Maine cities are scrambling with how to handle the rush of new business when new state rules on how to grow, sell and purchase recreational cannabis take effect in September. Retail stores are expected to open early in 2020.
Initially, the city of Auburn looked at a cap to limit the number of medical and adult-use recreational stores to 20, which would be similar to the limit imposed by Portland, but decided not to pursue that route. Instead, Auburn is going high-tech — using an interactive graphic information system (GIS) map to identify whether parcels or areas of property are suitable under city ordinances — and in effect controlling where marijuana businesses are located.
The city recently decreed that both new and existing medical marijuana businesses had to file applications to operate in the city. Blue circle on the map easily identify the required 750-foot buffer required around schools, providing a quick visual indication where marijuana businesses cannot operate. Orange circles show where business have submitted applications for cannabis retail locations or cultivation facilities. The maps are interactive, and clicking on a circle pulls up a table that includes the location, business type and application status for that site.
The second step of the mapping project will include recreational marijuana, which requires a 1,000 foot buffer between pot shops in the downtown district. Existing facility locations are exempt from the buffer zone requirements.
The city of Auburn went live with the GIS map on its website in early August. The site currently shows medical marijuana businesses, but the ordinance covers both medical and recreational cannabis businesses. To date, 43 existing and new medical marijuana businesses have applied for a license to operate in the city. Obtaining licenses will also enable new businesses to secure appropriate locations and eliminate competitors from setting up shop next to them.
Auburn is one of 20 municipalities that voted to authorize recreational marijuana. Each municipality had a choice of what to “opt in” for, based on four business categories allowed by the state of Maine: retail, growing, manufacturing and testing. Auburn is one of 15 municipalities that allow all four categories to operate.
Two companies filed for both manufacturing and cultivation licenses: Curaleaf, the only medical marijuana dispensary in Auburn, filed for a store license, and Wellness Connection of Maine, which owns four of the eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine.