April 22, 2018
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Bangor rejects new pot zoning restrictions

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors on Monday voted down an amendment to Bangor’s land development code that would have placed restrictions on the location of a medical marijuana dispensary, forcing the city to go back to the beginning on the issue.

Councilors, who were unanimous in their dismissal of the ordinance amendment, were concerned about language that failed to distinguish between regulations for dispensaries and regulations for cultivation facilities.

The city’s planning board rejected the same amendment last week, which means the council would have needed at least six affirmative votes to go against the planning board’s recommendation.

City staff is expected to start from scratch on crafting a new amendment to address medical marijuana facilities. That amendment then would need to go back to the planning board and the City Council. In the meantime, a citywide moratorium on marijuana dispensaries is set to expire in mid-October.

The ordinance change discussed Monday would have allowed a dispensary to be located in some industrial and retail districts but would have restricted facilities from any residential districts. Additionally, dispensaries would be prohibited from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other areas where chil-dren congregate and within 200 feet of any place of worship.

What tripped up councilors, though, was a section in the amendment that addressed cultivation facilities, which would be allowed in industrial zones but not retail zones. Councilor Pat Blanchette said she didn’t think it would be right for a cultivation facility to be located in the same location as a dispensary, which would have been allowed under the proposed amendment.

Other councilors shared her concerns and rather than try to change the amendment on the fly, the council voted to start over.

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 was selected to operate four of the first eight dispensaries in Maine, including Bangor’s. Becky DeKeuster, CEO of Northeast Patients Group, has said previously that her company would wait until the municipal ordinances are straightened out before it went looking for potential sites. Northeast Patients Group also is interested in locating its growing facility in the Bangor area, although not necessarily in Bangor.

Neither DeKeuster nor anyone else representing Northeast Patients Group attended Monday’s meeting.

The council did approve an amendment that adds to the city’s enforcement code a section that specifically addresses medical marijuana dispensaries. That item dealt mostly with security measures and outlines any fines or penalties associated with violations of the proposed ordinance change.

That measure was not required to go before the planning board for approval, but it also doesn’t have any relevance until the city amends its land development code to determine where dispensaries should be sited.

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