BANGOR, Maine — An amendment to Bangor’s land development code that would restrict where a medical marijuana dispensary could be located will need the support of two-thirds of city councilors when the issue is voted on next week.
Bangor’s Planning Board voted 4-2 on Tuesday to reject the amendment proposed by city staff because it did not make a clear enough distinction between permitted use and conditional use.
“It was really just a technical matter. They wanted the amendment to be in a cleaner format,” explained Paul Nicklas, Bangor’s assistant city solicitor.
The amendment will still go before the City Council on Monday, Sept. 13, but it will need more than a simple majority to pass.
“Anytime the planning board goes against a recommendation, the City Council needs two-thirds support,” Nicklas said.
Based on the ordinance change proposed for Bangor, a dispensary could be located in a variety of urban and service districts but would be restricted from any residential districts. Additionally, dispensaries would be prohibited from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other areas where children congregate and from within 200 feet of any place of worship.
The council also will discuss Monday another amendment that adds to the city’s enforcement code a section that specifically addresses medical marijuana dispensaries. That item deals mostly with security measures and outlines any fines or penalties associated with violations of the proposed ordinance change. Technically, the council also has to vote on a third measure that would nullify an existing moratorium that is set to expire on Oct. 20.
City Council Chairman Richard Stone said he expects all three measures to pass, although the land development code amendment may need to be changed by substitution to reflect the planning board’s concerns and other minor changes.
Throughout the process, the city has modeled medical marijuana dispensary restrictions after similar restrictions placed on methadone clinics.
“If you did a survey of people in town and asked where the [methadone] clinics are, most people probably wouldn’t know, so I guess that’s a good thing,” Stone said. “Does it means there is no downside? No, but it probably means that things are not as bad as some people thought they would be.”
Last November, voters approved an expansion of Maine’s medical marijuana law that allows for dispensaries where patients can fill prescriptions. Earlier this summer, the state selected the first round of areas where dispensaries will be allowed, and Bangor was selected to serve patients in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
Northeast Patients Group will operate four of the first eight dispensaries in Maine, including Bangor’s. Becky DeKeuster, CEO of Northeast Patients Group, said previously that her company would wait until the municipal ordinances are straightened out before it went looking for potential sites. She predicted that the Bangor dispensary could serve between 75 and 100 patients in the first year alone.
“If it’s policed properly, I’m not worried,” Stone said. “Frankly, I hope I never get in a situation that I would have to [use marijuana] to ease pain.”