LEWISTON — The city could relegate legal medical marijuana distributors to industrial and urban enterprise districts, councilors learned Tuesday.
But Planning Director Gil Arsenault said the city staff needs at least 90 more days to figure out how to manage medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits.
"We have some questions that we need to answer, and then it's going to take some time to work through the city process," Arsenault said. The issue will be discussed by the city's Planning Board at two public hearings before coming to the City Council.
Councilors voted in February to put a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. Voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in November, but city staff and councilors said they wanted to regulate where the businesses would be allowed. They approved a six-month moratorium, which is due to expire on July 21.
The state issued some rules for dispensaries in May. Those rules divide the state into eight dispensary regions. Lewiston is in District 3, along with the rest of Androscoggin County and Oxford and Franklin counties.
Arsenault said he thinks the city can regulate where the main dispensaries can go using zoning ordinances.
But the law also allows private caregivers to legally grow medical marijuana for their family members. Arsenault said the city may want to license those homes, for their own good.
"We may want to make sure that they are safe from an electrical light and power issue," he said. "We don't want to have everything to be plugged into the same outlet, with extension cords strung everywhere."
Councilor Marc Cayer said the private growers may want city protection, as well.
"I think drug dealers are going to try to use this to their benefit," Cayer said. "So we will want to know where the private caregivers are so we can support them."
Councilors will vote on extending the moratorium at their July meeting.