Public forum planned on new marijuana law; selectmen seek public input

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro residents with opinions on how their town should react to the state-wide vote legalizing recreational marijuana production and use are invited to a hearing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the town office meeting room, before the 7 p.m. selectmen’s meeting.

At their Nov. 17 meeting, selectmen discussed three alternatives:

  • Prepare a moratorium ordinance that would prohibit in-town marijuana operations for six months or a year to give time to create local regulations. Should they choose that route, board members need to find out whether selectmen can declare a moratorium or whether voters’ approval is required.
  • Prepare a local regulatory ordinance, probably for submission to the June 2017 town meeting. Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus suggested Vassalboro’s Adult-Only Business Ordinance, adopted while the topless coffee shop was open on Route 3, could be a model.
  • Take no immediate action. (ep)

Board member Robert Browne recommended asking residents’ opinions, especially on the moratorium idea, leading to scheduling the Dec. 1 hearing.

Town Manager Mary Sabins provided copies of the complete Marijuana Legalization Act voters approved, pointing out three provisions that struck her: a nine-month deadline for state authorities to adopt rules for the new industry; a requirement for municipal approval to obtain a state license for retail sale of marijuana or operation of a marijuana social club; and a provision allowing municipalities to prohibit both retail sales and social clubs.

Selectmen believe they have time to consider the issue and prepare action. Titus said with the ballot recount and the holidays, he doubts the referendum result, if confirmed, will be effective until early January 2017. He does not expect state authorities to take any action until the vote is final.

Titus and board member Philip Haines, both experienced with state services, agreed that the state cannot meet the nine-month deadline. A major rule-making process, they said, takes a year or longer. There is also the possibility that the state legislature will further delay action by discussing whether to amend the approved ballot question.

In other business Nov. 17, selectmen reviewed five applications to fill the vacant planning board seat and unanimously appointed Marianne Stevens the new alternate member, succeeding Paul Breton.

Stevens is a former Kingfield resident who served on the Kingfield Planning Board and has experience on other town and state boards.

Haines commented on the variety of knowledge and experience among the applicants and expressed the hope that they will be around if there is another planning board vacancy.

Board members contemplated follow-up actions after town voters rejected both local referendum questions on the Nov. 8 ballot. As a first step toward meeting pedestrian needs in East Vassalboro, since voters chose not to appropriate money for sidewalks, Titus asked Sabins to have Road Commissioner Eugene Field get prices for a variety of speed limit and warning signs that might add to the effect of state speed limit signs. Haines, a supporter of the shoreland zoning amendments voters turned down, favored another vote, probably at the June town meeting. Titus said it would not be illegal to seek a second vote.


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