LEWISTON — The City Council postponed a vote Tuesday on updates to the city’s marijuana ordinance after several councilors questioned whether expanded buffers would be too restrictive to new businesses.

The proposal would shift the required buffers between marijuana businesses and other uses, like schools and homes, and would also change how the city measures the buffers in an effort to make the ordinance more easily understood.

After a review of the ordinance, city staff said the current system for measuring the buffers is problematic, but the ordinance review also coincided with concerns from officials over the number of marijuana businesses in the city. That led to proposed changes to the buffers that staff said would likely limit new marijuana businesses.

Taken together, the proposed buffers between marijuana businesses and homes, and between businesses and schools and parks would eliminate large swaths of districts that have such businesses, city staff said.

“You’re going to eliminate all of downtown from marijuana businesses,” David Hediger, director of planning and code enforcement, said.

Hediger said his department’s biggest concern was shifting how the city measures the distance for buffers.


Currently, the ordinance language states the buffer is measured along an “ordinary course of travel” between the main entrance of a business and the main entrance of a home in a residential district. The change would measure the buffer “as the crow flies,” or from the property line of the residence to any part of the marijuana business.

But, debate swirled over which buffers to use, and how large to make them. After a lengthy discussion, City Administrator Heather Hunter suggested tabling the issue so officials could take up separate votes on each proposed buffer during the Feb. 15 meeting.

During public comment, one marijuana business owner said the city is “picking winners and losers.”

“You don’t limit any other type of business,” he said.

Councilor Scott Harriman questioned using buffers that would essentially halt new businesses.

“I feel like our rules should have some kind of logic to them,” he said. “We talk about economic development a lot, and this seems like the wrong direction to go.”

Councilor Rick Lachapelle suggested cutting some of the proposed buffers out, or in the example of a residential buffer, making it 50 feet instead of 100 feet. He said changing the ordinance to restrict new marijuana businesses in a harmful way would amount to “villainizing a large part of our society.”

Hediger said his department has not fielded any complaints about marijuana stores.

The council ultimately voted 5-2 to postpone the item, with Councilors Stephanie Gelinas and Lee Clement opposed.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.