Rockland City Council will take up a proposed moratorium on medical marijuana facilities in the city at its next meeting, on Monday, August 13.

Mayor Valli Geiger is sponsoring the measure out of concerns that city zoning regulations on medical marijuana production facilities are too lax and allow for too many of the businesses on Main Street. At an agenda-setting meeting on Monday, Geiger said that four medical marijuana businesses have taken out applications from the code enforcement office and “most of them” appear to be retail stores “trying to get in ahead of recreational marijuana regulations.”

The proposed ordinance states that an increase in medical marijuana facilities in the downtown area “raises a number of concerns related to public safety and welfare,” such as “potential adverse effects on neighborhoods, security of the facilities, and odors that may create a public nuisance or hazard.”

“I just thought we’re in uncharted territory here and most of these people are assuming they will turn [the businesses] into a recreational bar or storefront,” said Geiger.

State law allows for just eight geographically dispersed medical marijuana dispensaries, which can grow and sell an unlimited amount of cannabis for certified patients. But since there are already eight dispensaries in the state, only medical marijuana caregivers, who can only grow up to 30 flowering plants for five patients, can operate in Rockland at the moment.

Earlier this year, the state passed a law that legalizes the retail sale of adult-use marijuana, which also bans marijuana bars, but the state hasn’t adopted the licensing rules yet so it will be a while before any recreational pot stores can legally operate. The law also requires municipalities to pass an ordinance allowing adult-use marijuana stores, which Rockland has not passed. A recent law change also requires that towns first vote to allow medical pot stores, but that law won’t take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. Currently, the Legislature is still in a special session.

Last December, Rockland City Council passed an ordinance allowing medical marijuana production facilities to operate in the city. Under the amendment, medical marijuana caregivers may apply for permits from the planning board to establish cannabis cultivation, processing and storage facilities in various commercial zones, including on Main Street. The zoning change prohibits pot production facilities from being located within 500 feet of a school and, to avoid concentration, within 250 feet of each other.







However, language in the licensing ordinance and zoning — which states that the production facilities can be used for “for cultivation, processing, storage, and/or distribution” of medical marijuana — has led to some confusion about whether production facilities can operate like retail medicinal pot stores. Councilor Amelia Magjik, who sponsored that ordinance, says that it was not her intention to allow the licensing of medical marijuana stores.

Currently medical caregiver Nick Westervelt of Lincolnville has received planning board approval to run a medical cannabis production facility in the former First Baptist Church at 500 Main Street, but he is still awaiting a license to operate from the city. Caregiver Mark Crockett is also proposed to put a medicinal marijuana establishment at 266 Main Street, where Hill’s Seafood is located.

Mary Costigan, the city’s attorney, said a moratorium on medical pot facilities would not only prevent stores from applying for licenses before the law requiring the city to opt in to allow them takes effect, but it would also give the city council time to clarify whether it wants to allow marijuana production facilities to operate like retail stores.

Crockett urged the city to clarify the regulations, but he argued that caregivers in Rockland are currently operating in residential neighborhoods and allowing them to sell in commercial zones will divert the traffic flow and allow the retailers to be better regulated. He added that he can make a living just selling to his patients and doesn’t need to sell recreational marijuana to survive.

“The ordinance said you wanted it on Main Street, you zoned for it on Main Street and now you’re saying you don’t want it on Main Street,” he said.

Councilor Ed Glaser, who voted against the medical cannabis production facility ordinance last December, questioned how a medicinal marijuana retail store is somehow worse than a production facility and shouldn’t be downtown.

“It seems like if we’re going to be in favor of marijuana that’s exactly what we want downtown,” he said.