BANGOR – In the coming months, folks in Maine will be able to purchase marijuana at local stores but it will be much different than how medical marijuana patients get theirs.
“Our medical marijuana we can keep in jars and we can weight it in front of our customers,” said Winona Polanski, manager of Grass Roots of Maine, a medical marijuana provider at the corner of State and Harlow streets. “Recreationally, everything has to be prepackaged in opaque packaging. You cannot know, just by looking at the package, that there is marijuana in that package.”
Maine voters approved adult-use marijuana in 2016 and lawmakers are currently finalizing the rules. Bangor city officials began working on the community’s regulations more than a year ago.
“We don’t often get to see a brand new use come in, so it’s a little bit, it’s some new territory for us, trying to anticipate the issues that might occur,” said Paul Nicklas, the city solicitor. “I think the council moved pretty quickly on this. They got out ahead of it a little bit so we had a lot of these rules in place before we had a lot of people looking.”
Bangor has a bunch of new ordinances regarding adult-use cannabis, including zoning and safety rules for stores, cultivation facilities, places that make marijuana products and testing facilities.
“You have to have buffers and setbacks for types of uses like schools, daycares, parks, churches, those types of things,” Nicklas said.
The state has already said customers will need to be at least 21.
New Bangor retail stores can be located near Broadway Plaza, and out by Tractor Supply; on Stillwater Avenue basically from the Interstate-95 overpass all the way to Orono; In and around the Airport Mall; and on Odlin Road and Outer Hammond Street.
Cultivation facilities are allowed all along the border with Hampden, by the Airport Mall and Outer Hammond Street. But testing will be limited to the industrial park located across the street from the Maine State Police barracks.
“We do have a handful of folks who have been interesting in doing marijuana stores, or cultivation facilities,” Nicklas said.
New stores or facilities are banned downtown, but a handful of current medical marijuana providers will be grandfathered.
“The zoning rules and really the other rules as well for medical marijuana and recreation marijuana and similar or the same,” Nicklas said.
Bangor police authorities said they will continue to be on the lookout for pot users who are driving and impaired drivers.
“What we take, whether it’s illegal drugs or legal prescription drugs, whatever we have and choose to put in our bodies if that impairs our ability to drive, it is illegal,” said Sgt. Wade Betters, spokesman for the department.
Grass Roots is one medical provider who wants to someday offer recreational pot as well. The manager said a lot of people who are not patients have been in the store inquiring about the law change.
“We have people who are curious and they do come in and ask us lots of questions,” Polanski said. “They want to know when it’s going to be available for retail sales and that kind of stuff. They’re all excited.”