to what the city has in place for chemical dependency facilities such as methadone clinics. Under those guidelines, a marijuana dispensary in the Queen City could not open within 300 feet of a school, church, library, playground or park. Dispensaries would be barred from residential zones but would be allowed on major arterial streets.
Gov. John Baldacci created a 14-member task force charged with recommending how to implement the new pharmaceutical distribution system.
The panel is working on recommended rules, which will be presented to the Legislature when it convenes next month. Lawmakers will have 45 days to amend the law.