Medical marijuana — Board eyes limits on number of dispensaries

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The Bridgton Planning Board is considering limiting the number of Medical Marijuana dispensaries allowed in town, and making other major changes to the rules adopted by voters at the June Town Meeting.

Suggestions for the revisions drawn up by the board’s attorney were discussed at a Tuesday workshop.

Agnieszka Pinette of the DummondWoodsum law firm outlined the suggestions in a Nov. 18 letter to the town. The changes would be made as amendments to the town’s Site Plan Review Ordinance, and are generally intended to ensure that the rules in place for dispensaries are consistent with the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act.

The Act allows municipalities to limit the number of dispensaries that may operate in the town. Earlier this year, the board approved plans for a dispensary to operate out of the old Bridgton Knitting Mill, and more recently, a second application was submitted for a dispensary farther south on Portland Road, across from Gallinari Electric.

That second application, by New Age Builders, was tabled until January, in part because of conflicting and incomplete information. Initially the proposal was stated to be a medical marijuana dispensary, but in later notices to abutters the plans were characterized as a cultivation operation.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that the state had already given its approval for the operation, according to a spokesperson for New Age Builders.

In her letter, Pinette recommended that if the board wished to limit the number of dispensaries, the language would need to clearly apply to structures:

“For purposes of this limitation, each parcel of land, including any structures thereon, that is being used for the acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, delivery, transfer, transport, sale, supply, and/or dispensing of medical marijuana or related supplies and educational materials shall be counted as one Dispensary Facility,” she wrote.

In addition, Pinette recommended that the board remove some of the provisions in the current local language that duplicates what is required by the Act. Towns may not duplicate the state language, and they also may not be more restrictive than the state language, she wrote.

Pinette also said the board needs to clarify its review procedures for medical marijuana dispensaries, especially in terms of how those procedures interact with other provisions of the Site Plan Review Ordinance.

Board Alternate Cathy Pinkham also suggested that the board add language to restrict registered caregiver collectives from operating a dispensary in a shared fashion.

“This would put an extra layer of protection for the town, as it is my understanding many folks flock from other towns,” Pinkham wrote in a Dec. 5 memo to Board Chairman Steve Collins.

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