Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus is recommending regulations for marijuana businesses that would bar new businesses from opening downtown, but allow a certain number to open in the C2 commercial district and the rural district.
Town Manager Matt Lutkus presented the suggestions to the Damariscotta Planning Board on Monday, Dec. 3. The new regulations would not affect existing businesses.
Damariscotta voters decided to “opt in” and allow medical and recreational or “adult use” marijuana businesses to open in the town Nov. 6.
The town now needs to approve a marijuana licensing ordinance and amendments to its land use ordinance for marijuana establishments.
Lutkus said he ran the suggestions by the police chief, code enforcement officer, and temporary town planner before presenting them to the board.
“We’re kind of setting the pathway here,” Lutkus said.
Lutkus suggested a prohibition on recreational-marijuana businesses in the C1 district, which includes the downtown, as well as the residential district. The businesses would be allowed in the C2 district and rural zones, but would need to be at least 1,000 feet from a school.
“I think there is a potential for a lot of commercial marijuana-related activities downtown if the town doesn’t control it by zoning and licensing,” Lutkus said.
For home cultivation, Lutkus recommended that the town limit the number of marijuana plants to three mature plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings per adult over 21 living in a residence.
For medical businesses, such as caregiver retail stores, registered dispensaries, and testing facilities, Lutkus suggested prohibiting them in the C1 district and residential zone and allowing conditional use in the other zones.
He suggested that medical manufacturing facilities be limited to the C2 and rural zones only and be limited to tier 1, meaning they can possess up to 40 pounds of marijuana.
For a licensing ordinance, Lutkus suggested that the town only give out a certain number of licenses. For adult-use establishments, he suggested giving out up to two licenses for manufacturing facilities, two for stores, and one for a testing facility.
For cultivation, he suggested that the town allow four licenses for tier 1, meaning no more than 30 plants or 500 square feet; three licenses for tier 2, no more than 2,000 square feet; two licenses for tier 3, no more than 7,000 square feet; three nursery licenses, for no more than 1,000 square feet; and no tier 4 licenses, which are for no more than 20,000 square feet.
“The voters voted for it, but the town is only so big,” Lutkus said of limiting the number of available licenses.
The annual fees for these licenses would range from $500 to $1,500.
For medical marijuana licenses, Lutkus suggested having up to two available for caregiver retail stores, two for manufacturing facilities, one for a dispensary, and one for a testing facility.
In order to obtain a license, a business would need to get a provisional license from the state, go to the town for approval, then get final approval from the state, similar to the process for obtaining alcohol licenses, according to Lutkus.
Establishments can sell both medical and recreational marijuana, however, they would need to have separate licenses for both, Lutkus said.
Vice Chair Wilder Hunt said he has friends in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal for the past few years, and they have mentioned odors coming from marijuana establishments.
“That needs to be addressed somehow, in my opinion,” he said.
Town Planner Bob Faunce said the issue could be addressed when new marijuana establishments are going through site plan review.
Elizabeth Printy, second alternate on the planning board, suggested that the board research regulations in other towns and states in an attempt to anticipate any problems that could arise.
There will be a community conversation on the topic at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 2 at the town office.
After community conversations are held, there will be public hearings in February, then residents will vote on the ordinances at a special town meeting in March.