AUBURN — Talking about a three-month moratorium on medical marijuana distribution in the city limits makes sense, councilors agreed Monday.

Police Chief Phil Crowell told councilors that the city does not know how the state’s new legal marijuana distribution will work and staff need time to come up with zoning rules and options.

“We have a lot of questions at this point,” he said. “Who can distribute it? Is it nonprofit? How will it be managed? How will it be regulated?”

Voters approved the sale of medical marijuana at the polls in November, but the new law doesn’t include specific rules on how the sales will be handled. The governor has created a task force to specify operations, rules and regulations and Crowell said that group is expected to file a report by Dec. 31.

“At this point, we don’t know what they’re going to come back with,” Crowell said. He suggested councilors adopt a 90-day  moratorium in January, with an option to extend it by another 90 days.

“That gives us, staff and the Planning Board six months to read the task force’s recommendations and decide how we need to react,” he said.

The city currently has zoning rules to determine how prescribed
methadone, a treatment for opiate drug addiction, can be distributed
legally, and Crowell said he expects the state’s medical marijuana rules to be similar.

Councilors are scheduled to vote on the moratorium at their Jan. 5 meeting. 

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LEWISTON — Casino-backers started collecting signatures Tuesday aiming to ask city voters in June if they’d approve the sale of the land under Bates Mill Building No. 5.

Stavros Mendros, leading the investment team, said the group would sign an option agreement with the city to pay 125 percent of the land’s appraised value as of Jan. 1, 2010, if voters approve.

It would clear the way for the group, Great Falls Casino LLC, to begin collecting signatures statewide for a 2011 vote approving the Lewiston casino.

“We fell pretty safe that we’ll get local support,” Mendros said. “If we do, it puts is a good place for the statewide referendum. It shows that this is something that Lewiston wants. And if we don’t get the local support, it’s better to know it now and not waste any more of my investors’ time.”

The investors group includes Mendros, a professional signature collector, Dr. Ron Chicoine, an anesthesiologist, and three others Mendros declined to name. All are Lewiston residents, he said.

Ten people signed the petition application Monday. City Clerk Kathy Montejo said the group needs to collect signatures from 860 registered Lewiston voters within 60 business days — the middle of March.

Mendros said the deal he’s offering is much the same as what he presented to City Councilors at an executive session earlier this month. According to the deal, Great Falls Casino LLC would pay the city $10,000 within 30 days after voters approve the purchase option agreement.

“It’s important to go right to the voters,” Mendros said. “Even if they the new City Council approves the option, an out-of-town group could still come in and challenge their decision. But if voters approve, that’s what we have.”

Great Falls Casino LLC would keep the option to purchase until Dec. 31, 2011. If Maine voters approve the casino plan at the polls in Nov. 2011, the company would be able to complete the sale. If voters turn the casino down, they’d get the right to outbid other competing uses for another 90 days.

According to the petition, 8.06 percent of all slot machine revenues would go to local governments and related issues. Lewiston would get 2.5 percent — a half-percent specifically for unspecified infrastructure improvements and 2 percent for the general fund. Auburn and Androscoggin County would each 1 percent of the revenues each, with the towns of Sabattus, Lisbon and Greene sharing another half-percent.

Efforts to clean Maine rivers would get another 3 percent. The measure would also create a downtown Lewiston renovation fund, setting aside 0.3 percent of slot revenues. Another 0.3 percent would be set aside to purchase alternative energy for the city.

“Right now, we’re just planning to have a slot parlor, just like Bangor,” Mendros said. “But we want to leave the option open for more.”

 The deal also requires the city to demolish the building — everything but the hydro power facility located in the basement. That belongs to NextEra Energy, and the agreement asks the city to negotiate with NextEra to have that portion removed as well. 

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