Public hearing set for marijuana growing license

By Susan Mustapich | Aug 11, 2019
Source: File photo

CAMDEN — A public hearing for local licensing for commercial marijuana growing facilities is set for Sept. 3.

The current law in Maine requires adult-use marijuana establishments to obtain local authorization before being granted a license through the state.

This June Camden residents approved small-scale commercial marijuana cultivation facilities by a vote of 326 to 171. The ordinance allows the two smallest indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation facilities defined by state law. Zoning Board of Appeals review, and the granting of a special exception, are required in order to obtain the local license for a growing facility.

Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin told the Select Board Aug. 6 that he has drafted a proposed local licensing ordinance that would apply only to what Camden residents have approved.

Marijuana retail, manufacturing and testing have not been approved in Camden, and are not allowed in the town. Martin said he plans to reconvene the advisory Marijuana Working Group to begin the process of making recommendations for these marijuana businesses.

Select Board members discussed Aug. 6 a draft for local licensing prepared by Martin, and ended up asking for revisions.

Board member Alison McKellar and Chairman Bob Falciani asked for changes to the proposed $500 application fee and a $1,000 license fee. They agreed that fees should be set by the Select Board, instead of specifying set amounts in the ordinance.

Falciani supported board approval of fees to keep current with "market dynamics."

McKellar questioned the affordability of the fees for applicants for the small facilities that Camden is allowing. She also questioned a security requirement for 24-hour video surveillance of a facility. McKellar pointed out that requirements for facilities can be added during Zoning Board review.

Martin and two other Select Board members reacted to the idea of setting up a lower level of requirememts in Camden than in other localities in the state.

Martin pointed out that the proposed licensing requirements are in line with what other Maine towns are doing, including Farmington, Brunswick, Auburn and South Portland. He said state licensing rules are not finalized, and there is talk that the state may loosen up on requirements, and leave some regulations to localities. He said if this occurs, and Camden lowers its fees, it could be the lowest in the state. He said the 24-hour video surveillance will most likely remain in state law.

Board member Marc Ratner said if the state backs off on some regulations, and  Camden has the easiest laws, he would be concerned "about people coming in from out of state, and Camden being overwhelmed."

Board member Taylor Benzi said he is comfortable with an ordinance that is "a little beefier" than usual, because the issue is new to the state. If the ordinance "is 'too wide open, things could fluctuate from board to board," he said.

Board members agreed that clear rules on license revocation were needed in the new ordinance.

In preparation for the Sept. 3 public hearing, board members asked Martin to revise the draft. He said he would look at state laws most likely to remain in place, and refer to these laws in the local ordinance, rather than duplicating what the state is requiring.

In November 2016, 55 percent of Camden voters approved a statewide citizen referendum to legalize recreational and commercial marijuana uses. Since then, state and local rules have developed slowly.

In 2017, the Select Board appointed a Marijuana Working Group to advise it on zoning recommendations for commercial marijuana establishments. In 2018, the group completed its first proposal for small-scale marijuana growing facilities and product manufacture. The proposal was scaled back by Martin to limit the areas where commercial cultivation and growing facilities can be located. This version was reviewed by the Planning Board, Select Board and the public during numerous hearings.

The Adult Use Marijuana Cultivation Facilities ordinance passed by voters in June allows outdoor commercial growing facilities containing up to 2,000 square feet of plant canopy, on lots of 5 acres or more in the Rural 1 and 2, Coastal Residential and Village Extension zones, and indoor growing facilities in these four zones, on lots of 1.5 acres.

Indoor-only growing facilities are allowed in the Highway Business, River Business, Industrial and Neighbor Service districts. In the Neighborhood Service District, only the smallest facilities, defined by state law as containing up to 500 square feet of plant canopy, are allowed.

Commercial growing is prohibited within 500 feet of public and private schools, existing daycare operations, the Camden Public Library, Harbor Park, much of the Snow Bowl, and throughout downtown business areas and the Village district.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Aug 12, 2019 08:43

It still amazes me that not in the too distant past the town was in an uproar over a Dunkin Donuts wanting to open a walk i facility only and spurred the quote of America may run on Dunkin but Camden runs on quaint.

The times they are a changing, now a nice little shop to sell dope to Johnny and Suzie and don't forget Grandma too, ok for dope but coffee not so much. My how quaint for us all whether we want it or not.

Posted by: Ron Pendleton | Aug 12, 2019 08:05

To the above commenter, Camden didn't legalize marijuana, the people of Maine did, it's called getting with the times

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 11, 2019 13:55

I would never have thought that Camden, of all places, would legalize Marijuana! "Camden by the Sea" picturesque and welcome dopers.  Soon tourists will by-pass Camden. And not soon enough!

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