Credit: Julio Cortez | AP

The city of Auburn opted in to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes starting July 1, but it is not taking applications for business licenses until Aug. 1.

Recreational marijuana businesses must first get a conditional license from the state before filling out the municipal application.

Gov. Janet Mills signed into law the rules for recreational marijuana sales and oversight on June 27. They take effect in September, close to three years after voters approved recreational marijuana.

Industry experts expect Maine’s recreational marijuana market to be much larger than the medical market at an estimated $250 million to $300 million in sales.

“We are getting a lot of questions about the new adult-use business,” said Kelsey Earle, Auburn’s license specialist and deputy city clerk. She said the city is expecting “quite a few” license applications.

At least 15 municipalities, including Portland and South Portland, chose to allow recreational marijuana businesses as of mid-June, according to the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

Auburn’s Marijuana Business License process applies to stores, cultivation facilities, manufacturers, testing facilities and nurseries.

Among those that have said they plan to open recreational operations is Wellness Connection of Maine, which currently operates four of the eight medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

Auburn’s ordinance covers both recreational and medical marijuana businesses.

The ordinance requires existing medical marijuana businesses that were operating with the necessary municipal approvals prior to Dec. 13, 2018, to apply for their marijuana business license with the city before July 30 or risk not getting approval.

Currently, only Curaleaf has a dispensary in Auburn, Earle said.

“This 30-day ‘window’ is very important for these existing businesses,” Assistant City Manager Phil Crowell said in a prepared statement. “Getting them licensed before the new businesses will establish a ‘buffer zone’ that will prohibit someone from setting up shop right next door to them.”

And starting this Aug. 1, new medical marijuana businesses established after Dec. 13, 2018, can apply for a business license.

Also, after July 1 registered medical marijuana caregivers who operate from their homes must apply to the city for a home occupation permit within 30 days.

“This ordinance is the result of a lot of collaboration,” Crowell said. “And it positions these businesses for success while ensuring that the production, processing and sale is done in a safe and reasonable way.”

It was a deliberate, thoughtful process, with a lot of community input, numerous Council workshops and a partnership between city staff, citizens, councilors, and marijuana industry professionals,” he said.