PORTLAND DAILY SUN
Marshall sponsors zoning change with dispensaries in mind
Saying a proposed six-month moratorium "isn't necessary," Portland City Councilor Dave Marshall will introduce a plan this morning that would allow registered marijuana dispensaries in downtown business zones.
The order comes in response to a six-month moratorium being proposed by the city attorney, and would change zoning laws to allow the dispensaries.
"The moratorium isn't necessary, as an overwhelming number of voters supported the referendum that led to this," said Marshall, mentioning that "75 percent of people in Portland said having these dispensaries was the right way to go."
The order will be introduced and discussed at a press conference this morning at 10 a.m. at City Hall, and is scheduled for discussion at Monday night's city council meeting.
"I feel it's a more proactive way to define dispensary within zoning code, and to say which zone it's permitted in," said Marshall.
"I think downtown is the most appropriate because of the convenience of public transportation and social services," he added.
Maine's Department of Health and Human Services will select the operators of the state's first eight dispensaries by July 9. The not-for-profit suppliers could open shop within weeks of licensing, depending on how quickly they could grow and process the drug and set up the security and tracking systems required by the state. The eight dispensaries will be in different regions throughout the state, Cumberland and York Counties will each only have one.
The downtown business zones are most appropriate for the dispensary due to the advantages of public transit and close proximity to social services, said Marshall in a Wednesday press release. The order is "a proactive way to deal with the zoning issues regarding the only dispensary for Cumberland County," Marshall said.
Alysia Melnick of the Maine Civil Liberties Union will also be on hand at the press conference to address the legal issues regarding the proposed moratorium.
"Portland is really a service center. It's a place where people have access to public transportation in a state with very little public transportation," Melnick told the Kennebec Journal newspaper earlier this week. "That makes it even more important that Portland not put up barriers to access."
Marshall said he is also going to encourage the council to defeat the proposed moratorium, a measure that he said will not only delay the voter-supported dispensary system, but also the caregivers who have been growing and supplying medical marijuana to Mainers with serious health conditions for over a decade.
"The state has allowed caregivers to grow and provide to patients for the last 11 years, and you haven't seen any negative implications from that," Marshall said.