LEWISTON — The City Council approved a series of small changes to its medical marijuana ordinance Tuesday, a month before new state regulations for the industry are scheduled to go into effect. 

City Administrator Ed Barrett said the most important change clarified that the city has not yet officially “opted in” under state law to allow medical marijuana storefronts, grow operations and more. 

“It’s basically stating for the record that we have not yet opted in on anything,” he said. 

Under the new laws, municipalities cannot restrict marijuana caregivers, but have authority to restrict medical marijuana retail stores, a business practice that was not anticipated under the initial state law but has since flourished. The model allows licensed caregivers to sell to patients from a retail location.

Revised state laws on medical and recreational operations are to go into effect Dec. 13. 

The city is within a six-month moratorium on establishing medical marijuana storefronts, which will run until early January. At that point, Barrett said, the council will make decisions on whether to allow the storefronts.

When the moratorium was passed in July, Lewiston officials said it would give the city time to create unifying zoning ordinances.

Barrett’s memo to the council this week said, “Given that there are a considerable number of decisions required by the council, it is unlikely that we will have a fully developed regulatory scheme in place prior to the expiration of the current moratorium.” 

The memo said the ordinance amendment “is intended to ensure that no further marijuana operations open in Lewiston prior to council action and, second, to continue the discussion of what our eventual regulatory scheme will be.” 

The new ordinance also clarifies that Lewiston has not opted in to allow registered dispensaries, marijuana testing facilities or marijuana manufacturing facilities.

Prior to the moratorium, the city already had a number of storefronts in operation.

According to Dave Hediger, director of Planning and Code Enforcement, there are more storefronts attempting to get licensed and approved by the city prior to Dec. 13, when they would be considered grandfathered. 

Currently, there are six storefronts in operation, and nine pending, he said. There are also 15 grow operations and two grow operations that also do retail. 

Other ordinance changes include language on odor limitations, which Barrett described as an “attempt to address the most frequent complaint” the city receives regarding marijuana. 

At a workshop in October, councilors began to make their positions more clear for when the city must decide on whether to opt in to both the medical and recreational systems. 

At that meeting, Police Chief Brian O’Malley said he had recently toured a number of storefronts, which he said showed varying degrees of professionalism. Legal Peaces often features an employee dancing outside in a joint costume at its Lisbon Street location at the city’s gateway.

“We need to think as a city to what we want to be known as,” O’Malley said.

In Auburn, councilors voted unanimously Monday to extend the city’s moratorium on medical storefronts for another 180 days. A working group on marijuana said it needs more time to draft new ordinances and decide how many storefronts it wants to allow. 

There are at least five storefronts in Auburn that were grandfathered prior to the moratorium.

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