AUBURN — After a yearlong committee process, the city will finally take up a sweeping new marijuana ordinance, which would regulate recreational and medical marijuana businesses in the city.

During a workshop discussion Monday, the fourth in recent meetings, Assistant City Manager Phil Crowell outlined recent changes made to the ordinance following significant feedback from existing marijuana businesses.

The City Council is set to vote May 20 to “opt-in” to allow marijuana businesses as outlined in state statute. The council would then hold a first reading on the new ordinance the same night.

Auburn is among the first few municipalities in Maine to draft such an ordinance covering medical as well as recreational, as the regulatory system for recreational marijuana is still in progress by state officials. The ordinance also covers cultivation sites.

After state regulators passed significant changes to the state’s medical marijuana laws last year, Auburn officials passed a moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts and established a working group to draft a comprehensive ordinance.

Several portions of the ordinance were heavily debated between the working group, Planning Board and existing businesses for months, including the required setbacks between businesses and where to allow each type of business.

During the public comment session Monday, officials were asked to further refine the ordinance language, specifically its definition of “school” in requiring setbacks, and how the setbacks themselves are defined.

The setbacks between businesses are seen as a way to limit the amount of businesses that could pop up, but opponents say it could limit business growth more than intended.

Auburn Planning officials have estimated there to be some 40 cultivation sites in Auburn, on top of at least five medical marijuana storefronts that were grandfathered prior to the moratorium.

During the workshop, City Councilor Holly Lasagna praised the city for how it has handled the process, especially since the state regulations are still a moving target.

“There’s been a lot of hard work to make sure we’re going in the correct direction,” she said.

Crowell said if the council opts-in and passes first reading on May 20, a final reading and public hearing would be held June 3.

He said the city will then come up with a date for when to begin accepting new applications.

David Heidrich, spokesman for the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy, told the Sun Journal recently he’s hoping recreational rules are in front of the Legislature before it adjourns in June. He’d like to see the state licensing recreational retailers and growers by December.


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