ROCKLAND – Is a medical marijuana dispensary also a store? Must owners of a medical marijuana retail operation on Main Street cultivate the plants, as well? And, can the medical plants and byproducts be limited to the legitimate patients whom the retail has promised to serve?
Rockland City Councilors are considering a medical marijuana moratorium for the purpose of clearing up language and interpretations that have returned to the table while waiting for state statutory changes to go into effect.
Those changes are for the specific category of medical marijuana stores. Once the law is in effect, those stores, testing, manufacturing, and dispensaries will be allowed only if the municipality opts in, according to City Attorney Mary Costigan, speaking during the Monday, Aug. 6, City Council agenda-setting meeting.
“You can’t have a medical marijuana store without a legislative body and a municipality first voting to allow medical marijuana stores,” she said.
This bill, at the state level, was enacted in July and goes into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. No one yet knows, however, when adjournment will occur.
Rockland’s ordinances focus on cultivation and dispensary, not specifically retail stores. On the flip side, municipalities are not allowed to opt in or out of cultivation.
“[Cultivations] are allowed,” she said.
Four people have taken applications for permits in the Main Street zone, according to Mayor Valli Geiger.
“Most of them appear to be not production facilities, but instead, retail stores getting in ahead of recreational marijuana regulations,” Geiger said during the same meeting.
However, according to Costigan, regulations to recreational use, now referred to as Adult Use, have the same opt-in requirement, though a grandfather clause protects any previously allowed facilities.
During the creation of Rockland’s ordinances, Council members heard the defense that dispensaries were similar to pharmacies, according to Geiger. Yet, Main Street would never have ended up with five pharmacies, she said.
Others also believe that Rockland’s requirement of 250 feet between marijuana facilities and between those facilities and schools automatically limits the Main Street zone.
“We’re in a different world,” Geiger said. “I was just suggesting we slow it down while we figure out what our predecessors, the Council who went before us, worked so hard to create a successful Main Street. And we’re suddenly seeing people who are willing to buy out current business leases.
“We’re in uncharted territory here, and most of these people are assuming they will turn into a recreational bar or storefront. That wasn’t what we passed,” she said.
Construction is well underway within the Main Street medical marijuana dispensary, Scrimshaw, according to it’s owner.
Council will further discuss the option of a moratorium at the Monday, Aug. 13 City Council meeting.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org