Marijuana is photographed in Winthrop, Maine. Credit: Micky Bedell

ROCKLAND, Maine ― A lottery system could determine which six vendors can operate recreational marijuana stores in the city.

Rockland City Council is expected to vote next month on regulations that will outline how and where recreational marijuana stores can operate in the city. Through these regulations, city officials are trying to get a head start on establishing a municipal process for these businesses to open and operate as the state begins to accept applications for retail marijuana stores.

The regulations being considered by the council would limit the number of retail marijuana stores operating in Rockland to six, Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell said.

Preference would be given to the four medical marijuana businesses that have been approved to operate in Rockland within the last year. If those business owners wished to expand to retail sales, they would be given one of the six slots. The remaining license slots would be decided by the lottery.

Scrimshaw is currently the only medical marijuana business operating in Rockland. However, the planning board has given approval to three other businesses, and the council has issued licenses to two of those. The remaining business is still awaiting license approval.

Sites for the four medical marijuana businesses are relatively dispersed throughout city, with locations in downtown and other commercial districts.

In November 2018, through a non-binding referendum, Rockland voters said they did not want adult-use marijuana stores in downtown.

Despite this vote, the regulations being considered by the city council would allow retail marijuana stores to operate anywhere in the city, aside from residential zones. Councilors have pointed out it was a close vote with a margin of 56 to 44 percent.

City Councilor Ed Glaser spoke up at a recent city council meeting expressing concern that they weren’t abiding by the 2018 vote.

“I think we have a responsibility to the people we asked to vote to do what they asked us to do,” Glaser said.

Under proposed regulations there can be no more than three businesses per district.

A cap of six stores was chosen based on Rockland’s size, with a population of about 7,200. Portland, with a population of about 67,000, has a cap of 20 recreational marijuana stores.