Brewer drafts medical marijuana zoning rules

Posted Oct. 05, 2010, at 12:02 a.m.
Last modified Oct. 11, 2010, at 1:32 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Three eye doctors, the school board chairman and a resident voiced concerns Monday about proposed land use code amendments that designate Dirigo Drive — the city’s professional business district — as the only place future marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities might locate.

Mark Farley, chairman of the Brewer School Committee, and resident Gail Kelly said they supported a 1,000-foot setback for schools, which is one of the six proposed land use code amendments concerning marijuana facilities presented at a joint planning board and City Council public hearing.

The eye doctors all work at Penobscot Eye Care on Dirigo Drive and said they are concerned about criminals trying to get prescriptions for medical marijuana.

“Just last week I actually had a man approach me in our office in a public area asking for a prescription for medical marijuana,” said eye doctor Kimberly Allen. She said she told him that marijuana is “not a good treatment for glaucoma, and no, I would not prescribe it.”

“He did badger me for quite a while,” she said. “At the end of our conversation, he asked, ‘If you won’t, who will?’”

The ordinance amendments are recommended by the marijuana ordinance committee, created by the City Council in December 2009, that includes city solicitor Joel Dearborn, Police Chief Perry Antone, City Councilor Jerry Goss, City Planner Linda Johns and City Manager Steve Bost.

Under the proposed changes, one marijuana dispensary or one cultivation facility or one joint dispensary and cultivation facility would be allowed to open and only in the professional business district, which essentially is Dirigo Drive. The zone would have 500-foot buffer zones for residences, licensed day care facilities, churches and methadone clinics and 1,000-foot setbacks for public and private schools.

With those restrictions and the identified wetlands, the only area open on Dirigo Drive for marijuana dispensaries or cultivation facilities would start about 250 feet east of Green Point Road up to Whiting Hill, which is where CancerCare of Maine is located.

Schools near Dirigo Drive include Brewer High School and the Apostolic Church, which has a private school. Both are located on Parkway South.

Aside from location limitations, additional restrictions cover security, landscaping, parking, hours of operation and building size.

The proposed rules would require 24-hour “video surveillance of the facility inside and out … that they maintain,” Antone said.

The operators also would be required to have an alarm system that alerts police if there is an intruder or if the power is cut, a safe for prepared marijuana and cash stored overnight, exterior lighting and deadbolts on all exterior doors, and locks or bars on the windows.

“These are not meant as a punishment … these are steps to prevent marijuana from being stolen” and “to discourage criminal activities,” the police chief said.

Consumption would not be allowed on-site except for employees who are prescribed pot for medical reasons. Those people would be allowed to take the drug only orally and would not be allowed to smoke it, the proposed rules state.

After the public hearing ended, the planning board reconvened and voted unanimously to approve the amendments, which will go before the City Council tonight for a first reading.

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