May 24, 2018
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Bangor passes medical marijuana ordinance, repeals moratorium

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors on Wednesday gave final approval to a land development code amendment that could pave the way for a medical marijuana dispensary site in Bangor.

The council passed the ordinance change with a unanimous vote and with no discussion, ending months of debate over how the city would handle a dispensary.

Also in a unanimous vote, councilors repealed a citywide moratorium on marijuana dispensaries that was set to expire later this month because it is no longer needed.

Voters last November 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.

After enacting a six-month moratorium in May, the city of Bangor has been working to come up with a way to allow a medical marijuana dispensary while still ensuring public safety.

Last month, councilors voted down an initial amendment to the land development code because the language failed to distinguish between regulations for dispensaries and regulations for cultivation facilities.

The amendment that was adopted Wednesday allows dispensaries in most commercial areas of the city except for the downtown district and the area around the Bangor International Airport. The amendment restricts dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and parks and within 200 feet of residences, churches and day cares.

Cultivation facilities would be allowed only in industrial zones. To address previous concerns of city councilors, dispensaries are not allowed in industrial zones.

According to the amendment, only one dispensary and one cultivation facility would be allowed in Bangor.

The City Council approved an ordinance amendment last month that added to the city’s enforcement code a section specifically addressing medical marijuana dispensaries. That item dealt mostly with security measures and outlined any fines or penalties associated with violations of the proposed ordinance change.

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 Wednesday’s meeting.

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