BREWER, Maine — City councilors said Tuesday that they were impressed with how the city handled the creation of proposed rules regarding the opening of any future marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities within the city.
Planning board members on Monday approved six proposed land use code amendments that cover where the facilities can locate and rules regarding their operation. Councilors on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading.
Jerry Goss, who sat on the subcommittee that researched and created the draft rules, said the group had to do a lot of research, including talking to Mainers who use medical marijuana.
“It does in fact help many people get through the day … in many cases during the last days of their lives,” he said.
The rules the city is proposing regarding marijuana dispensaries protect clients as well as the city, Goss said.
“We need to get this done right so it serves the purpose that it is designed to do,” he said.
Police Chief Perry Antone, City Solicitor Joel Dearborn, City Planner Linda Johns and City Manager Steve Bost made up the rest of the committee.
City Councilor Joseph Ferris said that “not everybody is in favor of marijuana, but we dealt with the issues” to create rules that will work for the city and operators.
Under the proposed rules, 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 facilities would start about 250 feet east of Green Point Road up to Whiting Hill.
The area has several lots for sale and “a few yards up the road, we have CancerCare of Maine,” Ferris said.
D’arcy Main-Boyington, Brewer’s economic development director, said the city was approached in June by Northeast Patients Group about locating a facility in Brewer.
The group, which was selected by the state to operate four of the first eight dispensaries in Maine — including one to serve Penobscot and Piscataquis counties — showed interest in property on Dirigo Drive, she said.
Aside from location limitations, the proposed rules also set the hours of operation as 8 a.m.-8 p.m., require landscaping that doesn’t limit visibility and a large enough building so that there is no queuing outside.
The proposed rules also would require 24-hour video surveillance inside and out, an alarm system that alerts police of intruders or if the power is cut, a safe for prepared marijuana and cash stored overnight, exterior lighting, deadbolts on all exterior doors, and locks or bars on the windows.
Councilor Manley DeBeck said he was impressed with the subcommittee’s dedication, and City Manager Steve Bost thanked legislators for having the forethought to allow municipalities to make their own local rules.
City councilors are scheduled to hold a second reading of the proposed rules and to vote on them at their November meeting.