Maine’s biggest city is continuing to inch toward adopting its local marijuana regulations and could push forward a final proposal Tuesday.
Portland adopted a zoning map showing where marijuana businesses could operate in February 2019, but after almost a year of study and debate the city has yet to decide how many medical and recreational licenses are up for grabs, and how the city would decide who will get one.
The city’s licensing scheme could become clearer on Tuesday, when the economic development and health and human services committees meet to finalize the marijuana regulations to send to the Portland City Council. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in City Council chambers.
The city staff wants to cap the number of retail stores allowed to sell medical or adult-use marijuana at 20, arguing that allowing any more than that would flood the market, drive down marijuana prices and make it likely that stores would fail, which wouldn’t be good for the city or the industry.
The staff wants to award licenses using a weighted points system that favors certain applicants, including:
o Women-, veteran- or immigrant-owned businesses.
o Maine residents of at least five years.
o Applicants who have run a successful licensed marijuana store in Maine or another state.
o Someone who has run a successful non-marijuana business in Maine for at last five years.
o Those who have owned or leased the proposed shop location for at least two years.
o Retail locations at least 1,500 feet from a school.
o Those willing to contribute 1 percent of net profits to the city for youth or addiction programs.
o Store owners who would sell only marijuana-related products.
o Applicants with at least $150,000 in liquid assets.
Critics say the proposal favors applicants bankrolled by corporate, multistate marijuana operators and would squeeze out everyday Mainers trying to break into the new industry. Others say the city shouldn’t cap licenses at all, but should let the market – and the consumer – decide who survives.
If the city caps licenses, two or three medical marijuana retail stores already doing business in the city with explicit permission would be allowed to continue, but others who opened without city approval or who wanted to convert to adult-use retail would have to compete for a license.
That means some of the two dozen medical stores already in operation would probably have to close.
The staff proposal would establish five licensing categories, including three sizes of grows, two tiers of manufacturing and two types of retail stores: medical and recreational use, also referred to as adult use. License fees range from $250 for a small medical marijuana provider to $10,000 for an adult-use retail store.
Portland’s adult-use retail license is seven times more expensive than South Portland’s $1,400 fee. Officials claim the $319,000 Portland expects to earn from licensing retailers, manufacturers and growers is needed to pay for an extra health inspector, licensing assistant, code enforcement officer and half the salary of a police sergeant needed to regulate the new industry.
The city is under some pressure to finalize its rules quickly. Maine is currently reviewing its first wave of license applications – 48 growers, 18 manufacturers and 65 retail stores so far – but to get an active license, applicants must have a host municipality’s OK. To date, only about two dozen communities have opted to allow recreational marijuana businesses to operate within their jurisdictions.
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