2017-05-05 / Front Page

City extends moratorium on pot shops

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

The South Portland City Council voted 4-1 at its May 1 meeting to extend its moratorium on retail marijuana operations an additional 180 days, to Nov. 16.

A new law, which went into effect Jan. 30, allows adults 21 and older to possess as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana and to grow their own plants, with allowances for six mature plants and up to 10 not yet ready for cultivation. However, establishing facilities to cultivate and test the plants, to manufacture marijuana products, and to sell the drug at retail outlets subject to a 10 percent state sales tax, still awaits state action on a licensing framework. The Legislature has adopted a moratorium of its own until February 2018 in order to lay out the licensing requirements for each type of business related to retail sale of marijuana.

The city council has previously signaled that, based on the two legalization votes, it does not intend to take advantage of a clause in the new law that lets municipalities ban any or all aspects of the retail marijuana trade. However, it still needs to finalize details such as where such facilities would be able to operation, and what conditions, if any, it will impose.

“We feel this is necessary because in the absence of a moratorium there could be some problems with people submitting applications even though they wouldn’t be ripe to act on and could potentially be in conflict with what we end up voting on for allowed uses and licensing,” said City Manager Scott Morelli.

Councilor Claude Morgan voted against extending the moratorium, saying, “Governing by way of closing down the playground is something that I don’t think is healthy. We’re already working in the shadow of the state’s moratorium. I don’t know why we keep kicking this ball down the road. Voters have decided in very compelling numbers that this is the society they want to live in.”

The moratorium is in two parts, one on granting operating licenses and one on accepting site plan applications.

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