Town Planner Kyle Drexler (center) addresses members of the Town Council's Community Development Committee July 14, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / The Penobscot Times

ORONO, Maine — Orono’s first recreational marijuana store cleared its final town hurdle Monday night, leaving only a nod from the state before it can open.

The Orono Town Council gave unanimous approval for a license to Salvatore Faro III and his business partner Mohammed “Moe” Ibrahem to expand their existing recreational marijuana store Firestorm with a  second location inside the University Mall on Stillwater Avenue in Orono.

Firestorm was the first recreational marijuana store to open in Bangor after the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy licensed the shop to change from medical to recreational.

Co-owner of Firestorm Cannabis Salvatore Faro III stands for a portrait inside his new recreational marijuana shop in Orono June 10, 2021. Firestorm will be the first recreational store to open shop in the town in September. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / Penobscot Times

In March, Orono residents passed a referendum opting the town into the commercial marijuana market in Maine, voting 472 to 365, after years of debate. Despite residents passing the measure, the rollout of shops has been slow going and is poised to be restricted further by the council.

Soon after the referendum, the town discovered conflicting language in the ordinance that allows recreational marijuana stores in the Commercial 1 and Commercial 2 districts with certain buffers between schools, child care facilities and religious locations.

But in the Commercial 2 district, the ordinance would only allow for one site to be used for a potential store, but that location is too close to a University of Maine entrance — something the town and UMaine wanted to avoid.

So, in July, councilors on the community development committee decided to have Town Planner Kyle Drexler work on edits to the ordinance that would completely remove the C2 district as an eligible location.

A car drives past the University Mall shopping center in Orono June 10, 2021. Orono’s first recreational marijuana store will open inside the shopping center in September. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / Penobscot Times

This would only leave the C1 district — which is centered around the University Mall shopping center on Stillwater Avenue — as an eligible zone for these stores. But, depending on what the final version of the ordinance looks like, the opening of Firestorm could mark the only recreational marijuana shop in Orono.

Town officials hope to have the ordinance remedied by August while Firestorm is slated to open sometime at the end of August or the beginning of September if the state gives final approval.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...