No moratorium necessary, town leaders say

Camden creates committee to craft local rules for marijuana sales, social clubs

Posted:  Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 3:30pm
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CAMDEN — While a Maine legislative committee fine-tunes state rules to govern sales of recreational marijuana, the Town of Camden has voted not to extend its own moratorium on the matter; instead, municipal leaders have created citizen committee to begin crafting local marijuana sales ordinances.

Voting 3 to 2 on Oct. 10 at a regularly scheduled meeting, the Camden Select Board voted against adding another 180 days to its current moratorium on deciding how and where entrepreneurs can sell marijuana, or establish clubs where customers can smoke it.

Board members Alison McKellar, Bob Falciani and Jenna Lookner voted against extending the moratorium, describing it as creating negative connotations of the town.

“I still don’t see a reason for moratorium,” said board member Alison McKellar, as the board debated its merits.

She said that Camden should instead be indicating that it is evolving.

Recreational marijuana votes, referendums in Camden

In November 2016, Maine residents approved a citizens’ initiative to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana.

The initiative allowed for nine months of rule-making, beginning Jan. 30, about how the state would regulate marijuana sales. While it is now legal to use and possess marijuana (over the age of 21), it is not legal to sell it.

In February 2017, and with a divided vote, the Camden Select Board approved a 180-day moratorium so that Camden could wait for state recreational marijuana rules and avoid, as Town Attorney Bill Kelly advised, potential legal conflicts with entrepreneurs who wanted to get a head start on marijuana shops and social clubs, who might, he said, raise the specter of  “vested interests.”

“Vested rights,” according to U.S. Legal, “protects property owners and developers from changes in zoning when they have received a valid building permit and have completed substantial construction and made substantial expenditures in reliance on the permit. This doctrine allows the owner or developer to proceed in accordance with the prior zoning provision as they have vested rights to a validly issued permit.” 

The Camden moratorium had initially been placed on the Select Board agenda in November 2016, but was tabled. In December 2016, there had been lively discussions among the Select Board members themselves about the need for a local moratorium, with Leonard Lookner, who died Feb 5, questioning why the town would want to discourage potential enterprise, and Chairman John French citing the need for defining districts where marijuana retail could take place.

Dangers of vested interests

At a Feb. 21 special town meeting regarding a moratorium, Attorney Kelly said numerous municipalities had enacted moratoriums while the state crafted its rules.

“There’s really nothing to do but adopt this ordinance until the state has got its act together,” said Kelly. “We’re in this grey area in that no licenses will be issued.” 

“If someone wished to establish a club or retail sales, they could start the process now and invest money for the intended purpose and there is nothing at the local level to prevent it,” said Kelly.

The moratorium, he said, would put people on notice that we are not getting a vested rights situation.

The Select Board then said it would establish a marijuana working committee.

At the June 13 Town Meeting polls, Camden voters were asked in a nonbinding referendum whether to prohibit all retail sales of marijuana.

With 919 opposed and 818 in favor, the measure was defeated.

Citizens were also asked whether the town should “prohibit all retails sales of marijuana in social smoking clubs (taverns, pubs, restaurants, bar rooms)” and the answer was a resounding Yes, with 1,141 votes cast in favor and 595 cast against.

And, citizens were also asked if they favored adopting an ordinance to “reasonably approve the location and conduct for retail sales” of marijuana in commercial business(es) and adopting an ordinance that “reasonably regulates the location and operation of marijuana [use] in social smoking clubs.”

Respectively, voters were in favor of Question 3 by a vote of 1,123 to 579; and Question 4 by a vote of 1,033 to 676.

“I agree with Alison,” said board member Bob Falciani. “The moratorium is overkill. We need a simple statement saying we are not accepting applications until the state has promulgated regulations and the town has yet to examine the ramifications.”

While Lookner supported those positions, Select Board Chairman John French advocated for extending the moratorium. He said that while he was not against pot sales in town, he wanted to first have state rules in hand before crafting town rules.

Board member Marc Ratner also favored the moratorium to eliminate any confusion for those who might seek business permission to sell it.

State rules almost finished

Currently, the state’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee is concluding its work on LR 2395, An Act to Amend the Marijuana Legalization Act, which “establishes a system of licensing for the cultivation, manufacture, testing and retail sale of adult use marijuana and adult use marijuana products in the state and which enables persons 21 years of age or older to legally acquire, possess and consume adult use marijuana and adult use marijuana products and to cultivate marijuana for personal use.”

The emergency bill develops a regulated marketplace in Maine for adult use marijuana and the regulation of the personal use of marijuana and the home cultivation of marijuana for personal use pursuant to the Marijuana Legalization Act.

See attached PDF for the 70-page LR 2395. 

 

Camden’s Marijuana Advisory Committee

In Camden, the newly formed Marijuana Advisory Committee was appointed after the board received applications from numerous citizens. All those who applied were appointed at the Oct. 10 meeting, and include:

Gray Lookner
Eitienne Perret
Mark Kwiatkowski
Liz Smith
Edwin Horvath
Eleanor Masin-Peters

Prior to the vote on extending the moratorium, resident Mark Kwiatkowski advocated for giving it another 180 days.

“Before the state has regulated or mandated [marijuana] would be a waste of time,” he said. “Form a committee and come up with our own town ideas.”

The Select Board agreed that it was time to form the committee, and chastised itself for not getting it established earlier this year.

The board members then voted to direct Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell to draft a letter to anyone approaching the town with retail or social club proposals. The letter is to inform them that no permit applications will be accepted until the town has drafted its own rules.

The motion to craft the municipal letter was approved by a 4 to 1 vote, with French dissenting.

Caler-Bell said on Oct. 12 that committee’s charge will be finalized at the next Select Board meeting.

The letter to anyone approaching the town office with ideas about selling marijuana in a store or social club will be similar to those of Rockport and Rockland, she said.

Select board liaisons to the committee are McKellar and Lookner.

 

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Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at lyndaclancy@penbaypilot.com; 207-706-6657