Brewer eyes ban on growing medicinal pot

Posted Aug. 09, 2010, at 8:54 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The City Council, which already has a moratorium on medical marijuana clinics in place, will consider adding a marijuana cultivation moratorium at its meeting tonight.

“One of the councilors looked at the moratorium language and determined there was a loophole — that it only focused on the dispensaries, not the cultivation facilities,” City Manager Steve Bost said Monday.

Maine voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999, and in November 2009 expanded the law to include more medical conditions and the creation of nonprofit, government-sanctioned dispensaries.

To supply the medical marijuana clinics, the law now allows marijuana cultivation centers to grow six plants for each registered patient.

Northeast Patients Group, a recently formed corporation that is a branch of California-based Berkeley Patients Group, gained approval from Maine Department of Health and Human Services in July to run four of the state’s eight clinics.

Northeast Patients Group clinics are planned for in or around Augusta, Bangor, Portland and Thomaston.

Rebecca DeKeuster, CEO of Northeast Patients Group, said in July that the company hopes to begin growing marijuana indoors as soon as possible, using artificial lights and other indoor-growing techniques.

So far, no sites for dispensing or growing the drug have gained local approval.

If Brewer city leaders approve the cultivation moratorium before them tonight, it will be in place until Dec. 10, which is the day the marijuana clinic moratorium ends.

Brewer City Planner Linda Johns, who sits on the committee charged with updating the city’s land use code, said the panel is working on “locations, zoning districts, setback, site designs” and is talking with South Portland officials, who are updating their land use codes to address the expanded medical marijuana law.

The committee also is weighing whether Brewer should recommend limiting the number of medical marijuana facilities, Bost said.

Should the rules allow “one distribution facility and one cultivation facility or should there be a combination or [one] stand-alone?” he asked.

Once the Brewer committee has completed the proposed updates, they will be presented in draft form to the City Council, then a public hearing will be held when they are brought before the planning board, which will make a recommendation to the council.

After that, the updates will be presented to the full council for final approval.

“It’s our hope to have everything completed by the end of the calendar year,” Johns said.

Tuesday’s Brewer City Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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