LEWISTON — It may be a bit longer before you see that corner store offering recreational marijuana in the city. 

The Lewiston City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance amendment that will prohibit retail marijuana establishments and marijuana social clubs until the state has finalized its licensing requirements and regulations. 

The move by the council follows a number of Maine municipalities that have passed moratorium ordinances to slow such facilities following the November referendum that legalized recreational marijuana in the state. 

However, unlike other cities, the ordinance is set up for a time frame longer than six months, which would be removed once the state’s final guidelines are in place, according to City Administrator Ed Barrett. 

“We’re taking a little bit of a different approach,” he said during the meeting. “I have some concern that the state won’t meet the nine-month deadline to come up with these rules.”

Gov. Paul LePage signed off on the referendum bill last week. The new law will go into effect Jan. 30. Legal marijuana supporters have said regulations could take about nine months to establish. 

The legislation passed by Maine voters in November allows municipalities to prohibit retail marijuana stores and marijuana social clubs within their boundaries, and temporary moratoriums have been used to put a hold on any potential operations.

Barrett added that the language will automatically be eliminated when the state adopts rules, and councilors could then impose a moratorium to prohibit certain uses if they wish. 

A number of residents in favor of marijuana retail establishments spoke out against the measure, including Chad Hall, the owner of After Hours Smoke Shop on Lisbon Street.

“This has a more permanent feel to it,” he said of the ordinance. “That makes me nervous about the future.” 

Luke Jensen of Lewiston told councilors, “This seems unnecessary. Like it or not, marijuana is here. It’s legal now.” 

He said the city should be working with potential business owners to adopt the right language, instead of imposing bans. 

The amendment was made to the city’s Business Licensing Ordinance, and according to Barrett’s memo to the council, “Such a temporary prohibition would also send a message to those interested in pursuing a facility in Lewiston that it would be prudent to wait until firm decisions have been made at both the state and local level.”

Other public comments came over concern for establishing marijuana businesses, and for potential business owners to fall behind surrounding communities. 

“You can’t start a business overnight,” a Lewiston property owner said, also arguing that the city should be working with potential business owners who could bring in more needed tax revenue to the city. 

Ward 2 Councilor Tim Lajoie reminded the public that there were four wards in the city that did not vote to approve the November referendum, and urged residents to go to Augusta to air concerns while the state rules are adopted.  

“If we move forward without any sort of guidelines, I think that’s reckless,” he said. “I don’t want to run headlong into something we’re going to have to change.”

He argued that there are likely some business owners in the community who don’t want to see retail marijuana operations next door. 

“These are things we have to consider,” he said. 

During a previous council workshop, a number of options, including an outright ban, were discussed.

During the Tuesday meeting, Barrett said residents have already been coming into City Hall, inquiring about the steps to move forward with a retail marijuana establishment. 


Comments are not available on this story.