Portland (Maine) officials propose to limit the number of retail licenses for cannabis to 20
Not long ago since recreational marijuana for adults was legalized in the state of Maine.
The state rules are designed to allow municipalities to choose not to allow the sale of marijuana for adults and only a handful of cities and towns have laid the foundations for retail sales. That means it is possible that marijuana is for sale in only a few of the state’s almost 500 cities, towns and plantations when it reaches stores, probably in 2020.
It is difficult to know an exact number of how many communities will allow the sale of recreational marijuana because the municipalities are in different stages to decide whether to grant licenses locally. Some have said they don’t want to be part of the industry. The result could be that large parts of the state have few retailers or just the opposite, as is the case in Portland.
Indeed, public officials in the city of Portland believe it is necessary to set a limit on the number of retail licenses for cannabis to protect both the marijuana industry and the city’s economy. However, some city councilors question the limit and the method used for licensing, which is currently applied in order of receipt. At the moment the idea is to limit the number of licenses to 20.
The problem is that when they began analyzing local marijuana rules, Portland officials thought the zoning and setback rules would limit the amount of retail stores that could be opened in the city, which is also the largest in Maine.
However, the license application number did not match the expectations of officials as more than 500 medical or adult-use stores could open in the city in those areas reserved for marijuana retailers, even after having established by law that stores should be located at least 250 feet away from any other store and 500 feet from schools.
Municipal lawyer Anne Torregrossa expresses her concern that cannabis retail stores end up overflowing the market since it does not have the capacity to support so many. Because of the excess, the city sees how many stores close, overwhelmed by excessive competition, which is not good for the industry or the city.
Precisely in order to protect the market and the economy of the city, city officials propose to limit the licenses of marijuana retail stores to 20, which would be granted to qualified recreational or medical stores in order of arrival.
There is only one medical marijuana dispensary licensed by the city, Wellness Connection. But this dispensary would not count for that total number, unless you are looking for a city license to open a second adult use location in Portland.
Torregrossa said that small operations carried out by medical marijuana caregivers would not count in this count, but existing medical caregiver stores would have to get a license.
The news is creating debate among a large number of stores selling medical products that state-licensed caregivers for the sale of cannabis products have opened in Portland in the last year convinced that they had all the permits required by the city to open, including occupancy certificates.
Anne Torregrossa expressed her concern to the members of the committees of economic development and health and human services of the City Council. He believes there will be many complaints about the decision to set a limit of 20 stores, as well as other proposed rules. The lawyer believes that they have to find a number that the market supports and that is also fair for the cannabis industry and for the city.
Some of the councilors who attended the debate expressed different reservations about the limit of 20 and the method of awarding licenses in order of arrival. These councilors are afraid that this number may exclude local or minority applicants and that the speed in the application prevails over the criteria of the quality of the applicants.
But the number of 500 stores did not convince councilman Brian Batson, who called it very unrealistic. The councilman is not sure about the limit and thinks there are too many factors that limit the market, from licensing approvals to zoning and tariffs. And the requirements are quite restrictive in Portland.
The two council committees that study the matter have sent the proposed rules to the city council for further investigation, especially with regard to the areas of how other cities of similar size to Portland have handled the issue of licensing distribution and retail limits, with the idea of discussing the matter again in a few weeks.
City officials said Portland hopes to be ready to grant licenses at the same time as the Maine Marijuana Policy Office, or at most a little later. State officials expect to begin accepting license applications in the fall, and retail sales will begin in March 2020.
In the state of Maine, the rules that establish who can obtain a license to sell cannabis say that all applicants, including officials, directors, managers and partners, can do so. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and live in Maine. Most investors must be residents of Maine. Until June 2021, only people who have lived in Maine for four years can obtain licenses.